Takeaways from Tallahassee – Not-so-open government

in Peter by

Florida’s tradition of open government keeps taking a licking.

First, the Governor’s Office, in a remodeling of its reception room, shrunk the size of its public area by about 75 percent.

Sure, the re-do was prompted by security concerns, but it also means we’ll never again see scenes of protesters and news media jamming the office, shouting and chanting and taking pictures of each other.

Now they’ll have to cause a ruckus in the hallway, which the Governor shares with Attorney General Pam Bondi. (We won’t conspiracy-theorize on this one…)

The remodeling also put the Office of Open Government behind a locked door accessible by employees only, though – in a spot of good news – the office will move to the Capitol’s 16th floor, where it will again be open to the public.

Then the Tallahassee Democrat reported that local residents weren’t told about a 1.6 million gallon sewage spill near their homes. It was caused when wastewater “lift stations” lost power during Hurricane Hermine.

“That’s because the city isn’t required to tell residents when it accidentally releases potentially harmful wastewater,” the paper reported. ” ‘There is no process for notifying the public,’ (said) John Buss, the city’s manager of water resources.”

Because there’s no law requiring the government to tell you when your ground water may have been just a tiny bit tainted by, you know, fecal matter? Apparently.

Meantime, worker’s compensation insurers are asking state regulators to be allowed to jack up premiums by about 20 percent, but “no one really knows exactly how they arrived at that number.”

That’s from an op-ed penned this week by Barbara Petersen, longtime head of the First Amendment Foundation, the Tallahassee-based open government watchdog.

The state’s public records and open government laws apply to meetings “of a recognized rating organization with responsibility for workers’ compensation and employer’s liability insurance rates in this state” when proposed rate hikes are being discussed, she wrote

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) – a private, state-sanctioned organization that acts for the insurers – has “denied at least one public record request,” showing “a complete lack of understanding of … Florida’s Sunshine Law” and adding “NCCI’s actions may constitute a violation of law.”

The foundation is asking the Office of Insurance Regulation to deny the increase and make NCCI start over “in full compliance with Florida’s open government laws.”

Given our past experience, don’t hold your breath.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Michael Moline, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.

But first, an update: Last week, we incorrectly stated the roles of Dr. Theresa Klebacha and Allen Brown in state Sen. Joe Negron‘s incoming administration as Senate President. They will be senior policy advisors in the areas of education and health care, respectively. We regret the error.

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

Ballots in the mail — Elections officials must send the first round of ballots to overseas and military voters this weekend. The Sept. 24 send deadline means Florida voters will begin casting ballots more than a month before Election Day. According to the Division of Elections, more than 2 million ballots had been requested as of Friday afternoon. Records show more than 880,000 Republicans have already requested a ballot, while more than 759,000 Democrats have requested ballots. Elections officials can begin mailing ballots to domestic voters on Oct. 4.

No more Best and Brightest — The Florida Board of Education backed a spending plan this week that would put an end to the state’s controversial Best and Brightest bonus program. The program rewarded teachers based on job evaluations and SAT or ACT scores. The program was supported by House leadership, and House Speaker Designate has expressed interest in ways to grow the program. The deadline to apply for the bonus is Nov. 1, and teachers continue to apply for the program.

Time for retirement — Liz Dudek, the head of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration, announced this week she’s retiring at the beginning of October. Justin Senior, now the deputy secretary of the division of Medicaid, will serve as interim secretary beginning Oct. 3. “She helped champion quality health services for children in our state and worked hard on our Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding where she fought to protect patients from being price gouged at hospitals,” said Gov. Scott in a statement. “She has done an outstanding job making sure all Floridians have the opportunity to lead a healthy and safe life and I wish her the best in her retirement.” Dudek departs in the wake of the discovery of the agency’s years-long $377 million billing error, in which it systematically – and apparently unknowingly – underpaid the state’s Medicaid health maintenance organizations.

Dirty water — State and federal lawmakers this week called for an investigation into a sewage spill in St. Petersburg. Gov. Scott ordered the Florida DEP to investigate the spill, which dumped millions of gallons of partially treated sewage and wastewater into Boca Ceiga Bay and Tampa Bay; while Sen. Marco Rubio, and Reps. David Jolly and Kathy Castor asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the crisis. The spill has become a political nightmare for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, who has faced criticism over the issue. “It is troubling that the City itself cannot agree on what was contained in the sewage released, and this begs the question of whether this was a factor in City officials’ decision not to tell the public about the release until five days after it occurred,” Rubio said in a letter to the EPA.

Water challenges — The business community, as well as state and local leaders, took a stab at addressing the state’s water woes during the 2016 Associated Industries of Florida Water Forum this week. Attendees got a chance to get a peek into the the 2017-18 budget process. Sen. Jack Latvala said he expects water projects will continue to be a top priority for state lawmakers in the coming year, but budget challenges could make funding projects tricky. One project that may be included during any discussions are efforts to move people off of septic systems, which experts said are a contributing factor in water quality concerns.

Add time travel to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s list of talents.

Putnam participate in the Florida National Guard’s 451st anniversary of the first muster of citizen-soldiers in the continental United States. The anniversary is often recognized as the birth of the Florida National Guard.

putnammuster

“After more than 450 years, the citizen-soldiers of the Florida National Guard continue to protect our freedoms at home and abroad, and they stand ready to assist our state and residents in times of need,” said Putnam.

Admiral Don Bartolomé Menéndez de Avilés, San Agustín’s first mayor, mustered the fist militia troops in the continental U.S. to defend present-day St. Augustine from a pending attack on Sept. 16, 1565.

Putnam was also presented with the Florida National Guard’s Florida Distinguished Service Medal.

Kudos, Sen. Jack Latvala!

The Clearwater Republican was given the 2016 Florida Sheriffs Association Legislative Champion Award from Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. He was honored during the Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranch Breakfast in Clearwater.

“I am humbled to receive the Legislative Champion Award from the Florida Sheriffs Association,” said Latvala. “As members of the Florida Legislature, it is essential we enact policies which support our law enforcement officials so they have the necessary procedures to keep Floridians and visitors safe.”

Latvala was recognized for his support of the Florida Sheriffs Association’s priorities, including reforming death benefits for officers killed in the line of duty.

Courtney Heidelberg is now the public relations and communications manager for Brightway Insurance.

Heidelberg, a veteran, joins Brightway after nearly three years at On 3 Public Relations in Tallahassee. She previously spent nine years working for the state, including a stint as the communications director for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“As we plan our growth and expansion into new states, making consumers and potential franchisees aware of our brand and the benefits we offer in expert counsel and more choice is key to our success,” said Talman Howard, president of Brightway. “Courtney brings valuable experience to Brightway, and Communications plays an important role as we work toward our vision of having 600,000 policies in force by 2020.”

Heidelberg is a member of the Florida Public Relations Association and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. She served on the Veterans Florida Board of Directors from 2014 until 2016.

“I am grateful for the opportunity and ecstatic to be a part of a company whose mantra is to provide a win-win-win for Agency Owners, customers and employees,” said Heidelberg. “Everyone here has a can-do attitude, and the leadership provides employees and teams with the support necessary to achieve our goals.”

Heading to the Florida Chamber’s annual Future of Florida forum? Don’t forget to #BringABook.

Volunteer Florida and the Florida Chamber Foundation are teaming up to once again host the #BringABook service initiative during the annual forum. The two organizations are asking business and elected leaders to bring a new or gently-used elementary school books to the forum.

The organizations will collect books near the registration area at the Future of Florida forum on Wednesday and Thursday. The groups have chosen City Year Orlando, which deploys more than 60 AmeriCorps members to mentor and tutor students at seven Orlando schools, as the recipient.

“Volunteer Florida is proud to partner with the Florida Chamber Foundation on #BringABook at the Future of Florida Forum and build on the success of last year’s event,” said Chester Spellman, Volunteer Florida CEO, in a statement. “The #BringABook partnership is another example of the private sector and public sector working together to invest in the future of Florida’s children, and Volunteer Florida is proud to lead this effort.”

The Future of Florida Forum is scheduled for Sept. 28 and Sept. 30 at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando.

Here’s some good news for Gov. Scott: He’s not among the Top 10 least popular governors.

The bad news? He’s still not the most popular governor at the ball.

Scott has an approval rating of 49 percent, according to a recent Morning Consult report. The survey found 42 percent of respondents said disapproved of the Naples Republican.

According to Morning Consult, more than 71,900 registered voters across the country have evaluated the job performance of key lawmakers on its weekly online national polling from early May to early September. Those results were then used to determine the most recent governor approval rankings.

So who is the least popular governor in the United States? According to Morning Consult, Gov. Sam Brownback gets that distinction. The Kansas Republican had a disapproval rating of 71 percent.

The most popular governor, in case you were wondering, was Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The South Dakota Republican has a 74 percent approval rating.

smithforestryHurrah! David Smith is the Resource Manager of the Year.

Agriculture Commissioner Putnam presented Smith, who as part of the Florida Forest Service helps manage Blackwater River State Forest, with the Resource Manager of the Year award during the Florida Cabinet meeting this week.

“David Smith brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Florida Forest Service, and his passion for Florida’s natural spaces is a great benefit to our state,” said Putnam in a statement.

Smith joined the Florida Forest Service in 2006, and in 2007 he became the forestry resource administrator at the Blackwater Forestry Center. In 2009, he was named the forestry operations administrator, overseeing fire management and operations throughout the forestry center.

Floridians who helped out in the days after Hurricane Hermine got a high five from the Florida Cabinet this week.

Gov. Scott awarded two people with the Volunteer Florida Champion of Service Award during the Florida Cabinet meeting. Margo Armistead and Jamie Cunningham were recognized for their work following the Category 1 hurricane earlier this month.

“Margo and Jamie are two examples of the many great individuals who helped provide and coordinate important resources and assistance after the storm,” said Scott in a statement. “Volunteers were at the heart of our response efforts, and we are grateful for the many hours they served to help our communities recover and get back to work and school quickly.”

Armistead was deployed to the Leon County Emergency Operations Center through the Salvation Army. She helped coordinate volunteers in the field, and made sure volunteers were working at water distribution centers, food banks and comfort stations.

Cunningham, the chief of the North Collier Fire and Rescue District in Collier County, coordinated the deployment of more than 50 Community Emergency Response Team members from six counties. Those teams helped residents with damage assessment, helped with food and water distribution, and delivered flood buckets.

The Florida Cabinet took a moment to honor Gold Star families this week.

Gov. Scott and the Cabinet issued a resolution recognizing the families and the sacrificies their children made for the country. Four families were honored.

“We can never fully express our gratitude for the selfless actions of our American heroes but we will continue to honor their service and bravery,” said Scott in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those fallen in service.”

The governor and Cabinet recognized Craig and Toni Gross, whose son Army Corporal Frank R. Gross was killed in Afghanistan on July 16, 2011; Gary King and Porsche Knight, the father and sister of Army Private First Class Brandon King, who was killed in Afghanistan on July 14, 2010; Meredith McMackin, whose son Marine Corps Corporal Julian McMackin Woodall was killed in Iraq on May 22, 2007; and Alberta Simmons, mother of Army Master Sergeant Shawn E. Simmons, who was killed in Afghanistan on June 29, 2008.

Gov. Scott also honored veterans this week, awarding more than 30 veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award during the Cabinet meeting.

“We are incredibly grateful for their courage and sacrifice in defense of our country’s freedom,” he said in a statement. “We must take every opportunity possible to thank our heroes and honor them for their service and I was proud to present these Florida veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award today.”

The award is meant to honor Floridians who have served in the U.S. military.

Cabinet meetings aren’t just for conducting business, they’re also a chance to hand out awards.

The Governor presented AMWAT Moving Warehousing and Storage with the Governor’s Business Award. Headquartered in Tallahassee, the company specializes in residential, commercial, storage and warehousing moves. The company currently employs 30 people.

Emily Morehouse, the chief technology officer and co-founder of Cuttlesoft, was also recognized during the meeting. She was given the Young Entrepreneur Award, and was recognized for her “hard work and leadership.” Cuttlesoft is a Tallahassee-based software company that builds apps for web and mobile devices.

Gov. Scott also recognized seven educators during the meeting. He presented them with the Governor’s Shine Award, with recognizes teachers and administrators who make a significant contribution to the field of education.

And finally, Scott recognized 26 Florida first responders, presenting them with the Medal of Heroism. The first responders were recognized for their bravery and quick action following an accident involving a bus and semi-truck in Wakulla County in July.

“These individuals answered the call for help and did not hesitate to put their own lives at risk in order to help those in need,” said Scott in a statement. “While we are saddened by the loss of life caused by this tragic crash, these first responders undoubtedly saved many individuals.”

Rep. Larry Lee is calling for calm and deliberate action after a St. Lucie County grand jury decision of no indictment in the shooting death of Demarcus Semer.

Lee said his greatest concern about the April shooting was the lack of information available to the public. The secret grand jury proceedings, he said, raised legitimate questions about the shooting, the investigation that followed and the evidence presented to grand jurors.

While Lee said he wasn’t “passing judgment on anyone,” he said secret proceedings could make this worse.

“What we need is a solution to the lack of transparency. For now, I hope calm will prevail. I’m committed to working with law enforcement and community members to make sure we’ve got the best process possible to respond to these kinds of cases in the future,” he said in a statement. “We’ve got to replace the system we’ve got with one that’s more transparent.”

There’s a few more Florida spots on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced this week that six more Florida properties have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The newest additions include the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park in St. Augustine, which was developed by Walter B. Fraser in the 1930s. The park was founded on the history of 1513 landing of Don Juan Ponce de Leon and his search for the fountain of youth.

Other additions include the Marzoni House in Pensacola, an example of Queen Anne style architecture; the Sydonie Mansion in Zellwood, an example of Mediterranean Revival style, and the Ace Theatre in Miami, which was built in 1930 and is significant for the association with the social, cultural and economic development of the African-American section of Coconut Grove and Miami

“These newly listed sites stretch from Pensacola to Miami, and represent homes, entertainment venues, and commerce and tourist sites that reflect the geographic and cultural diversity of our state,” said Detzner in a statement.

Floridians have filed nearly 15,000 insurance claims since Hurricane Hermine hit the Sunshine State.

According to the Office of Insurance Regulation, 14,890 claims were filed as of Sept.16. About 36 percent of those cases have already been closed.

Hermine damage Cedar Key

Leon County reported the highest number of claims, clocking in at 2,714. The Tampa Bay area also reported a significant number of claims. There were 1,490 claims in Pinellas County, 1,156 in Pasco and 1,105 in Hillsborough. Citrus County saw 1,232 claims.

There were 11,567 residential property claims and 368 business claims.

There’s a new director in town.

The Florida Economic Development Council announced this week Beth Kirkland, the organization’s former interim executive director, has taken on the role in a permanent capacity.

Kirkland has run the day-to-day operations at the Florida Economic Development County since last year. She said she was excited to take on a permanent leadership role.

“The FEDC board and member support has been tremendous during my year as Interim Executive Director,” she said. “Florida economic, workforce, and community development professionals are truly exemplary in the work they do to prepare and promote strong business climates in their local communities. It is a privilege to formally serve the board and our membership as Executive Director.”

The organization also announced Cathy Chambers, senior vice president of strategy & business development at JAXUSA, would serve as the chairwoman of the 2016-17 FEDC Board of Directors.

“I am honored to have been selected to chair the Florida Economic Development Council and represent the dedicated group of professionals that work tirelessly to improve the economies in their cities, counties and regions throughout Florida,” she said in a statement. “The opportunity to lead FEDC comes at a critical time as we advocate on behalf of the industry to build support for economic development, increase Florida’s competitiveness and ensure that our professionals have the necessary tools and resources to attract jobs and capital investment to the state.”

Sen. Darren Soto thinks it’s time for action.

Soto called on the Department of Environmental Protection to outline steps it needs to take to stop the New Wales toxic spill. The request comes after reports that 200 million gallons of contaminated wastewater leaked into the aquifer.

“This is not the first sinkhole spill involving this company, and with its current expansion plans, it likely will not be its last,” said Soto in a statement. “We have an immediate threat to the health of our people and our environment, and plans should have been developed long ago to quickly contain it.”

Soto wants DEP Secretary Jon Steverson to provide him with current clean up action plans, including ones that would seal the leak and prevent further contamination.

State workers may have a friend in Sen. Jack Latvala.

The Clearwater Republican said his No. 1 priority as Senate appropriations chairman will be to get “some sort of pay raise for state employees.”

State workers last received a 3-percent increase in 2006, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. A few years later, in 2011, they were required to start paying 3-percent of their wages toward their pension. Employees received a small boost in 2014 to help cover those costs.

“Some of our members think state employees are worthless baggage,” said Latvala during the 2016 Florida Water Forum hosted by Associated Industries of Florida. “But I don’t know how we run it without them.”

Airshows are big business for Florida.

Gov. Scott announced this week his trip to the Farnborough International Airshow resulted in $10.5 in actual sales and $73.2 million in projected export sales. The sales are the second-highest reported since Enterprise Florida began attended the air show 20 years ago.

“It is exciting that so many Florida companies had great success at the Air Show. Florida is known as a leader in the aerospace and aviation industries and we will keep working to attract more companies to our state,” said Scott in a statement.

The air show is one of the largest aviation exhibitions in the world, and the Florida Pavilion was the the largest of the U.S. states in attendance.

In the aftermath of yet more police shootings of unarmed black men, Sen. Dwight Bullard is taking pre-emptive moves to ensure that the residents in his area are safe.

His plan will allow reluctant residents to “rotate” information intended to go to law enforcement through his office. Bullard’s office will then act as a “clearinghouse” of sorts, for use by people who are afraid that they’ll somehow be viewed as suspects when tipping off law enforcement to violence.

This also comes after incidents of violence in the Miami area, such as one case last weekend where a trio of suspects opened fire on a pool party in a drive-by shooting.

Bullard says there have been “too many high-profile shootings of unarmed people of color, and residents in my district are often understandably afraid of direct contact with law enforcement.” He’s hoping his new plan will help with that.

Three Floridians get to keep their seats on the Council for the Blind.

Gov. Scott announced this week he reappointed Howard Bell, Jesus Garcia, and Robert Kelly to the board.

Bell, a 62-year-old St. Petersburgh resident, is a senior advocate investigator with Disability Rights Florida. Garcia, 53 of Hialeah, is the manager at Logisticare LLC, which manages non-emergency transportation for state agencies, managed-care organizations and hospitals. Kelly, a 63-year-old Daytona resident, is the executive director for the Florida Lions Conklin Centers for the Blind.

All three were appointed to terms ending in 2019.

Relief could be coming.

The U.S. House passed a measure this week that is intended to give tax breaks to citrus growers who need to replaced diseased trees. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Vern Buchanan, allow citrus growers to take a full federal tax deduction, in the current tax year, to cover the cost of replanting lost or damaged citrus trees.

“Help for Florida orange farmers is a major step closer to arriving,” Buchanan, a Republican from Bradenton, said in a statement. “This bill will go a long way toward protecting the livelihoods of the 62,000 hardworking Floridians in our signature citrus industry. The story of American agriculture is one of resilience and hard work against tremendous odds. Citrus farmers are being hit hard and Congress needs to help them recover.”

The bill still needs approval from the U.S. Senate.

Florida’s highways are getting worse.

A new report by the Reason Foundation ranked Florida 32nd in the nation for overall highway performance and cost-effectiveness. The state fell two spots in the annual rankings. It was ranked 31st in the nation in the previous report.

When it comes to fatalities, Florida ranks 35th in the nation. It was 7th in the rankings of rural interstate pavement conditions, and 12th on the list of urban interstate pavement conditions.

The report found the Sunshine State was 49th in total disbursements per mile and 40th in administrative disbursements per mile.

The nation’s top-performing, most cost-effective highways are in South Carolina, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and Maine. The worst performing, least cost-effective highways are in Alaska, New Jersey, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

His time as Speaker may be coming to an end, but Steve Crisafulli is still being honored for his work in the Florida Legislature.

Crisafulli, a Merritt Island Republican, was honored by Associated Industries of Florida this week for his dedication to water issues over the past few years. Crisafulli made water quality a top issue during his time as Speaker, and under his leadership the state passed a comprehensive water bill in 2016.

crisafulliaif

The award was presented to Crisafulli during the annual Associated Industries of Florida Water Forum this week. Crisafulli said he was honored to be recognized, and encouraged lawmakers to continue to work on the issue.

“I think we need to be thoughtful in our approach going forward,” he said.

The Moffitt Cancer Center is now a Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The cancer announced this week it had received the designation from the National Cancer Institute. The announcement makes Moffitt the only National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Care Center based in Florida.

Among other things, the status recognizes robust clinical, basic and population science research; educational programs, and research focused on benefiting the community. The hospital makes a significant impact on Florida’s economy, with an economic output of nearly 2.1 billion. And with more than 5,200 employees, it’s also one of Tampa’s largest employers.

“Our single focus is to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer,” said Dr. Alan List, the CEO of Moffitt, in a statement. “This year, we celebrate 30 years and in that time have grown to become the No. 6 cancer hospital in the nation and top-ranked cancer hospital in the Southeast based on U.S. News & World Report ‘Best Hospitals’ rankings. And we have made a lasting impact on cancer care through research breakthroughs in myelodyspastic syndromes, melanoma, lung and several other cancers.”

Congratulations, Sen. Geraldine Thompson!

The Orlando Democrat was given the Democratic Women’s Club of Florida 2016 Legislative Advocacy Award for her work in the Legislature. The DWCF honors members each year who actively champion its platform.

In a statement, Thompson said she was honored to receive the award, and highlighted the progress women have made over the years. However, she said in order to become a more inclusive country, “we must remain engaged and make our voices heard.”

Fay Servicing is coming to Hillsborough County.

The company announced this week it had chosen to locate its southeast regional headquarters in Florida. The Chicago-based company is a diversified mortgage service firm that employs more than 500 people across the country, including 20 in Florida.

The expansion will create 100 new jobs and invest more than $1 million in the local community.

“Florida is the perfect location for our company as it prepares for another significant expansion. The workforce here in Tampa is exceptional in terms of the skills we require, and the area provides many advantages when it comes to recruiting talented individuals,” said Ed Fay, the company’s CEO. “We are excited about expanding in Tampa and thank the state and local government for the support and warm welcome they have given us.”

Four Florida lawmakers have been honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

MADD honored Sen. David Simmons, and Reps. Scott Plakon, Robert Cortes and Katie Edwards with its 2016 Legislators of the Year award. The award is given to legislators who share MADD’s mission to eliminating drunk driving.

“MADD is proud to work with these leaders in the battle against the leading killer on our nation’s roadways,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church in a statement. “With more than 10,000 drunk driving deaths every year in America, we must continue to push for smart laws that will help us create a nation of No More Victims.”

There’s a few more Hall of Famers in Florida.

The Florida Sports Hall of Fame announced its 2016 inductees this week. The class will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the enshrinement dinner on Nov. 15 at the TPepins Hospitality Center in Tampa.

This year’s honorees include Jon Gruden, who brought a Super Bowl Championship to Tampa Bay, and Phil Esposito, who helped lure the National Hockey League to Florida.

They’ll be joined by Johnny Damon, a two-time World Series champion; Jeremy Foley, University of Florida’s retiring athletic director, and Allison Jolly, an Olympic sailing gold medalist.

“This has to be the dream class for the Tampa Bay area and for the state of Florida,” said Florida Sports Hall of Fame President Barry Smith. “Has there ever been a group that has accomplished so much in their athletic endeavors and yet succeeded in so many ways outside of that? It would be hard to imagine.”

Charitable organizations got a boost thanks to Sen. Wilton Simpson this week.

Simpson donated more than $85,000 in unspent campaign funds to dozens of groups with programs that range from educational support for children, restoring the environment, combating disease, and housing solutions for families and veterans.

simpson

“The community I’ve called home has given my family and me countless blessings,” said Simpson. “To be able to serve in elected office, and put these financial resources to work for so many great causes is an honor.”

Simpson was re-elected without opposition in Senate District 10.

Leo Montgomery is the newest member of Florida Gulf Coast University’s Board of Trustees.

The Florida State University System Board of Governors appointed Montgomery, a Naples resident, to the FGCU Board of Trustees on Thursday.

Montgomery spent 39 years with Ernst & Young, retiring in 2003. He previously served as a board member and chair of EAU Technologies, and is currently the CEO of JL Montgomery Consulting. Montgomery received his bachelor’s degree from Harding University. He was appointed to a term ending Jan. 6, 2021.

His appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Interested in being part of the Constitutional Revision Commission?

The Senate President will appoint nine people to the board, and Senate President Andy Gardiner wants to make senators know where to find information about how to apply for the position.

“Since the last Constitution Revision Commission met, Florida has become the third most populous state in our nation.  The individuals who serve on the new commission will be faced with understanding and balancing the complex issues facing our state. Serving on the Constitution Revision Commission requires careful, thoughtful deliberation and an extensive time commitment,” said Gardiner in a memo to members. “We hope you will share this important information with your constituents and look forward to a diverse group of appointees who respect the role and dignity of this important process.”

Information about applying can be found on the Florida Senate’s website.

It was the last call for bay scallops.

The last day to harvest bay scallops from the western end of St. Vincent Island in Franklin County to the Pasco-Hernando county line was Saturday. The area west of St. Vincent Island through Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County closed Sept. 5.

Restoration efforts are underway in St. Joseph Bay after negative impacts to the scallop population in that area during a 2015 red tide event.

Here’s this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

capitol-directions-9-24-16

Comments

comments

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.