Adam Putnam Archives - Florida Politics

Nikki Fried, Matt Caldwell face off over medical marijuana, water

Democrat Nikki Fried, a medical-marijuana lobbyist, had to defend her desire to move the state’s oversight of medical marijuana into the agency she wants to run.

Her Republican opponent, state Rep. Matt Caldwell, was questioned about his support for a bill that delayed for 20 years an unmet deadline to reduce nutrients flowing into Lake Okeechobee.

Fried and Caldwell — running in the Nov. 6 election to replace term-limited Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and head the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services — engaged in a fast-paced debate Sunday during the show “Facing South Florida” on CBS Miami.

While the two have appeared at the same events during the campaign, the television show was the first and only time they are scheduled to jointly discuss issues.

The show’s host, veteran reporter Jim DeFede, ran through a series of topics, including the department’s handling of concealed-weapons licenses under Putnam, marijuana, water quality, the North American Free Trade Agreement, immigration, clemency and the state’s “Do Not Call” solicitation list.

Fried, a Fort Lauderdale attorney and lobbyist who recently was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Caldwell, a North Fort Myers real-estate appraiser who has been part of the Republican leadership of the state House, differed on almost every issue, including their approaches to strengthen the “Do Not Call” list.

DeFede jokingly said stopping the “annoying” phone calls would be the key to winning the statewide contest.

Caldwell said the agency needs to investigate and prosecute “scam artists” and suggested the agency set up a system so people can immediately text the agency from their cellphones the numbers of telemarketers.

“It’s really about time,” Caldwell said. “As soon as they give you the call, reporting that and getting that investigation away immediately, that’s going to improve the chances that we can track them down through the internet to where they’re hiding.”

Fried, a former attorney with the Alachua County Public Defender’s Office, agreed with Caldwell that improving technology and quickly starting investigations is needed. But she said the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services must also provide more consumer services.

“When individuals actually are calling in and complaining about these things, there is no one on the other line,” Fried said. “So, one of the other things, when I’m in office, is to reprioritize the consumer services of this job to make sure there is someone actually on the other line to answer these complaints.”

Fried, who was a registered lobbyist this year for the marijuana operator San Felasco Nurseries, faced stiffer questioning about her stances on the separate issues of moving the state’s oversight of medical marijuana from the Department of Health to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and her criticism that the Putnam-run agency has been too cozy with the National Rifle Association.

Putnam, a Republican, has drawn Democratic criticism, in part, for a past statement that he was a proud NRA “sellout.” The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is in charge of issuing concealed-weapons licenses.

Fried said she is “beholden” to patients who need medical marijuana, not the industry that she has represented and has supported her campaign. She pointed to criticism that the GOP-dominated Legislature has not properly carried out a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in the state.

“My campaign is supported by many people, including over 1,000 individuals, who have given campaign contributions, who believe that they deserve access,” Fried said. “Seventy-two percent of our citizens voted for medical marijuana, and the Legislature and the governor’s office continues to put up roadblocks.”

Caldwell, who is endorsed by the NRA, said he’d “let the voters” decide who Fried is beholden to, while noting he co-sponsored a bill in 2014 — commonly known as the “Charlotte’s Web” bill — that legalized limited types of non-euphoric medical cannabis.

However, Caldwell was put on the defensive as discussion turned to a 2016 water bill and problems with toxic algae and red tide that have plagued waterways and coastal areas in Southeast and Southwest Florida.

Fried said water legislation by Caldwell “gutted” Department of Environmental Protection regulations and has played a key role in degrading the state’s environment.

Caldwell, who has been a point man for the Republican-dominated House on water issues, said his measures require farmers to implement “the most cutting-edge technology” related to the use of phosphates and didn’t roll back any water quality standards.

One of the state’s key water issues has involved polluted water being released from Lake Okeechobee and going into the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries, helping lead to algae in waterways.

DeFede asked if the 2016 bill — which included issues such as extending the deadline related to nutrients flowing into Lake Okeechobee and limiting responsibilities for water-management districts on water supplies — “kicked that problem down the road.”

Caldwell replied that “the original bill was to develop a plan for how you’re going to solve Lake Okeechobee” and that his legislation drew bipartisan support.

“Lake Okeechobee is going to be the biggest problem to solve,” Caldwell continued. “It’s got 100 years of inputs, muck just sitting at the bottom of the lake. That’s a much larger question than how we’re going to reconfigure the flood control system.”

After Fried retorted that Caldwell’s Southwest Florida district is suffering from the water-quality problems, Caldwell said people are misrepresenting the issue for political gain.

“This is why this problem didn’t get addressed for 20 years. It’s why I ran for the House,” Caldwell said. “People are misrepresenting what the situation is. People are trying to utilize this bad situation to make political gains, rather than focusing on solutions, rather than bringing people together.”


Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Agriculture industry hit hard by hurricane

The timber, poultry, peanut, dairy, cotton, tomato and aquaculture industries across the Panhandle have been “devastated” by Hurricane Michael, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Thursday.

“At least 3 million acres of timber were impacted by the storm and numerous other commodities suffered severe damage,” Putnam said in a news release, which added the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services continues to assess damages from the Category 4 storm that rushed through the Panhandle on Wednesday.

The release said Putnam and Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black updated Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on the storm’s impact Thursday.


Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Utilities, state prepare for hurricane strike

Gov. Rick Scott and electric utilities say they are poised for a quick response to Hurricane Michael, which officials say could be the strongest storm to hit the Panhandle in decades, causing life-threatening storm surge and putting some areas in the dark for more than a week.

As rains from the powerful storm started to reach the Panhandle on Tuesday afternoon, about 15,000 workers lined up by Gulf Power, Duke Energy Florida, Florida Power & Light and public utilities have been positioned to respond to anticipated widespread outages.

The companies and the Florida Municipal Electric Association also reported having at least 2,000 more workers from companies throughout the South and as far away as Texas, Nebraska and Indiana.

“We train year-round for these types of scenarios,” Gulf Power spokesman Gordon Paulus said in a statement. “That training and developing of skills has really paid off in helping us quickly and safely get our customers’ power back on.”

Paulus said crews from the Pensacola-based utility restored power to 26,000 customers in less than two days of Tropical Storm Gordon in September. But Paulus added that Michael is expected to be much stronger and outages are expected to extend more than a few days.

“We’re going to do everything we can to get our utilities to share resources, to share materials, whatever the needs are,” Scott said Tuesday afternoon.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the Democratic candidate for governor, said his city’s utility has called in “six times” its normal staffing through mutual-aid agreements with other utilities.

“Folks are ready from the government side, but we need our citizens to also be ready,” said Gillum.

In 2016, Scott clashed with Gillum over the city’s response to Hurricane Hermine.

In a lesson learned from Hermine, Gillum said city and Leon County officials met Monday with neighborhood leaders about keeping an eye on vulnerable residents.

“We had not done that before,” Gillum said. “My city was not practiced for about 30 years before Hurricane Hermine.”

Michael has the potential to be the strongest storm in the region since Hurricane Eloise swept across Bay County in September 1975 with 110 mph winds.

Hurricane Opal carried 100 mph winds when it hit Pensacola Beach in October 1995. Hurricane Ivan made landfall near Gulf Shores, Ala., at 105 mph in September 2004. And Hurricane Dennis was at 105 mph when it hit Santa Rosa Island in July 2005.

As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, Michael, the 13th named storm of the Atlantic season, was located about 335 miles south of Panama City, moving north at 12 mph with maximum sustained winds of 110 mph.

The latest forecast projected landfall Wednesday afternoon somewhere between Pensacola and Apalachicola as a Category 2 or Category 3 hurricane.

A storm-surge warning was in effect from the Okaloosa-Walton County Line to the Anclote River near Tarpon Springs, and a hurricane warning had been issued from the Alabama state line to the Suwannee River in Dixie County.

The AAA Auto Group reported that Michael isn’t expected to cause a “significant” spike in pump prices as its path remains east of most energy infrastructure such as oil rigs and refineries. But “long lines at gas stations in the Panhandle” have left at least some stations empty as fuel trucks rush to meet demand.

“Gasoline outages in the Panhandle are spotty, but not widespread,” said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins. “There continues to be plenty of fuel supply in the state, but getting a tanker truck to a gas station — before it runs out of fuel — can be a challenge during a time of such high demand.”

Scott dismissed reports of “widespread” fuel outages, while appearing Tuesday afternoon at the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Eastpoint.

“The state Emergency Response Team has been holding regular calls with the fuel industry and ports in Florida to ensure they can get gas to the area safely,” Scott said. “I was just on a call with them, and they’re working hard to make sure we keep getting gas in the state.”

Fuel deliveries will be suspended when winds reach 45 mph.

Tallahassee International Airport announced that flights would be suspended Wednesday, with commercial flights expected to resume at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Scott has activated 2,500 members of the Florida National Guard, while the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has 150 law enforcement officers positioned for search-and-rescue missions and the Florida Highway Patrol has 350 troopers in the region on 12-hour shifts as a response to the storm.

Scott has lifted tolls across the Panhandle to help with mandatory evacuations. Such evacuations been ordered for coastal and low-lying areas of Bay, Dixie, Franklin, Gulf, Jackson, Levy, Okaloosa, Wakulla and Walton counties. Voluntary evacuation orders have been issued for areas of Calhoun, Gadsden, Hernando, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Pasco, Santa Rosa and Taylor counties, according to the state Division of Emergency Management website.

Scott said he has discussed federal assistance with President Donald Trump, who was in Orlando on Monday to address a convention of police chiefs.

Trump on Tuesday signed a pre-landfall emergency declaration that ensures federal resources are available before and after the storm in the 35 counties where Scott declared state of emergency.

Trump also tweeted his own warning to Floridians on Tuesday.

“It is imperative that you heed the directions of your State and Local Officials. Please be prepared, be careful and be SAFE!” Trump tweeted just after noon.

“Hurricane on its way to the Florida Pan Handle with major elements arriving tomorrow,” Trump continued. “Could also hit, in later stage, parts of Georgia, and unfortunately North Carolina, and South Carolina, again… …Looks to be a Cat. 3 which is even more intense than Florence. Good news is, the folks in the Pan Handle can take care of anything. @fema and First Responders are ready – be prepared!”

The misspelling of Panhandle was Trump’s.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam noted the Florida Forest Service has three “chainsaw strike teams” ready to respond, along with a team mobilizing to support urban search-and-rescue operations.

Putnam’s department also reported more than 500,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture meals, and at least 20 truckloads of ice, would be available for shelters after the storm.

Adam Putnam back on campaign trail for Matt Caldwell

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam will hit the campaign trail once again this week, this time in support of potential successor Matt Caldwell.

Caldwell, the Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner this year, announced he will appear alongside Putnam at a grassroots barbeque in O’Brien.

Putnam, who will soon wrap up his second term as Agriculture Commissioner, recently lost the Republican primary for governor to Ron DeSantis.

Putnam long seemed the favorite to win the primary, leading in polling until after President Donald Trump endorsed DeSantis and changed the race.

Caldwell, meanwhile survived a tough four-way primary to win the Republican primary for Agriculture Commissioner in August.

The tough primary took a financial toll on Caldwell’s coffers, but he’s since led Democrat Nikki Fried in fundraising leading toward the general election.

Putnam, meanwhile, all but dropped from public view after his difficult primary defeat.

The last political post on his Twitter account, for example, came on Aug. 28 as he made a last ditch effort to rally voters to polls to support his gubernatorial bid.

That is until this weekend.

The Friday message marked a re-entry into politics in the race for the Cabinet post that first out him on the ballot statewide.

And it may come at a moment Caldwell could use a boost. While he maintains the lead in the money race, some publicly released polls, including one from St. Pete Polls, show Fried with an edge largely thanks to her outspoken support of medical marijuana.

Caldwell had tried to showcase his traditional agricultural bona fides by traveling to numerous events focused on the industry, tracking his campaign trail on Twitter with the hashtag #2lanetravels.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — Navigating November

Never mind candidates on the ballot. There are a dozen constitutional amendments voters must worry about on Election Day.

In the interest of saving time and avoiding long lines at polling locations, it’s best Floridians equip themselves early with knowledge of each proposal, rather than making a gameday decision.

As the courts have told us, ballot titles and accompanying language might not be enough to make a well-informed decision. Fortunately, there are useful guides available to help voters do their due diligence.

The latest: Florida TaxWatch’s “2018 Voter Guide to Florida’s Constitutional Amendments.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit government watchdog is offering an early glimpse of what voters will see Nov. 6, along with the anticipated result of each amendment, pass or fail. Also included are arguments from supporters, and conversely, criticisms from opponents.

One example: under the guide’s analysis of Amendment 13, a controversial proposal that would phase out dog racing in the state, TaxWatch notes, “Animal rights advocates say that the greyhound racing industry’s treatment of the dogs is cruel and inhumane, citing hundreds of greyhound deaths in Florida and the banning of commercial greyhound racing in 40 states.”

Florida TaxWatch Chair David Mann introduces the 2018 Florida Amendments Voter Guide.

Opponents, on the other hand, “say the greyhounds are treated well, and that greyhound racing fully complies with American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines governing the housing, feeding and treatment of the dogs.”

“As a Florida taxpayer, I know how overwhelming 12 constitutional amendments seems when there’s already so much included on our ballot,” said TaxWatch Chairman David Mann. “It is an honor to lead an organization that is focused on the best interest of the state and dedicated to keeping taxpayers informed.”

To officially amend the state’s governing document, each amendment must obtain 60 percent approval on Election Day.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

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

Take 5

Red tide reaches Atlantic Coast — Algae causing toxic red tide was confirmed this week on four beaches on Florida’s eastern shore. Following closures in Palm Beach and Miami Dade counties, Gov. Rick Scott directed the Department of Environmental Protection to offer $3 million in grants to help affected areas curb the outbreak. The money is currently available to St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. Florida’s Gulf Coast has been hit particularly hard this season by the near-annually occurring Karenia brevis algae, although the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission recently announced the outbreak in southwest Florida was weakening.

State launches priest investigation — Following a Pennsylvania grand jury report that found decades of sexual abuse by priests was covered up by church leaders, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced an investigation into Florida’s seven Catholic dioceses. “Any priest that would exploit a position of power and trust to abuse a child is a disgrace to the church and a threat to society,” Bondi said in a statement. “I am calling on victims and anyone with information about potential abuse to please report it to my office. Victim information will be kept confidential in accordance with state law.” Assisting statewide Prosecutor Nick Cox in the investigation is the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Bondi encourages anyone with information about past child abuse by priests to report here.

Committee weeks set — Meetings leading up to the 2018 Legislative Session will begin in early December, according to memos released this week by leaders in the state Legislature. Organization Session will take place during the week of Thanksgiving, Nov. 20. That’s when Senate President Joe Negron will pass the gavel to Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, as will House Speaker Richard Corcoran to House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva. Legislative committees will meet the weeks of Dec. 11, Jan. 7 and 22, and Feb. 4, 11 and 18. The 2019 Legislative Session begins on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. The annual 60-day session is scheduled to end May 3.

State Sen. Dorothy Hukill passes Hukill died Tuesday, less than a week after announcing on Facebook that she “recently experienced an aggressive recurrence” of her cancer and decided to enter hospice. She was 72. A private, invitation-only memorial service will be held for the Port Orange Republican and longtime public servant. In lieu of flowers, her family asks for donations to the Halifax Health Hospice facility in Port Orange, where “dedicated and caring staff took such wonderful care of her in these last days.” Senators and staff members are invited to pay respects from noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Volusia Memorial Funeral Home in Port Orange. “Dorothy was a strong and passionate advocate for her community, serving in several positions in local government and also for eight years in the Florida House before her election to the Senate in 2012,” Senate President Joe Negron said in a statement.

Judge blocks pot license process — Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson this week ordered the Florida Department of Health to halt its application process for those seeking licenses to distribute medical marijuana. The order comes after Dodson in August declared significant provisions of the state’s controversial medical marijuana law unconstitutional, including limits on the number of licenses the state can issue and carve-outs for special licenses, such as for owners of former citrus processing facilities. The recent order had been sought by Florigrown, which had been denied a permit by the state. “Another two months have passed, and I do believe now we’re at the point where Florigrown will suffer irreparable harm absent the entry of a temporary injunction and that, given the public interest that can’t be more clearly stated than the public stated in the medical marijuana amendment, that allowing this process and procedures going through by the department is not in the public interest,” Dodson said Wednesday, according to the News Service of Florida.

Scott highlights new Deepwater Horizon aftermath spending

More than $291 million is on its way to protect Florida’s Gulf Coast, Gov. Scott announced this week.

The money will be for projects approved by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council. In 2013, Scott reached an agreement with the Council to develop a plan for the portion of federal funding allocated to Florida following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Read the full plan here.

Rick Scott reached an agreement for nearly $300 million to protect the environment after the BP oil spill. (Image via Reuters)

“The communities impacted by the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill have come so far since that tragic disaster, and we will never stop fighting to protect our environment and make sure families and businesses along the Gulf Coast continue to grow,” Scott said. “The approval of this funding is great news, and I look forward to continuing our good work with all of our partners to take care of Florida’s Gulf Coast.”

The RESTORE Act, passed by Congress on June 29, 2012, created the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council.

“This is a culmination of five years of work and cooperation with and between federal, state and local governments,” said Council Chairman Grover Robinson. “This ambitious plan implements environmental restoration projects across 23 counties from the Perdido River in my county of Escambia to Key West in Monroe County.”

Scott, Bondi attend human trafficking summit

Gov. Scott and Attorney General Bondi delivered remarks Monday to an Orlando audience deeply concerned with accomplishing one goal: eradicating human trafficking.

The 2018 Human Trafficking Summit brought together law enforcement, the legal community, educators, health care professionals, service providers and other first responders from around the state for breakout sessions focused on combating the ongoing problem.

Rick Scott, Pam Bondi spoke in Orlando this week at the 2018 Human Trafficking Summit.

“The Human Trafficking Summit is, and will continue to be, a valuable opportunity to bring law enforcement, activists and experts together to share ideas and build on the model we have built,” Bondi said.

During his remarks, Scott highlighted seven pieces of legislation he signed since 2012, including $6.2 million in new funding authorized in this year’s budget to provide services for victims of human trafficking.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the state is the third-highest trafficking destination in the country, with half of all victims under the age of 18.

Instagram of the Week

The week in appointments

Technology Advisory Council

Susan Amat, 43, of Coral Gables, is the founder and chief executive officer of Venture Hive. She received her bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and a doctoral degree from the University of Miami. Amat is reappointed for a term ending June 30, 2022. Allen Ginder, 51, of Jacksonville, is the Florida public sector director for Avaya. Ginder received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia. He is reappointed for a term ending June 30, 2022.

Lake-Sumter State College District Board of Trustees

Jennifer Hooten, 42, of Bushnell, is a teacher for Sumter School District. She received her bachelor’s degree from St. Leo University. Hooten succeeds Kelly Rice for a term ending May 31, 2022. Emily Lee, 72, of Eustis, is a retired integration specialist from Community Coalition Alliance. She received her bachelor’s degree from Southern University, and her master’s degree from Mankato State University. Lee is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Department of Elderly Affairs Advisory Council

Stacy Robello, 42, of Gulf Breeze, is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care of Pensacola. She succeeds Dorothy Peoples for a term ending Sept. 30, 2020.

Alzheimer’s Disease Advisory Committee

Dr. Ronald Lucchino, 77, of Longboat Key, is an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida. He is reappointed for a term ending Feb. 13, 2022. Aileen Ruess, 60, of Fort Walton Beach, is the owner of Ace Senior Care Management. She succeeds Christine Powers for a term ending Feb. 13, 2021. Dr. Robert Glueckauf, 68, of Tallahassee, is a professor at the Florida State University College of Medicine. He succeeds Todd Golde for a term ending Feb. 13, 2022. Dr. Maria Ordóñez, 51, of Boca Raton, is the director of the Florida Atlantic University College of Nursing Memory and Wellness Center. She fills a vacant seat for a term ending Feb. 13, 2021.

Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind Board of Trustees

Christine Chapman, 49, of St. Augustine, is a former staffing specialist for the Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind. She is reappointed for a term ending Nov. 13, 2021. Ralph “Terry” Hadley III, 76, of Winter Park, is an attorney and managing partner with Swann, Hadley, Stump, Dietrich & Spears PA. He is reappointed for a term ending Nov. 20, 2021. Christopher Wagner, 50, of Palm Harbor, is the chief operating officer for ZVRS and Purple Communications. He is reappointed for a term ending Nov. 19, 2020. These are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Worth a thousand words: State remembers history through pictures

October is American Archives Month, and in the Sunshine State, it will be celebrated in still shots.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced the campaign this week, kicking off by highlighting one of the earliest known photographs of Florida. It features an 1849 Key West daguerreotype.

The campaign, titled “Focus on Florida: Photography in the Sunshine State,” will also share the State Archives’ collection of stills, along with the history of the artmaking process.

Celebrating the history of Florida in black and white for American Archives Month.

“American Archives Month is a great time to visit Florida’s state and local archives facilities, find ourselves and our communities in historical records, and see how archives preserve and tell our stories as Floridians,” said Detzner.

The Archives will hold two open house events this month: Saturday, Oct. 13, and Tuesday, Oct. 23. Both events kick off at 9 a.m. and aim at giving “more people an opportunity to explore the Archives’ extensive publicly accessible resources for researching and preserving local and family history,” according to Detzner.

“The State Archives of Florida is hosting open house events throughout the month to give more people an opportunity to explore the Archives’ extensive publicly accessible resources for researching and preserving local and family history.”

FWC highlights red tide partnerships

Following a particularly strong outbreak of red tide this year, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission emphasized its continued focus on research efforts to help understand and combat the toxic, near-annually occurring algae.

By partnering with scientists at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science and the Mote Marine Laboratory, a nonprofit marine research and science education institution, FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton hopes to make a dent in the red tide and help affected areas recover.

FWC Executive Director Eric Sutton says partnerships will be critical to Florida’s recovery from red tide.

“We all know we will recover, but it is going to take our continued partnership,” Sutton said.

The public-private partnerships that have been formed include the Department of Environmental Protection.

“With the talented team we have working together, I know the next big breakthrough in how we manage red tide will come from right here in Florida,” DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said.

At USF, “a combination of buoys, underwater drones and satellites to predict the conditions conducive to development of red tide, measure where it is now, and use sophisticated computer models to predict where it’s going to go,” according to Jackie Dixon, dean of the College of Marine Science.

Ed officials recognize employers for hiring practices

Seven Tampa Bay companies were recently honored for hiring Floridians with disabilities.

The announcement coincides with Disability Employment Awareness Month and stems from an outreach initiative sponsored by the Florida Department of Education Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, or VR.

Director Allison Flanagan’s Division of Vocational Rehabilitation helps thousands of Floridians live independent lives through employment.

“Individuals with disabilities contribute greatly to our communities and are integral to our state’s workforce,” said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. “Through the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, we are proud to connect job seekers with disabilities to career opportunities that enable them to lead more independent lives.

Among the honorees: AMC 20 Movie Theatre, BayCare Health System, Culver’s of Zephyrhills, The Hamptons at Clearwater, K & K Glass, NASCO Aerospace and Electronics and Wawa.

VR Director Allison Flanagan noted that her division — and thanks to employers helping spearhead evolved hiring practices — nearly 5,000 individuals obtained or maintained employment last year.

“Individuals with disabilities offer a broad pool of talents and tend to stay on the job longer than employees without disabilities,” Flanagan said. “Given the opportunity, individuals with disabilities are able to show their skills, loyalty, and determination and become successful members of the community.”

Election registration deadline nears

Prospective voters take note: Oct. 9 is the last day Floridians can register to vote in the upcoming election.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who oversees the 67 county ballot offices, is reminding citizens to take action now if they intend to cast a ballot on or before Nov. 6.

Ken Detzner says the end is near — for voter registration in 2018, that is.

“I encourage all eligible Floridians who still need to submit a voter registration application to do so by the Oct. 9 deadline,” said Detzner.

Anticipating increased demand, Detzner announced that the State Department is extending Voter Assistance Hotline hours. The hotline — 1-866-308-6739 — will be operational from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday through Monday. On Tuesday, the registration deadline, the service will be open until midnight.

To register, users will need a driver’s license or official identification card, along with the last four digits of their Social Security number. To register online, voters can visit here.

Florida accepts maternal mental health grant

The Human Resources and Services Administration is funding the development of a model for screening and treating mental health concerns of pregnant and postpartum women, the state Health Department announced.

Florida is one of just seven states to receive the federal funding. The Florida Department of Health will partner with the FSU College of Medicine and the Florida Maternal Mental Health Collaborative for the project.

Good mental health during pregnancy is best for all involved, says Dr. Celeste Philip.

“Good mental health before, during and after pregnancy can positively impact the health of both mother and child,” said State Surgeon General and Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip.

A risk assessment program managed by the state found that more than half of mothers in Florida experience depression after childbirth, but less than 10 percent sought or had access to professional help.

The five-year grant seeks to, among other things, “build statewide capacity in Florida to fully and competently deliver all aspects of screening, referral, engagement, and mental health consultation training to all major obstetrics practices and birth hospitals across North Florida,” according to state health officials.

Florida hospitals reach C-section milestone

Many Florida hospitals are ahead of schedule in accomplishing a nationwide goal of reducing the number of cesarean section, or C-section, operations performed on first-time mothers with low-risk pregnancies.

State health officials announced this week that 20 hospitals already have reached the federal “Healthy People 2020 Maternal and Child Health” goal.

AHCA Secretary Justin Senior is helping the state reduce the number of cesarean sections.

“As part of managed care our Agency has worked with health plans and hospitals to improve birth outcomes and lower risks to both mother and baby,” said Justin Senior, Secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration. “We have seen many hospitals take on this challenge and are excited to recognize the hospitals that have met the Healthy People 2020 goal.”

A complete list of recognized hospitals can be found here.

Currently, Florida C-section rates for first-time low-risk pregnancies range from 17 percent to 61 percent, according to the state.

Book lauds investigation into sexual abuse

State Sen. Lauren Book is supporting the state’s decision to probe Florida’s seven Catholic dioceses for information regarding past and current sexual abuse by priests.

Spearheaded by Attorney General Pam Bondi, the state announced the investigation Thursday in light of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that found decades of sexual abuse by priests was covered up by church leaders.

Lauren Book is applauding the state’s investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

“Sadly, we know these instances are not isolated,” Book said, referencing the more than 1,000 children found to have been abused in Pennsylvania. “Attorney General Bondi has sent a clear message to any person using their position of power to exploit and manipulate children: your actions are not tolerated, and you will not get away with harming children.”

Book, herself a survivor of sexual abuse as a child and vocal advocate against abuse, encouraged individuals to come forward.

“As a survivor of child sexual abuse, I know how scary it is to come forward, but I want all survivors to know that your voice matters, the guilt is not yours to carry, and you will be believed. If you or someone you love is a victim of sexual abuse, I promise it is OK to tell,” Book said.

Victim shield law tested

The state struck out on its bid to force the mother of a man accused of sexual assault — who died before he could stand trial — to take down a social media post naming the victim.

At least for now.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal said officials improperly pursued the order within the framework of its criminal case against Nathaniel Green — which legally ended upon his death.

Still, the court said officials could proceed against Rebecca Green under a state law forbidding publication of sexual assault victims’ names — as long as they target her in a separate proceeding.

“The statute provides an independent basis of jurisdiction (and a supplemental grant of authority) for the circuit court to enter an order protecting a crime victim from harassment, whether the harassment occurs during the pendency of the criminal case or thereafter,” the court said. The case originated in Leon County.

Florida cancer advocate honored with national award

Heather Youmans, the lead government relations professional for the Florida chapter of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, recently received the group’s top lobbying honor.

ACS CAN, an advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, presents the award each year to a government relations professional who has worked tirelessly to promote cancer-related public policy.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is recognizing Heather Youmans with its top lobbying honor.

During the 2017 Session, Youmans’ work was particularly successful. She helped secure more than $1.8 million in recurring appropriations for Florida’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection program.

Youmans also led efforts to secure $23 million for the state’s peer-reviewed, competitive biomedical research programs, which focus on cancer and tobacco-related illnesses.

FSU ‘Policy Pub’ to focus on consolidation

What are the pros and cons of merging city and county governments?

That’s the question of the day — or evening — for those planning to attend the latest Policy Pub installment: “The pros and cons of consolidation.”

The free public forum presented by the Florida State University College of Social Sciences will take place from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Backwoods Bistro in Tallahassee.

FSU’s Sam Staley will moderate a debate on local government consolidation.

The discussion will be led by Sam Staley, director of FSU’s DeVoe L. Moore Center. Staley also teaches undergraduate courses in urban planning, regulation and urban economics.

Specifically, Staley is expected to discuss when consolidation makes sense, and when it doesn’t.

An invite teasing the event notes, “Consolidating public services seems like a no-brainer — reduce duplication of services and labor, cut costs, increase efficiency and get better public services. But does it work in practice?”

GreenWise Market sets up shop in capital city

Good news for organically inclined Tallahasseeans: GreenWise Market, the natural and organic affiliate of Publix Supermarkets, opened up a location this week at the southwest corner of Gaines Street and Railroad Avenue.

The store boasts a variety of ooff-the-beaten-path options for the environmentally conscious consumer, including antibiotic-free meats, organic cheeses and vegan items.

Tallahassee’s Gaines Street Publix is part of a return to the company’s Greenwise brand.

“With our new-format GreenWise Market, we will offer today’s natural and specialty customer the new and interesting products they are looking for while setting the stage to provide a uniquely different shopping experience,” said Kevin Murphy, Publix senior vice president of Retail Operations. “The customers in this growing market are looking for a brand they trust, and we are confident GreenWise Market will be their specialty, natural and organic store of choice.”

In-house eats differ from those offered by traditional Publix locations. At GreenWise, patrons have the option of “fresh, handcrafted sandwiches, acai bowls, gourmet pizzas, burritos, bowls, sushi and sausage” made on location by employees, according to the grocery giant.

The store will also cater to those looking to catch a quick buzz or caffeinated jump, offering kombucha, local craft beer, wine, smoothies and locally-roasted coffee.

Capitol Directions

Andrew Gillum, Ron DeSantis reel in records amount of matching money

With slightly more than a month to go before the November election, Florida statewide candidates have topped a matching-funds record from the 2010 election.

Bolstered by small-dollar fundraising in the race for Governor, $6.08 million has been sent by the state to candidates this year, according to figures provided Tuesday by the Florida Division of Elections.

A little more than $400,000 was sent out on Friday to five candidates in the Nov. 6 general election.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum’s latest check from the state was for $246,965, and former Congressman Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, received a check for $140,037.

In 2010, the state doled out $6.065 million to 10 candidates in the controversial matching-funds program, which voters approved in 1998 with the intention of diminishing the importance of special-interest money.

Some lawmakers continue to push for repealing the program. But the Legislature has not put the issue back before voters since a 2010 effort failed when it only gained 52.5 percent of the vote, short of the required 60 percent for adoption.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, called the program a “gross waste of taxpayer money” in 2017 when he called for the state Constitution Revision Commission to propose a measure to remove public financing from the Constitution.

Even before this year’s Aug. 28 primary, candidates seeking the taxpayer money shot past the 2014 matching-funds total of $4.3 million.

The program matches individual contributions of $250 or less to the campaign accounts of candidates for statewide offices. Candidates do not have to take part in the program.

With the latest check, DeSantis has received $1.37 million from the state.

Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, has landed $1.1 million from the program.

In all, nine statewide candidates this year decided to dip into the fund, though four of those candidates — including gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham and Adam Putnam — lost their primaries.

The two remaining candidates in the race for Agriculture Commissioner, Republican Matt Caldwell and Democrat Nikki Fried, have not tapped the program. Caldwell, who won his primary with 34.6 percent of the vote, decried the use of the matching-funds program as “campaign welfare.”

In the race for Attorney General, Democrat Sean Shaw got a check for $12,152 on Friday and has received $251,578 from the program. Republican Ashley Moody received $1,580 in matching funds on Friday and has received $384,026 from the state.

In the race for state chief financial officer, incumbent Republican Jimmy Patronis received a check for $840 on Friday. Patronis has received $310,600 through the program. Democratic CFO candidate Jeremy Ring has not taken part in the program.


Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

blue wave

Blue wave? Democratic Cabinet nominees up in new Florida Chamber poll

A new poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce brought good news for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, but the three other statewide candidates joining them on the November ballot are also in prime position to topple GOP hegemony.

In addition to the U.S. Senate Race and Governor’s, Floridians will be replacing term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi and term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the fall. Also on the ballot is sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis, who is running for a full term after being appointed to the seat by Gov. Rick Scott last year.

In the AG race Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw, also the state’s former insurance consumer advocate, leads Republican nominee Ashley Moody, a former prosecutor and circuit court judge, by 2 percentage points, 35-33 percent. Another 20 percent of voters said they were undecided, while 9 percent favor unaffiliated candidate Jeffrey Siskind of Wellington.

The Florida Chamber measure is one of the first post-primary polls of the AG race to show Shaw with a lead. Moody scored a double-digit win over Pensacola state Rep. Frank White and Shaw trounced Odessa attorney Ryan Torrens. A prior poll of the race, conducted by Public Policy Polling showed Moody with a 3-point edge, 44-41 percent, while a St. Pete Polls survey showed her up 46-44 percent.

Though Moody has raked in loads more money than Shaw, her expensive primary battle left her trailing Shaw in cash on hand, with about $600,000 on hand for Moody and $810,000 on hand for Shaw as of Sept. 21.

In the Ag Commissioner race, medical marijuana lobbyist Nikki Fried leads Lehigh Acres state Rep. Matt Caldwell by 5 percentage points, 42-37 percent. Fried easily won the three-way Democratic primary to succeed term-limited Republican Adam Putnam with 59 percent of the vote while Caldwell took a plurality of the vote in the four-way Republican contest.

Fried had about $175,000 on hand between her campaign and committee accounts on Sept. 21, putting her well behind Caldwell’s combined war chest of $920,000.

CFO Jimmy Patronis, the only incumbent Cabinet member on the ballot, fared better than his fellow Republican. The Chamber found him tied with former Margate state Sen. Jeremy Ring at 38 percent each with 20 percent of voters undecided. Write-in candidate Richard Dembinsky is also vying for the seat and could partially account for why the Chamber’s measure does not add up to 100.

The tie game in the CFO race comes despite Patronis having raised being one of the best-funded non-gubernatorial candidates on the ballot. His $5.4 million in overall fundraising and $3.3 million in on-hand cash trounces Ring’s numbers, which stood at $1.33 million raised and $473,000 banked as of Sept. 21.

Ring has been adamant that neither fundraising nor endorsements will decide the contest. The last Democrat to hold a spot on the Cabinet was Alex Sink, who served one term as CFO before vacating the seat for her unsuccessful bid to be Florida’s Governor in 2010.

The Chamber poll is the first measure of the Cabinet race in some time. A Chamber poll from June showed Patronis with a 9-point lead, 40-31 percent, while a slightly more recent measure from Public Policy Polling showed Ring with a 40-39 percent edge.

The Florida Chamber Poll was conducted Sept. 19 through Sept. 24 and received responses from 622 voters, 41.5 percent of whom were registered Democrats, while 40.5 percent were Republicans and 18 percent not belonging to one of the major parties.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Forget Brett Kavanaugh; Florida facing its own ‘Supreme’ drama — in triplicate

While the nation was fixated on the drama surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Floridians were reminded this week that they have their own Supreme Court controversy in triplicate.

Gov. Rick Scott reasserted his claim in court that he has the power, before he leaves office in January, to appoint replacements for three Florida Supreme Court justices who have reached a mandatory retirement age. Opponents contend the next governor, who takes office on Jan. 8, has that right.

Meanwhile, former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, told the Florida Chamber of Commerce this week that he intends to appoint the new justices.

“It’s important that we have a governor who understands that we have to appoint solid constitutionalists to our state courts, including our state Supreme Court,” he told the chamber members, who were meeting in Orlando.

“The next governor probably, and I know there’s a little bit of controversy about when these appointments happen, but I’m presuming that I get elected governor and get sworn in, that I will have three appointments to the state Supreme Court,” DeSantis said.

It’s not the first time DeSantis has asserted his right to make the court appointments. It became an issue in his final debate with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

“They’re not your appointments. They’re Gov. Scott’s appointments,” Putnam told him, saying DeSantis was aligning himself with groups like the League of Women Voters of Florida, who is challenging Scott on the court appointments.

For his part, Scott, who expects to get a list of potential court appointees by Nov. 8, has said he will work on the appointments with the winner of the Nov. 6 election.

Reaching an accommodation with DeSantis, who shares a similar conservative philosophy with Scott, seems possible. But if Democrat Andrew Gillum prevails, Floridians can expect the appointment controversy to intensify.


Scott’s lawyers on Wednesday argued the governor has the authority to appoint the replacements for justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who are all leaving the court in early January because they have reached the mandatory retirement age.

The lawsuit, filed by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, has asked the Supreme Court to block Scott’s action, through a procedure known as a “writ of quo warranto,” arguing the new governor who takes office on Jan. 8 should have that appointment power.

But in a 33-page res1ponse, Scott’s lawyers said he is following the precedent of beginning the appointment process before the vacancies actually occur, noting numerous justices have been appointed using this procedure in order to avoid prolonged vacancies on the court.

“The petitioners’ interpretation of the applicable constitutional provision is contrary to its plain language, the long-standing historical practice of the judicial nominating commissions for the Supreme Court and district courts of appeal, and the clearly articulated public policy underlying Article V of the Florida Constitution: avoiding extended vacancies in judicial office,” the lawyers wrote.

Earlier this month, Scott directed the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission to begin accepting and reviewing applications for the court appointments. The commission has set an Oct. 8 deadline for the applications, followed by a Nov. 8 deadline — two days after the general election — for submitting names of potential justices to the governor.

Scott, a Republican who is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, said he has the “expectation” that he and the incoming governor could reach an agreement on the appointments.

Underscoring the legal challenge is the fact that the new appointments are likely to reshape the seven-member Supreme Court for years, if not decades. Pariente, Lewis and Quince are part of a liberal bloc, which now holds a slim 4-3 majority, that has thwarted Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature on numerous occasions since the governor took office in 2011.


In another Florida parallel to the Kavanaugh controversy, where the nominee has been accused of sexually harassing women while in high school or college, a sexual discrimination case involving the Florida Senate advanced this week.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and four high-ranking senators — including President Joe Negron — are among the witnesses being asked to testify in a discrimination case filed by legislative aide Rachel Perrin Rogers, who accuses the Senate of retaliation after she filed a sexual harassment complaint last year against former Sen. Jack Latvala.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who held the powerful post of Senate budget chief and was a candidate for governor when Perrin Rogers’ allegations against him first came out, resigned from the Senate shortly before the legislative session began in January. He has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.

Latvala is among the witnesses Tiffany Cruz, a lawyer who represents Perrin Rogers, is asking to appear at a Jan. 14 federal administrative-court hearing in Tampa, according to court documents first reported Wednesday by Politico Florida.

The list of witnesses gives just a glimpse into the allegations made by Perrin Rogers, who filed the discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January.

One of the witnesses is Jean Seawright, who was hired by the Senate to conduct an investigation into Perrin Rogers after the aide filed the complaint against Latvala, according to court documents. Senate Special Master Ronald Swanson, who investigated Perrin Rogers’ allegations against Latvala, is also on the witness list.

Negron, a Stuart Republican who is leaving office after the November elections, “has knowledge that complainant suffered retaliation for making a report of sexual harassment,” Cruz wrote in a four-page list of witnesses submitted Tuesday to U.S. Administrative Law Judge Alexander Fernández.

The Senate president denied anyone punished Perrin Rogers, a high-ranking aide who works for Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, after she complained about Latvala.

“The complaint of sexual harassment, in this case, was immediately and fully investigated. At all times the Senate has acted appropriately and there has been no retaliation,” Negron said in a text message Wednesday.

But Cruz told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday that “there has been constant retaliation” against Perrin Rogers since she first complained about Latvala last fall. And the retaliation got worse after Swanson’s report was completed and the Senate aide filed her discrimination complaint, Cruz said.

“Instead, what we’ve seen happen here is the Senate has taken almost no action as the employer to protect Rachel when the retaliation was happening, and then subsequent to the investigation, they’ve actively taken steps to treat her differently as a result of her complaint,” she said.

The investigation into Latvala came amid a national spotlight on revelations of sexual harassment lodged against powerful men in Hollywood, business and politics that led to the demise of entertainment-industry titans such as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and Les Moonves.


Gov. Scott reasserted his right to appoint three new justices to the Florida Supreme Court before he leaves office in early January.


“The message that women are receiving, to me, is you become a pariah for saying something about any type of misconduct that’s happening to you by a man, especially by a man of power. If you say something too late, you get attacked for that. If you say something right away, you get attacked for that. So essentially the message is, be silent, or these are the consequences.” — Tiffany Cruz, a lawyer who is representing legislative aide Rachel Perrin Rogers, who is suing the Florida Senate in a discrimination case.


Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — An army of (election) lawyers

The two major parties are likely “actively recruiting” lawyers for any election-related disputes that arise Nov. 6.

That’s according to Dr. Susan MacManus, a retired University of South Florida political science professor, who moderated an election controversy panel during the 2018 Florida Bar Reporters’ Workshop this week.

Addressing a room of media, MacManus discussed with supervisors of elections and attorney Mark Herron the legal issues that come on Election Day.

Tallahassee-based election law attorney Mark Herron is gearing up for a host of election-related disputes come November. (Image via Phil Sears)

Herron, familiar with the elections litigation process, said complications ranging from a polling location losing power to campaign activists violating distance restraints could spark legal action.

“Sometimes polling locations don’t open on time,” Herron added. “Recognize that, for these big elections, there’s an army of lawyers out there.”

The panelists — Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards, Leon County Supervisor Mark Earley and Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles — addressed a new report from the ACLU, released last week, suggesting vote-by-mail ballots cast by younger and minority voters are more likely to get rejected.

Edwards said her team takes “extra care” with every mail-in ballot, to ensure fraud doesn’t occur.

“It’s a very labor-intensive process,” Earley added, noting that issues stem from verifying signatures, which he suggests are more apt to change among younger voters.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.

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

Take 5

Scott talks red tide — Gov. Rick Scott called into a meeting of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to discuss red tide, a naturally occurring toxic algae outbreak that is responsible for the massive fish and sea mammal kills happening along Florida’s Gulf Coast. “I know we’re not going to stop working until all of our communities recover,” Scott said, according to the News Service of Florida. “We all know that more has to be done.” Scott, reports the News Service, “repeated his call for the commission to create a Florida Center for Red Tide Research, re-establish the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force and request additional funding next year from the Legislature for red tide research.” On Thursday, Scott announced that another $3 million in red tide cleanup money went to Pinellas and Lee counties. That money is part of $13 million in DEP grant funding provided by the agency to communities impacted by red tide.

State responds to NRA anonymity dispute — Attorneys for the state recently filed a brief requesting the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals uphold a prior ruling that all listed parties be named in a National Rifle Association lawsuit challenging a state law. Not doing so would violate a federal court mandate, the state argues. Known now as Jane Doe and John Doe, the NRA seeks to shield the two plaintiffs’ identities, fearing “they would suffer harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence if their true identities and participation in this controversial litigation were made public,” according to an earlier brief filed by lawyers for the NRA. The Second Amendment group is challenging a state law that upped the rifle purchase age from 18 to 21 years old. The unnamed plaintiffs are 19 years old.

Scott responds to appointments lawsuit — In a response filed this week with the Supreme Court, lawyers for Scott contend the term-limited Governor has the authority to convene the Judicial Nominating Commission to float names for three soon-to-be vacancies on the high court. Scott’s power to do just that was challenged last week in a “writ of quo warranto” filed by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida. The groups argued the nomination process could not start until the vacancies occur. Lawyers for Scott countered by arguing that judges have been appointed similarly in the past and jump-starting the nominating process now is essential to avoid extended judicial vacancies. Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince face mandatory retirement in January.

Chamber convenes on state concerns — The Florida Chamber of Commerce held its 2018 Future of Florida Forum this week, hosting leaders in government, business and technology to discuss the evolving needs of the Sunshine State. “Florida is changing. Our economics, our demographics and our politics are all changing, and these changes bring both opportunities and challenges,” Chamber CEO Mark Wilson said. Delivering remarks were Gov. Scott, who was honored for his pro-business tenure, and CFO Jimmy Patronis, who shared his anti-insurance fraud agenda. University of West Florida’s Dr. Eman ElSheikh was brought in to discuss cybersecurity, on which he is an expert. He suggested all businesses provide at least some form of cybersecurity training to help mitigate risks of data breaches.

The Florida Chamber Foundation Future of Florida Forum, which took place this week in Orlando. (Image via Colin Hackley)

State settles with Uber for $8.2M — Attorney General Pam Bondi announced this week that ride-sharing company Uber will pay the state $8,246,606 as part of a national settlement reached for a data breach. In 2016, hackers accessed data stored by Uber, including driver’s license information, according to Bondi’s office. The company tracked down the hackers and prevented the data from further spreading, but Uber ultimately did not report the breach to the state until a year later, “allegedly failing to comply with the Florida Information Protection Act and other related laws,” according to Bondi’s office. “Data breaches need to be dealt with in a very urgent and responsive manner,” Bondi said in a prepared statement. “Not only are they often serious crimes, but people with compromised information need to be alerted immediately, so they can take steps to guard against identity theft and financial losses. Hopefully, this settlement will send the clear message that faster reporting is essential.” In total, Uber will pay out $148 million to the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Bustamante’s scholarship legacy

JereimaJeriBustamante’s meaningful career and life will in part be remembered by a scholarship for aspiring high school seniors.

Gov. Scott announced the news this week at Miami Beach Senior High School, Bustamante’s alma mater.

Rick Scott announces a scholarship fund in honor of former press secretary Jeri Bustamante. (Image via Miami Dade Schools)

Scott appointed Bustamante press secretary in 2014. She helped the Governor learn Spanish and often accompanied him on trips to South Florida. She was primed to support the Governor’s U.S. Senate campaign but died before its official launch.

According to Miami Dade Schools, the Jeri Bustamante Memorial Scholarship will cover two years of state college and two years of university tuition for a deserving student.

“This 4-year scholarship will help a student to live their American Dream,” Scott wrote on Twitter. “We’ll always remember Jeri & can think of no better way to honor her.”

Scott authorizes $50M opioid grant

The Department of Children and Families can begin using more than $50 million in federal grant money to fight the opioid epidemic, Gov. Scott announced this week.

The money will be used to increase access to treatment to reduce opioid overdoses. The grant funding will also “equip professionals with the necessary tools” to fight the drug scourge, according to the Governor’s Office. That includes more than 40,000 Naloxone kits.

The $50M opioid grant money authorized by Rick Scott is for 40,000 Naloxone kits, among other tools.

“In Florida, we are standing with families who are fighting opioid addiction and will continue to find ways to help our communities and law enforcement agencies,” Scott said. “This more than $50 million in additional funding will provide important recovery services for many families and aid in our fight against the national opioid epidemic.”

The federal grant is in addition to the $65 million attached to landmark opioid legislation passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Scott this year.

“The department remains committed to helping people who are living with an opioid use disorder, supporting their families, and equipping the treatment industry with the right tools for the most effective treatment,” DCF Interim Secretary Rebecca Kapusta said.

Patronis helps Tampa firefighters

First responders in Hillsborough County received cancer-fighting decontamination kits this week, courtesy of the state’s chief fire marshal and CFO Patronis.

When many items catch fire, such as tires, the burning can produce cancer-causing compounds.

Jimmy Patronis announces the award of cancer-fighting decontamination kits for Hillsborough County first responders.

The kits, available through a partnership with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine will help mitigate firefighters’ exposure to such dangers.

In a statement, Patronis noted that cancer caused 70 percent of line-of-duty deaths in firefighters in 2016.

“These numbers are unacceptable and cancer prevalence in firefighters is not up for debate,” Patronis added. “We must continue to ensure these heroes have the tools needed to stay healthy and safe.”

The 70 kits delivered to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue are part of the more than 1,000 already delivered across the state. In all, 4,000 kits will be distributed throughout Florida.

State delivers food to Florence victims

Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said the state has delivered “thousands of servings of food” to victims of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina.

The deliveries were made possible via a partnership between Florida and the United States Department of Agriculture.

Florida has delivered thousands of pounds of food to victims of Hurricane Florence, says Adam Putnam.

The running tally: More than 122,000 pounds of fruits, vegetables and juice; nearly 46,000 pounds of meat, poultry, fish and protein-rich foods; and more than 12,000 pounds of whole grains and pasta, according to the state.

During emergencies, FDACS provides the necessary food and water to affected areas. North Carolina officials this week estimated the state took a hit of more than $1.1 billion to its agriculture industry.

“We knew the losses would be significant because it was harvest time for so many of our major crops and the storm hit our top six agricultural counties especially hard,” said North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “These early estimates show just what a devastating and staggering blow this hurricane leveled at our agriculture industry.”

Patronis: Florida families should plan ahead for college

In his capacity as a watchdog over the state’s finances, Chief Financial Officer Patronis is reminding Floridians to prepare ahead for the financial burden associated with higher education.

His advice: Take advantage of the Florida Prepaid College Program.

“Florida’s public universities and state colleges continue to offer the best education for some of the lowest rates in the country,” Patronis said. “With student loan debt climbing each year, I encourage Florida families to take advantage of Florida’s Prepaid College Program to help their children become debt-free adults.”

According to data cited by Patronis, the average graduating student in 2016 owes more than $37,000. The default rate for those students is 10 percent.

“I’m advocating for the Legislature to hold the line on tuition rates so that education can remain an affordable option,” Patronis said.

Instagram of the Week

The week in appointments

This week, Gov. Scott announced the following appointments and reappointments:

Commission on Ethics

Willie Meggs, 75, of Tallahassee, is a former State Attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit Court of Florida. Meggs also served as Leon County Deputy with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and has served as President of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending June 30, 2019. Garrett Richter, 68, of Naples is the President and Chief Executive Officer of First Florida Integrity Bank. He is a former State Representative and Senate President Pro Tempore. Richter served both in the U.S. Army and Air Force Reserve and was awarded a Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending June 30, 2020. The appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors

William Kastroll, 47, of Naples, is the owner of Harbour Insurance, LLC. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending July 31, 2019.

Department of Elderly Affairs Advisory Council

Kerry Marsalek, of Clearwater, is the manager for the Clearwater Office on Aging. She is reappointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2020. Dr. Mohammad Choudhry, 52, of Leesburg, is a neurophysician. He is reappointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2019.

Santa Fe College District Board of Trustees

Caridad Lee, 67, of Alachua, is the owner and president of Florida Blue Farms. She received her bachelor’s degree and her master’s degree from the University of Florida and a second master’s degree from Loyola University. Lee is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022. Robert Woody, 65, of Gainesville, is director of youth services at the Gainesville Police Department. He received his bachelor’s degree from State University at Oneonta and his master’s degree from Rollins College. Woody is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022. Jeffery Oody, 49, of Starke, is the president and chief executive officer of Community State Bank. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Florida, his master’s degree from Liberty University, and his doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Oody is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022. These are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Palm Beach State College District Board of Trustees

Philip Ward, 63, of Jupiter, is the managing partner and attorney at Ward Damon, Attorneys at Law. He received his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and his juris doctorate from the University of Miami Law School. Ward succeeds John Dowd and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Highlands County Housing Authority

Tod Schwingel, 56, of Sebring, is the senior minister at Sebring Christian Church. He is reappointed for a term ending June 14, 2022. Deborah Wood, 59, of Avon Park, is a resource teacher for the Highlands County School Board. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending June 14, 2021.

District Medical Examiners

Dr. David Stewart, 60, of Tallahassee, is the chief medical examiner of District 2. He is reappointed for a term ending July 1, 2021. Dr. Rebecca Hamilton, 53, of Alva, is the chief medical examiner of District 21. She is reappointed for a term ending July 1, 2020.

Florida Developmental Disabilities Council

Bobbie Lake, 73, of Live Oak, is the former executive director of The Arc North Florida, Inc. He succeeds Ronni Bianco and is appointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2019. Lisa Miller, 41, of Lakeland, is a volunteer and advocate for persons with disabilities. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2019. Allison Flanagan, 47, of Tallahassee, is the director of vocational rehab for the Florida Department of Education. She succeeds Alesia McKinlay and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Cherie Hall, 48, of Tallahassee, is the chief financial officer of Disability Rights Florida. She succeeds Maryellen McDonald and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Cassandra G. Pasley, of Tallahassee, is the director of the division or children’s medical services for the Florida Department of Health. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor.

Hernando County Housing Authority

Paul H. Sullivan, 73, of Hernando Beach, is a U.S. Air Force veteran and former county commissioner for Hernando County. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2022.

Polk County Board of County Commissioners

Rick Wilson fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Melony Bell. Wilson, 65, of Bartow, is a small-business owner. He is a member of the Polk County Cattleman’s Association, Florida Cattleman’s Association and Rotary International. He is appointed for a term beginning Oct. 1.

DEO launches Rebuild Florida

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will provide $616 million to help Floridians rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Irma.

The effort, Rebuild Florida, is part of a partnership between the state and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Holly Raschein speaks at the DEO Rebuild Florida news conference this week in Marathon.

Federal disaster money will flow through Rebuild Florida centers, the first of which opened this week in the Florida Keys, an area that suffered extensive damage as Irma swept through the state in 2017.

State Rep. Holly Raschein, of the Keys area, said she’s “excited to have these resources available for our residents as we continue our long-term recovery and work to make sure the Florida Keys come back better and stronger than ever.”

Rebuild Florida locations are listed here. More information is available here.

Joyner named to Ruth’s List board

Former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner was appointed this week to the board of Ruth’s List Florida.

The Tampa Democrat, a former Senate Democratic Leader, is credited with breaking racial and gender barriers throughout her career. According to Ruth’s List, Joyner was the first black woman to serve in the Legislature since Reconstruction and first to practice law in Hillsborough and Polk counties. She is the longest practicing black woman lawyer in the history of Florida.

Arthenia Joyner is the newest member of the Ruth’s List Florida Board of Directors.

“I am very happy to join the Board of Directors of Ruth’s List Florida,” Joyner said. “Not only because it represents the chance to continue public service, but because this pioneering organization is dedicated to ensuring that ALL members of the public are truly served.

“I look forward to continuing that mission, and helping women take their rightful position in our democracy, representing the Citizens of Florida.”

“Ruth’s List Florida is honored and thrilled to add the Honorable Arthenia Joyner to our organization’s strong leadership,” Pamela Goodman, president and CEO of Ruth’s List Florida, said.

“She has served Florida citizens throughout her life, but women especially have benefited from her wisdom, courage and determination for equal and civil rights. Her contribution to our team is going to be a priceless addition.”

Ruth’s List supports pro-choice, Democratic women running for office. It has funneled $5 million to candidates since its founding in 2008.

Florida Bar recognizes journalists

The Florida Bar honored journalists this week during an evening reception on the 22nd floor of the Capitol.

The awards, which take the namesake of the late attorney Parker Thompson, recognized state-based reporters for work related to the legal field. Thompson died in 2017 after a meaningful career that included work on behalf of the Miami Herald in critical cases that preserved the First Amendment right of the press.

The Florida Bar honors Miami Herald reporters Carol Marbin Miller and Audra Burch for their much-heralded series “Fight Club.” (image via USC Annenberg/Benjamin Dunn)

Taking home prizes in print were the Miami Herald’s Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch for their widely recognized “Fight Club” series that exposed the state’s violent and troubled juvenile justice system.

The second-place print award went Dan Sullivan of the Tampa Bay Times for his reporting on juvenile sentencing.

In the television category, WESH’s Greg Fox received the first-place honor for his series, “Veterans, Mental Health & Guns.” WTSP’s Noah Pransky was awarded second place for Florida Texting Laws.”

In radio, WLRN’s Wilson Sayre was honored for “Cell: Florida’s Death Penalty in Limbo,” which examined the state’s death penalty laws and effect on prisoners.

Florida manufacturers celebrated

The Manufacturers Association of Florida honored four Sunshine State product makers at a recent awards banquet in St. Petersburg.

The association received a record amount of nominations this year. A statewide panel judged each nominee on leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, workforce focus and operations.

Employee-owners of Pelican Wire in Naples were recognized as ‘Manufacturer of the Year’ award in the small business category.

Securing the award in the Small Manufacturer category was Pelican Wire of Naples. BASF of Quincy topped the Medium Manufacturer category; Sandvik Mining and Construction USA of Alachua took home the award in the Large Manufacturer category; and Mettler Toledo of Lutz, with more than 501 employees, topped the list in the Extra-Large Manufacturer category.

“These winners truly rose above the ranks of their competition and reminded us the industry is at a turning point in history,” said Amanda Bowen, executive director of MAF. “Manufacturing is being disrupted by technology changes, economic regulations, gender roles and culture shifts.

“Each of our winners demonstrated an ability to challenge these issues in a respectable way, all while making significant strides in their sector and raising the bar for manufacturing in Florida.”

Nominations for next year’s awards will be accepted beginning Spring 2019. More information is available here.

Publix expands HQ

The Publix headquarters in Lakeland will add 700 more jobs by the end of 2027, the grocery giant announced this week.

Publix President and CEO Todd Jones, who was joined by Gov. Scott in announcing the expansion, said the move is the result of a loyal customer base and dedicated associates.

“These additional jobs will help us support our store associates as they continue to provide the premier service our customers expect,” Jones added. “We are proud of the role we continue to play in the great state of Florida.”

Publix is expanding its headquarters to create 700 new jobs in Lakeland. (Image via the Lakeland Ledger)

The Florida-based company was founded in 1930 by George Jenkins. It currently boasts 1,198 store locations across the southeastern U.S. and employs more than 190,000 people.

“Publix is one of Florida’s greatest success stories, and we’re proud of their growth,” Scott said.

Insurers highlight ‘bad faith’ study

New research shows third-party bad faith lawsuits added an average of $106 in claim costs to every insured vehicle in Florida in 2017.

That has caught the attention of the regional chapter of Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, or PCI.

Automobile accidents are just one of the reasons why Florida leads the nation in ‘bad faith’ litigation abuse.

“Florida continues to be the worst state in the country for bad faith litigation abuse,” said regional PCI manager Logan McFaddin. “Frivolous lawsuits, often targeting automobile insurers, create unnecessary expenses that place a heavy burden on consumers.”

The study referenced, conducted by the Insurance Research Council, estimates bad faith suits have resulted in $7.6 billion in additional claim costs over the past 12 years.

“It’s clear we need to look for a legislative answer that protects the public and prevents needless lawsuits from being filed by third parties looking to make money off consumers,” added McFaddin.

“Now is the time to start looking for a solution that potentially shields Floridians from higher insurance costs, combats abuse, and prevents lawsuits from clogging up the court system.”

FSU professor to study Native American health

John Lowe, a decorated nursing professor at Florida State University, has received a $1.275 million federal grant to examine ways to reduce health risk among Native Americans and Alaska Natives.

Lowe’s work will be Florida-centric, focusing on urban areas in the state. He aims to find prevention research for substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis among young adults belonging to the races as mentioned earlier.

FSU nursing professor John Lowe receives $1.275M grant to work toward reducing health risks among Native American and Alaska Native young adults in urban Florida. (Image via FSU)

“There remain enduring health disparities, substantial service gaps and a large, unmet need for state of the science prevention for substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis among urban American Indian and Alaska Native young adults in Florida,” Lowe said.

The results of the project, funded the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, should “contribute significantly and meaningfully to closing this gap,” Lowe added.

“Lowe’s work in reducing health risks such as substance abuse, HIV and hepatitis is a vital area of public health research,” FSU Vice President for Research Gary K. Ostrander said.

FSU gets violence prevention grant

A $300,000 grant is on its way to Florida State University to encourage prevention and response to personal violence.

Specifically, the money is tailored to curb “power-based personal violence” on campus, which encompasses sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.

FSU’s Angela Chong is celebrating a ‘big win’ grant to study violence prevention. (Image via Miguel Gonzalez/FSU)

“This grant is a big win for Florida State University,” said Angela Chong, associate vice president for Student Affairs. “It certainly positions Florida State as a leader in the prevention of power-based personal violence.”

The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Justice and in part will fund a project drafted by University Health Services: “Collective Empowerment: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Caring for Tallahassee College Students.”

It seeks to “ensure that information on resources, awareness events and programming,” according to the university.

“Our upcoming initiatives through this grant will demonstrate that these crimes will not be tolerated,” interim UHS director Amy Magnuson said. “They will send a clear message that perpetrators will be held accountable and that holistic services are available for survivors.”

Capitol Directions

Andrew Gillum

Chamber poll: Andrew Gillum holds 6-point lead over Ron DeSantis

A new poll conducted last week by the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum has increased his lead over Republican opponent Ron DeSantis to 6-points

The poll, conducted Sept. 19 through Sept. 24, found the Tallahassee Mayor and his Lieutenant Governor pick, Orlando-area businessman Chris King, with a 48-42 percent lead over the former Congressman, who is running alongside state Rep. Jeannette Nuñez.

The lead represents a 2-percentage-point increase for Gillum, who led 47-43 percent in the Chamber’s prior measure, which was conducted Sept. 6 through Sept. 9. Unlike the last poll, the new results fall outside the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

The late-September poll was conducted prior to the Chamber offering DeSantis it’s “firm endorsement” Thursday in Orlando. During the Republican primary for Governor, the Chamber was an unwavering supporter of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and their 2018 Future of Florida Forum opened with a video celebrating the two-term cabinet member’s career.

Of the remaining 10 percent of respondents, 6 percent said they were still undecided, while 2 percent said they were backing Reform Party gubernatorial nominee Darcy Richardson and Nancy Argenziano.

Thanks to the support of President Donald Trump, DeSantis steamrolled Putnam in last month’s primary election by more than 20 points. On the Democratic side, Gillum defied most polling to defeat former Congressman Gwen Graham and several other contenders by a slim margin.

Gillum has led in most polls since the title card was set, though most of his polling leads have fallen within the margin of error. The RealClearPolitics average of all public polling for the general election matchup shows Gillum with a 4.5 percentage point lead over DeSantis.

One of the policy proposals DeSantis has hammered Gillum on – the latter’s plan to raise the corporate income tax from 5.5 percent to 7.75 percent to raised $1 billion in funding for public education – was supported by a supermajority of Florida voters.

Overall, two-thirds of voters approved of the plan and 28 percent were opposed. It was most popular among registered Democrats, who favored it by an 85-11 percent margin, while NPA’s were in favor 71-27 percent and a plurality of Republicans also gave it the green light, 48-44 percent.

The new results were in spite of Floridians believing the state was on headed in the “right direction” by a margin of 47-37 percent. Other measures of note: Trump’s job approval rating was underwater by 5 points, while U.S. Senate contenders Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent, and Gov. Rick Scott were plus-5 and plus-4 respectively.

The poll also found other statewide Democrats in the lead, with Democratic Ag Commissioner nominee Nikki Fried leading Lehigh Acres state Rep. Matt Calwell 42-37 percent; Democratic Attorney General nominee Sean Shaw leading Republican nominee Ashley Moody 35-33 percent; and sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis tied with former Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring 38-38 percent.

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