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Takeaways from Tallahassee — FSU takes on campus names, markers

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Florida State University President John Thrasher announced the members of the President’s Advisory Panel on University Namings and Recognitions, according to a news release.

“I want to thank the members of this panel for their willingness to take on this important matter,” Thrasher said in a statement. “I expect them to be deliberate, to be thoughtful and to seek input from the entire Florida State community as they do their work.”

FSU President John Thrasher takes on naming and recognition rules in light of the controversy over Confederate monuments.

(The full release with names of the members is here.)

The panel was created in the wake of ongoing controversy about Confederate memorials in Florida and across the nation, and white nationalist rallies, including one in Charlottesville, Virginia, where a car last month plowed into a group of counter-protesters, killing one woman and injuring dozens of others.

“The creation of the panel follows Thrasher’s condemnation of last month’s hateful and violent acts by white supremacists in Charlottesville, and his pledge to the FSU community to protect free speech while ensuring the safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff,” the university has previously said.

“The 15-member panel of university students, faculty, staff and alumni will examine and review current university policies concerning campus names and markers, including statues and other recognitions,” the latest release said. The university’s chief diversity officer, Renisha Gibbs, will chair the panel.

Last October, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that FSU students “overwhelmingly defeated a proposal seeking the removal of a statue honoring former Leon County slave owner Francis Eppes from campus and the removal of his name from a campus building.”

The statue is on the campus’ Westcott Plaza. Eppes was the grandson of Thomas Jefferson, who also owned slaves.

“The panel has been asked to complete its work with all deliberate speed,” Thrasher said. The date and time of its first meeting will be announced next week.

“Panel meetings will be noticed, open to the public and will include opportunities for public comment,” according to the release. The university will also “launch a website to provide additional information and updates on the panel’s progress.”

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jim RosicaPeter Schorsch and Andrew Wilson.

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

Here comes Nate — As of Friday, a hurricane warning was issued for a stretch of the U.S. Gulf Coast from Grand Isle, Louisiana, to the Alabama-Florida border. The National Hurricane Center said residents in those areas should brace for possible storm surges amid the expected strengthening of Tropical Storm Nate. The storm battered Central America with rain this week, killing at least 21 people. The center says the storm is likely to strengthen Friday over the northwestern Caribbean Sea before a possible near-hurricane-strength hit in the Cancun region at the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. Forecasters warn that the storm, after crossing open water, could then smash into the northern rim of the U.S. Gulf Coast as a hurricane.

Nursing home expands lawsuit — A Broward County nursing home has amended a lawsuit challenging moves by Gov. Scott‘s administration that effectively shut down the facility after residents died following Hurricane Irma. The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills filed a lawsuit last month in Leon County circuit court challenging state orders that placed a moratorium on patient admissions and suspended the facility from the Medicaid program. It filed an amended complaint this week that challenged a Sept. 20 emergency order that suspended the facility’s license. The state Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) acted after eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died Sept. 13, three days after Hurricane Irma knocked out the facility’s air conditioning. Four other residents who were evacuated died later.

Annette Taddeo’s plum assignments — With a swearing-in ceremony scheduled Tuesday, newly elected Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo will serve on five Senate panels, including committees that play crucial roles in insurance and environmental issues. Taddeo won a closely watched special election Sept. 26 to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican who resigned in April from the Senate District 40 seat. Senate President Joe Negron appointed Taddeo to serve on the Banking and Insurance Committee; the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee; the Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security Committee; the Transportation Committee; and the General Government Appropriations Subcommittee.

Brian Ballard rolls on — Ballard Partners, which has close ties with the Trump White House, inked a $600,000 one-year contract to promote “free and fair elections” in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Brian Ballard, a top Republican fundraiser, chaired the Trump Victory organization in Florida during the 2016 presidential campaign. Ballard Partners, which opened a D.C. office earlier this year, is to provide “strategic consulting and advocacy services” to the Group of Seven political coalitions regarding its pitch to Washington. DRC President Joseph Kabila, who has been in power since 2001, booted G-7 representatives from the government for voicing opposition to his continued rule. Ballard also this week formed an international strategic alliance with Alber & Geiger, a political lobbying powerhouse in the European Union, in efforts to leverage both firms’ governmental expertise.

Fundraising stops and starts — GOP candidate for Attorney General Jay Fant said this week he loaned his campaign $750,000 toward his election. The loan brings his total campaign funds raised to just over $958,000. “I am investing my own funds because Floridians deserve an alternative to the establishment candidates in the field,” Fant said in a statement. “We have over a year until the election, and we are just getting started.” Meantime, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine attributed his political committee’s lack of fundraising in September to his focus on the recent hurricanes. Levine, a Democrat, is widely expected to jump into next year’s race for governor. “When others are struggling to survive massive hurricanes and rebuild their lives, it is not a time for fundraising but a time for lifesaving,” a spokesman said. And Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democratic candidate for governor, added new finance director Akilah Ensley this week to spark fundraising after losing ground to opponents Gwen Graham and Chris King.

Irma looks to make her mark in Tallahassee

The first interim committee week ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session was canceled due to Hurricane Irma last month, and it seems like the fallout from the superstorm will dominate the conversation when lawmakers head to Tallahassee next week.

Not only are state legislators shorted one of their handful of planning periods, but Irma brought up some policy issues that lawmakers are looking to tackle during the 60-day Legislative Session, which starts in January.

Fallout from Hurricane Irma is still being felt in Florida’s Capitol.

According to the Senate calendar, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee will get a presentation on hurricane insurance issues; the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee will get an Irma update from utility companies; the Senate Agriculture Committee will discuss Irma’s impact on agriculture, which has been called the most significant crop-loss event in state history.

Also on the docket is a meeting of the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee, which will discuss emergency rules to force assisted living facilities and nursing homes to have enough generator power to keep the A/C running for several days in the event of a storm-related outage.

That issue spawned the hottest debates post-Irma due to an outage at a Hollywood nursing home directly leading to heat-related deaths for a dozen residents, ranging from 57 to 99 years old. The body temperatures of some of the deceased were as high as 109.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Rick Scott activates citrus grower emergency loan program

Gov. Scott activated a $25 million Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program to support citrus growers impacted by Hurricane Irma. The bridge loan program, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will provide interest-free loans to citrus growers that experienced physical or economic damage during the storm. The application period will begin next week and be open through November 30, 2017.

DEO will administer the Florida Citrus Emergency Loan Program in partnership with the Florida SBDC Network to provide cash flow to businesses affected by a disaster. The interest-free loans will help bridge the gap between the time damage occurs and when a business secures other financial resources, such as crop insurance payments or federal disaster recovery appropriations.

Rick Scott activates a $25 million emergency loan program for citrus growers affected by Hurricane Irma.

Citrus growers maintaining groves in any of Florida’s 67 counties affected by Hurricane Irma can apply for interest-free loans up to $150,000 in terms of up to one year. To be eligible, a grower must have been set up prior to September 4, 2017, and demonstrate economic injury or physical damage from Hurricane Irma.

To complete an application by the deadline of Nov. 30, or for more information on the program, visit floridadisasterloan.org. For questions, contact the Florida Small Business Development Center Network at 850-898-3489 or email Disaster@FloridaSBDC.org.

Jimmy Patronis helps out in Puerto Rico

Chief Financial Officer Patronis said law enforcement personnel from the Department of Financial Services will join the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), the Florida Highway Patrol, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and others to offer aid in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

CFO Jimmy Patronis is sending a joint team taken from several state agencies to aid Puerto Rico hurricane recovery.

“Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, leaving many families with nothing but the few belongings they could carry as they fled their homes,” he said in a statement. “As Florida continues to rebuild after Irma, I know that disaster recovery requires an ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach, and I’m proud to make resources available to help Puerto Rico get back on its feet. The needs are great, and we’ll do what we can to assist during this difficult time.”

The Department is deploying Major Karl Morgan from the Bureau of Fire and Arson Investigations to join an eight-person incident management team. Additional resources, including heavy land-clearing equipment used during Hurricane Irma recovery efforts, remain on standby.

While in Puerto Rico, a joint law enforcement team coordinated by FDLE will conduct recovery missions and offer security resources to protect relief materials being shipped or flown into the coastal country. Florida-based personnel and resources are made available to Puerto Rico through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact.

Trial lawyers establish Hurricane Irma task force

The Florida Justice Association has formed a task force to answer policyholders’ questions about their rights when pursuing insurance claims arising from Hurricane Irma.

The FJA Insurance Emergency Response Task Force will comprise experts in property insurance hailing from the areas of the state hit hardest. Stephen Marino of Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin in Miami will chair the task force.

Stephen Marino of Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin.

“Consumers need straight answers about how they should proceed with their claims, things they can do to expedite the claim process, and their rights and obligations under their insurance policies,” FJA President Dale Swope of Tampa said.

“The task force members are available to attend town halls and other events where constituents can raise questions related to insurance claims in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma,” he said.

Members also are available to brief legislators on how to help constituents with claims.

Puerto Rico family response centers launched

With up to 100,000 evacuees from Puerto Rico expected in Florida and the U.S. mainland, the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (FSHCC) and Orlando-based nonprofit Latino Leadership have partnered to create the Puerto Rico Family Response Center (PRFRC), they said in a news release.

“Currently operating in Orlando, PRFRC is assisting thousands of Puerto Rican evacuees every day. FSHCC plans to open PRFRCs in Tampa, Jacksonville and South Florida,” the release said. Current offerings include housing counseling, a 10-person computer lab, special needs services and a referral services network.

Florida is bracing for a wave of Puerto Rico evacuees displaced by Hurricane Maria.

FSHCC President Julio Fuentes announced that he will be holding a news conference in Tallahassee next week to call on Gov. Rick Scott and lawmakers “to send a clear and unified message to Puerto Ricans that they’re welcomed to the Sunshine State.”

“Florida is going to become the new home for tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans who’ve had to flee from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria,” Fuentes said. “Corporate leaders, elected officials and good Samaritans are lending their support, and with their help, we’ll transform lives for the better.”

For more information, visit the initiative’s website at www.PRFamilyResponse.com.

Florida insurers prepare for Nate

With recovery efforts still underway for Hurricanes Irma and Floridians now preparing for Tropical Storm Nate to hit Florida as early as this weekend, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) offers advice on filing an insurance claim.

“Following storms, like Irma, we generally get questions about the insurance claims process,” said Logan McFaddin, PCI Florida regional manager. “If you haven’t already, it is important to reach out to your insurance company or agent right away to start the claims process, especially with Tropical Storm Nate now in our sights.”

Next up, Tropical Storm Nate.

Insurers are also working with state and federal disaster-response agencies to help families recover as quickly as possible. Local and national call centers are available to process claims. Moreover, insurers are using the latest technology to allow claims to be reported online or through mobile apps.

“We would also caution consumers to be careful of any bad actors who are looking to prey on storm victims. These unscrupulous third-party contractors come in all varieties — and can lure in unsuspecting families with deals and offers that seem too good to be true,” McFaddin added.

Progress Florida unveils ‘People First’ report card

The report card, by the progressive organization, grades every lawmaker on the votes they cast this past session across a broad spectrum of issues relevant to Floridians. All 158 current legislators were graded based on floor votes taken in their respective chambers — 20 votes in the House and 12 in the Senate.

To achieve an “A” grade on the Report Card, lawmakers had to consistently vote to put ‘People First’ instead of powerful interests.

Key votes scored include opposing a reckless state budget that rewards wealthy corporations at the expense of hardworking Floridians, standing up for our local public schools, protecting our land and water including the Everglades and rejecting the ‘Shoot First’ expansion of the misguided Stand Your Ground law.

“Floridians deserve to know where their legislators stand on major issues from gun safety and environmental protection to the economy and local schools,” Progress Florida Executive Director Mark Ferrulo said in a statement. “We scored our senators and representatives based not on what they say, but on how they actually voted on issues important to Floridians.”

The 2017 Progress Florida “People First” Report Card for all legislators can be found at www.FloridaReportCard.com.

Tracie Davis throws ‘community baby shower’

State Rep. Tracie Davis, a Jacksonville Democrat, will co-host a “Community Baby Shower” for expectant or new mothers in Duval County, Saturday, Oct. 7, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., with The Magnolia Project, at 5300 N. Pearl St. in Jacksonville.

The Project is a part of Northeast Florida Healthy Start Coalition.

Tracie Davis helps new mothers by hosting a ‘community baby shower.’

“The event will provide mothers with the tools necessary to raise a happy and healthy baby,” a news release said. “Classes on breast-feeding, safe sleep, nutrition, and yoga will be offered throughout the event. There will also be raffles and smoothies available.”

“Teaching new mothers these important skills is absolutely critical in building strong communities,” Davis said in a statement. The event is aimed at raising awareness for high infant mortality rates in Duval.

“I’m proud to help host our first community baby shower. I hope these events are a beneficial experience for the women in Duval County and help our families to raise happy and healthy children.”

Rising lobbyist has praise for mentors

On his way out the door from FCCI Insurance Group, James Kotas had kind words for legislative affairs director Bob Hawken and chief legal officer Tom Koval.

“It was the hardest decision to go and sit in front of Hawk and Tom and tell them that I had this opportunity in front of me,” Kotas said. “They could not have been more supportive. They said, ‘You need to do this. These kinds of jobs  come around not that often, and this could be even more of a launching pad for your career and your life.’”

Rising lobbyist James Kotas.

Kotas is off to become a manager for state and local government relations for 23 eastern states for Darden Concepts Inc., a national restaurant chain with brands including The Capital Grille, LongHorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden.

Hawken and Koval were keen mentors, Kotas said.

“What I learned from them was, look down the road. What’s the best thing for everybody,” he said. “It was very hard to leave.”

DACS nabs $135K back from schemers in September

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services said it recovered nearly $135,000 last month for Sunshine State customers who were scammed or defrauded by Florida businesses.

DACS said it helped 18,740 consumers through its phone hotlines last month, including taking down 2,403 complaints and adding nearly 17,000 phone numbers to the to Florida’s Do Not Call List.

The department said those phone leads sparked 177 new investigations into unscrupulous businesses. The month also saw DACS arrest 10 people accused of ripping off customers.

All in all, the department helped those consumers recoup $134,640 from shady movers, mechanics, pawnbrokers, travel sales schemers and telemarketers. Consumers who believe fraud has taken place can contact the department’s hotline at 1-800-HELP-FLA, or 1-800-FL-AYUDA for Spanish speakers.

FHP names new deputy director

Gene Spaulding, director of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), this week announced that Troy Thompson became deputy director of the Florida Highway Patrol.

Thompson is a 24-year law enforcement veteran who most recently served as Chief of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement with the FHP.

“Thompson is a forward-thinking leader who is dedicated to accomplishing the mission of the Patrol,” Spaulding said in a statement. He “will help secure the agency’s vision of ‘A Safer Florida and carry on its proud traditions.”

Policy Pub talks medical pot over pints

A professor at FSU’s College of Social Sciences and Public Policy will go over Florida medical marijuana and same-sex marriage laws during happy hour Tuesday evening.

The event is the next in the “Policy Pub” series put on by the college and hosted in the bar area of Backwoods Bistro on the corner of Gadsden and Tennessee streets.

Dr. Tim Chapin speaks at an FSU Policy Pub event in January (Photo: Codi Cain/FSView)

Each edition features a faculty member giving a plain-language talk on a public policy topic before opening up the floor for discussion and questions. Professor Frances Berry will lead off the event, which runs Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Berry’s presentation, “Medical Marijuana and Same-Sex Marriage: Understanding State Choices,” will cover how states determine laws that are sometimes at odds with federal regulations and policy, including an overview of how state laws differ and the roles the courts played in both policy areas.

The event is free and open to the public, though attendees are encouraged to get there early to snag a parking spot and a seat at the bar.

Bring out your hazardous waste

Leon County holds its next Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Collection today (Saturday), 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Public Works Operations Center, 2280 Miccosukee Road.

You can bring up to 50 pounds of hazardous waste, in addition to electronics. Only one large-screen television per vehicle will be accepted.

Propane tanks must weigh less than 40 pounds, and there is a limit of one tire per participant. There is also a limit of 25 fluorescent tubes per vehicle at the collection event.

Medical sharps, medicines and radioactive waste cannot be accepted. Also, bulky items such as appliances (refrigerators, stoves/ovens, washing machines, dryers, etc.), as well as furniture, yard waste, construction and demolition debris, household garbage and Styrofoam won’t be taken.

Again, these collections are for residents; businesses and others should call (850) 606-1816 to make an appointment, Monday through Friday, to drop off their items at the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center, 7550 Apalachee Parkway. Fees will apply.

For more information, call the Leon County Hazardous Waste Center at (850) 606-1803 or visit LeonCountyFL.gov/HHW/collection/ for the complete collection schedule and safe packing guide.

Leon County goes pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

During October, Leon County Government will recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a news release said. To show support, Leon County will host activities and educational opportunities as part of “Paint the Town Pink” initiative.

Leon County goes pink for Breast Cancer Awareness.

The county will ‘Paint the Town Pink’ in several ways:

— The LeRoy Collins Leon County Public Library System, including the County Main Library and its branch libraries, will feature select books related to breast cancer awareness.

— Leon County Parks and Recreation will use pink chalk to chalk boundaries on county athletic fields.

— Leon County EMS paramedics will wear pink medical gloves for all service calls during October.

— The Leon County website will feature a unique pink County seal.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a partnership of national public service organizations, professional medical associations and government agencies working together to promote breast cancer awareness and share information on the disease.

To view photos of Leon County’s Pink Initiative during October, visit www.LeonPhotos.org.

Leon County hosts ‘Fire Truck Roundup’

Leon County will host the 20th Annual Fire Truck Roundup this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Growing Room Child Development Center, 1271 Metropolitan Blvd. in Tallahassee.

The event is in honor of Leon County’s volunteer firefighters. Children will be able to explore fire truck equipment and enjoy family-friendly music. Volunteers will offer free food and drinks, face painting, a ‘bounce house’ and other giveaways.

Information on how to become a volunteer firefighter will be available, along with the opportunity to speak one-on-one with a volunteer firefighter. For more information, call or email Jeri Bush, Director of Volunteer Services, at (850) 606-1970 or BushJ@LeonCountyFL.gov.

Tallahassee Alzheimer’s group aims for $97K in annual walk

The Tallahassee edition of the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual “Walk to End Alzheimer’s” is seeking to raise $97,000 to fight the debilitating disease during the Oct. 14 event.

More than 522,000 — or about 1 in 40 — Floridians have the neurodegenerative disease known for causing memory loss and dementia, giving the Sunshine State the second highest incidence rate in the country. Around 6,000 of those individuals live in the Tallahassee/Big Bend region.

WCTV anchor Ben Kaplan serves as emcee of the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual ‘Walk to End Alzheimer’s.’

Money raised through the Tallahassee walk will go toward community programs and research efforts in the region as well as care for area patients to help lift some of the burden brought on by the insidious disease for them and their caregivers.

WCTV anchor Ben Kaplan will emcee the event, which is expected to draw in 600 walkers. Registration opens at 8 a.m. at 1001 South Gadsden St., followed by a 9 a.m. ceremony before the three-mile walk kicks off at 9:30 a.m. in Cascades Park.

Those who can’t make the hike can celebrate without walking in the on-site pavilion area, and walkers can also bring along their furry friends, strollers and wheelchairs. While there is no fee to participate all are encouraged to pitch in with a personal donation.

To sign up ahead of time, or to start a team, head to the event’s website.

Stone crabs up for grabs next weekend

Stone crab claw season opens Oct. 15 in state and federal waters, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has a couple tips and a rules refresher for those looking to take part.

First and foremost, go set your traps. Recreational crab catchers can set up to five baited traps 10 days before the season starts, but leave traps with round entrances (also called “throats” or “funnels”) at home if they’re going off the coast of Collier, Monroe or Miami-Dade.

Bring a measuring tape when you check your haul, too and no cheating —  claws have to be at least 2.75 inches measured from the elbow to the tip of the lower, fixed place part of the claw. It’s illegal to use anything that could puncture, crush or injure your catch. Though it’s not a rule, FWC said taking both claws leaves the crab defenseless and is unsustainable.

You’ll also have to familiarize yourself with, ahem, the female crab anatomy since egg-bearing crabs are off limits. Don’t worry, it’s strictly PG: just flip the crab over and if there’s an orange or brown egg mass, also known as a “sponge,” leave the claws and let her go.

If you grab a legal crab, FWC put out a video showing would-be fishermen how to properly harvest the claws. Fair warning to crustacean lovers, there’s a loud crack when the claws are removed even though the crab doesn’t seem to mind.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

 

Some material in this week’s “Takeaways from Tallahassee” was also provided by The News Service of Florida and The Associated Press, republished with permission.

 

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Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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