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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Passing the (coffee) bar

Passing the (coffee) bar

If Florida State’s law school ends up doing well in the pass rate for this month’s Bar Exam, it may be because of the pre-exam caffeine.

For the second year in a row, the Tallahassee-based College of Law set up at the Tampa Convention Center — where the state holds its bar exams — and offered coffee, tea, and water to its students both mornings before the start of the two-day exam.

Dean of Students Nancy Benavides tweeted her presence Tuesday morning: “At the #FSULaw Coffee & Tea Bar (Before the Bar Exam) this AM! #SpearTheBar”

The coffee bar is a relatively new addition. FSU Law has been providing lunch for its exam-takers for the last 17 years, the school said in a statement. The Florida Board of Bar Examiners “allocates space for law schools to provide food and beverage services for their alumni taking the exam.”

For those who like an added kick, there were “flavored syrups, nondairy creamers and alternative sweeteners provided,” along with “a selection of breakfast bars.”

“College of Law alumni always express great appreciation for the law school’s provision of morning coffee/tea and lunch at the Bar Exam,” the school’s statement said.

And in case you were wondering: FSU Law’s pass rate was nearly 85 percent for the July 2018 exam, coming in second to Florida International University College of Law, at 88 percent.

That caffeine may have done the trick.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson and the staff of Florida Politics.

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

Take 5

State defends gun control preemption — Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a notice of appeal after a judge struck down punitive measures against local officials violating state preemption on gun control laws. A 1987 law preempts governments from passing stricter measures than approved at the state level. That law remains in effect. But in 2011, legislators added penalties — including fines and removal from office — for officials who violate the preemption measure. Leon County-based Circuit Judge Charles Dodson struck down the penalties.

Immigration ‘listening tour’ announced — Sen. Joe Gruters and Rep. Cord Byrd announced dates and locations for a seven-city listening tour. Stops include Homestead, where a controversial migrant detention facility houses children. “With another legislative session on the horizon, we believe it’s important to go straight to Floridians and hear their ideas on how we can further improve our immigration system,” reads a statement from Gruters and Byrd. The two Republicans sponsored a so-called sanctuary cities ban signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in June.

Julia Nesheiwat named first Chief Resilience Officer — DeSantis appointed the state’s first “Chief Resilience Officer.” Julia Nesheiwat is a U.S. Army veteran and Lake County native with 20 years of environment, energy and national security experience. As CRO she will coordinate the efforts of several state agencies, including the Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Transportation, Division of Emergency Management, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Department of Economic Opportunity, to prep the state for the environmental, physical and economic impacts of sea-level rise.

Jordan’s Law effort amps up — Rep. Chris Latvala says he’ll once again file “Jordan’s Law,” which creates new guidelines and protections for children who are victims of abuse and neglect in the child welfare system. The Pinellas County Republican named his bill after a toddler whose mother murdered him after warning signs the boy was at risk. Latvala also launched a website with information about the law, resources on traumatic brain injury, and other stories of children who died as a result of abuse or neglect.

Tasha Carter tapped as consumer advocate — Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis announced Tasha Carter as the state’s next Insurance Consumer Advocate, effective immediately. She has been the Director of the Department of Financial Services’ Division of Consumer Services. The Insurance Consumer Advocate works independently from DFS and serves Floridians by actively engaging with consumers and working with stakeholders to find consumer-focused solutions on insurance matters.

Moody pushes ‘Bigs in Blue’

Attorney General Moody wants cops to mentor kids.

To jump-start the initiative, she has partnered with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and Big Brothers Big Sisters to encourage participation in the “Bigs in Blue” program.

The Bigs in Blue program is doing an incredible job building bonds between law enforcement and youth by showing children that an officer’s job is to protect them and their families. I saw firsthand the impact that this program has on the communities it serves when I presented a Back the Blue Award to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Tampa Bay,” Moody said.

“Since then, I’ve been inspired to find a way to encourage more participation in this great program. I can’t wait to see the impact this program will have once we have even more law enforcement officers across the state participating. It is vital to our state that we do everything in our power to build trust and respect between law enforcement and the communities they serve.”

FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen and FLHSMV Executive Director Terry Rhodes each penned a memo calling for staff to join up.

CFO promotes tax holiday

Patronis has some financial advice: take advantage of the Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday.

The annual event started Friday and runs through Tuesday. It allows consumers to save a little cash at the register on certain items — including computers and tablets, which have been missing from the list in recent years.

“Nationally, the average family shopping for K-12 students is expected to reach nearly $700. As we near the start of a new school year in the Sunshine State, I encourage Floridians to take full advantage of the 2019 Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday this weekend to stock up on new school clothes, certain supplies, and technology items up to $1,000. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity for back to school savings,” Patronis said.

Other things getting the temporary tax-exempt treatment include certain school supplies costing up to $15, clothes and shoes up to $60, books, as well as repairs or alterations to any of the items on the list.

Instagram of the week


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To all of our alumni taking bar exams next week: your #FSULawFamily is behind you 100%! #SpeartheBar #FSULawGoldenGrads

A post shared by FSU College of Law (@fsucollegeoflaw) on

The week in appointments

Holmes County Supervisor of Elections — DeSantis appointed Therisa Meadows as Holmes County Supervisor of Elections Wednesday. Meadows, of Bonifay, has been the Assistant Holmes County Supervisor of Elections since 2007. Previously, she served as the Deputy Holmes County Supervisor of Elections from 2000-07 and as a deputy clerk at the Holmes County Clerk of Circuit Court from 1996-99. She earned her associate degree from Chipola College. She is filling a vacancy created by the resignation of Debbie Wilcox Morris.

Florida Defense Support Task Force — DeSantis appointed Major Gen. James O. Eifert, Capt. Keith Hoskins and Rear Adm. Stanley Bozin to the Task Force. Eifert is Adjutant General of Florida. He is the senior military adviser to the Governor. Hoskins (retired), of Pensacola, is senior vice president of Navy Federal Credit Union. Bozin (also retired), of Jacksonville, has served as a commanding officer in the U.S. Navy at numerous levels.

Restoration of Voting Rights Task Force — DeSantis appointed Chris Anderson, Vikki Cannon, JD Peacock and Doug Chorvat to the Task Force. Anderson, of Orlando, is the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections, a role he was appointed to by Gov. DeSantis in January 2019. Cannon, of Fernandina Beach, is the Nassau County Supervisor of Elections, a position she has held since 2000. Peacock, of Shalimar, is the Okaloosa County Clerk of the Court, a position he has held since 2014. Chorvat, of Brooksville, is the Hernando County Clerk of Court, a position he has held since 2018.

Florida Southwestern State College District Board of Trustees — Florida Southwestern State College board got two reappointments and one fresh face this week. On Wednesday, DeSantis retained attorney and Lee County Republican Party chair Jonathan Martin as well as businessman and Punta Gorda Chamber chair Danny Nix. The new addition is David Ciccarello, a partner at Wilbur Smith law firm in Fort Myers. All three were appointed to four-year terms.

Daytona State College District Board of Trustees — DeSantis appointed Randall Howard to the Daytona State College District Board of Trustees. Howard, of New Smyrna Beach, is the senior vice president and chief financial officer of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He served as the vice president of business affairs and treasurer of Ball State University from 2006-2014. In 2006, Howard retired from the U.S. Air Force after 20 years of service. He is appointed to a four-year term. His appointment is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

St. Petersburg College District Board of Trustees — DeSantis appointed Thomas Kidwell and reappointed Deveron Gibbons to the St. Petersburg College District Board of Trustees. Kidwell, of St. Petersburg, is a financial adviser with UBS Financial Services, Inc. He is appointed to a four-year term. Gibbons, also of St. Petersburg, is the vice president of public affairs with Amscot Corporation. He was reappointed to a four-year term. These appointments are subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

Direct Support Organization for the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking — Attorney General Moody announced the appointment of three people to the Direct Support Organization (DSO). Dr. Philip ToalSavannah Parvu and Sara Mahoney will serve as the Attorney General’s appointees on the DSO board. The Legislature gave the Attorney General authority to appoint three members; state statute now directs her to appoint a mental health expert, a human trafficking survivor and one at-large appointee.

DEO has Irma cash

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has $85 million at the ready to help local governments still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017.

The money is available through the Rebuild Florida Infrastructure Repair Program, and local governments can use it to restore or improve infrastructure damaged by the storm, which marched up Florida’s west coast after making landfall as a Category 4.

Ron DeSantis is committed to ‘full recovery of Florida communities’ from Hurricane Irma, says Department of Economic Opportunity head Ken Larson.

“Gov. Ron DeSantis is committed to the full recovery of Florida communities impacted by devastating storms,” DEO Director Ken Lawson said. “By providing these funds for local governments impacted by Hurricane Irma, we will ensure the continued growth and security of Florida communities.”

The pot of money can also be used as match funding for other federal programs to carry out eligible, federal Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery projects.

To get a slice, local governments need to send DEO an application detailing Irma’s impact on local infrastructure by Aug. 30. DEO said projects benefiting low- to moderate-income communities are a top priority.

Multiuse corridors

The Department of Transportation this week announced the rollout of three Multiuse Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) task forces.

Legislation (SB 7068) required Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault to make appointments, which include state and local officials, environmental stakeholders and members of the community.

New legislation requires Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault to name task forces for three new proposed toll roads.

Each task force will make recommendations for their respective area:

— Southwest-Central Florida Connector, extending from Collier County to Polk County.

— Suncoast Connector, extending from Citrus County to Jefferson County.

— Northern Turnpike Connector, extending from the northern end of Florida’s Turnpike northwest to the Suncoast Parkway.

“The purpose of the M-CORES program is to revitalize rural communities, encourage job creation, and provide regional connectivity,” the department said.

Lindsay Cross, government relations director for Florida Conservation Voters, said that though she was “glad to see so many Task Force members from such varied backgrounds, the problem isn’t the people — it’s the process.

“Thirteen months is not enough time to assess the viability and impacts of these massive new toll roads. Moving forward, we will continue to oppose this shortsighted plan and will work with local communities to ensure the voice of the public is heard loud and clear.”

DOE launches safety portal

The Florida Department of Education rolled out a new tool aimed at boosting the threat assessment capabilities of Florida schools.

The Florida Schools Safety Portal combines information from the Florida Department of Children and Families, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, local law enforcement and social media into a centralized system to help officials track threats to school safety.

“School safety is our top priority, and the Florida Department of Education is committed to protecting our students, staff and schools from harm,” Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said. “The Florida Schools Safety Portal will enable school threat assessment teams to keep children and district staff safe during their time on campus.”

Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran rolls out a ‘safety portal,’ a tool that assesses the safety of individual schools. 

The portal was recommended by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Commission and put in place via an executive order from DeSantis.

“We must dedicate the attention and resources necessary to protect our students, teachers and school personnel,” DeSantis said. “Access to timely, more accurate information will allow our law enforcement and threat assessment teams to respond and intercept possible threats, while also ensuring students in need of professional help get the necessary support.”

August is ‘Family Fun Month’

It’s Family Fun Month, and there’s only a little time left to enjoy it before kids have to head back to the classroom.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection says families should use the final weeks of the summer break to dust off those mountain bikes, drop by a state park or take a dip in the springs.

“DEP is proud to offer many opportunities for residents and visitors to spend time outside,” DEP Secretary Noah Valenstein said. “From our award-winning state parks to our aquatic resources, families can enjoy Florida’s natural beauty.”

DEP head Noah Valenstein says August is ‘Family Fun Month,’ perfect for residents and visitors to spend time outside.

The Sunshine State is home to 175 state parks, 41 aquatic preserves and three national estuarine research reserves, so most Floridians don’t have to travel too far to find some outdoor activities.

There are also events planned across the state for families preferring organized outdoor activities. Activities range from after-dark astronomy to beginner kayaking classes.

The best part? The fun doesn’t cost extra — it takes a few bucks it costs to get in the park, but families can enjoy the activities for free. A full events listing is available on the Florida State Parts website.

Post-Air Show business soars

Florida aerospace businesses put up an impressive booth at the Paris Air Show in June, and it’s already paying dividends.

The June event saw the 11 Florida businesses in attendance land $2 million in sales, and Enterprise Florida says it expects the event will generate $40 million in total sales when all’s said and done.

Enterprise Florida CEO Jamal Sowell speaks to the crowd at the Paris Air Show.

“The Paris Air Show provides a unique opportunity for small businesses in our state to exhibit their innovative products and services to global leaders from the aviation and aerospace industries,” said Jamal Sowell, president and CEO of public-private partnership Enterprise Florida.

“It also offers a great opportunity for us to meet with industry leaders. Our team met with more than 50 companies during the week to share the state’s business story and encourage job growth.”

Florida had the biggest booth of any state showing face at the event — the largest of its kind — with 14 Florida aviation/aerospace and economic development organizations attending alongside the businesses.

One company benefiting: Bigorre Aerospace. It attributes the success to Enterprise Florida.

“Without the help of Enterprise Florida, we would not have been able to exhibit at this show. If the new contacts/prospects made during this show end up in a few deals, we would probably need to hire new technician/production employees,” said

Keep the claws

Sen. Lauren Book filed legislation Friday for the 2020 Legislative Session that would punish veterinarians who declaw a cat unless the procedure is medically necessary.

Licensed veterinarians who perform the procedure would be subject to disciplinary action by the Board of Veterinary Medicine. Individuals who perform the procedure, but are not licensed veterinarians, can be fined up to $1,000 for each violation.

Lauren Book is looking to ban the practice of cat declawing in Florida.

Owners sometimes have their cats declawed to stop them from scratching individuals in the home, such as small children, or damaging household items.

But in June, New York became the first state in the U.S. to ban the practice due to concerns about the animals’ long-term health.

Most cats do fully recover, though some animals can deal with problems. For instance, a cat’s posture can be affected, which could cause back problems. The procedure itself is also painful.

Book’s bill does provide exceptions, such as addressing “an existing or recurring illness, infection, disease, injury, or abnormal condition of the cat which compromises the cat’s health.”

Sheriffs pick new prez

The Florida Sheriffs Association has elected new leadership for 2019-20.

Taking the reins as President is Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who has been in law enforcement since 1982 and led his department since 2011.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri takes the reins as the new president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association. Image via Getty.

“It is an honor to serve as President of a prestigious and historical organization such as the Florida Sheriffs Association,” Sheriff Gualtieri said. “We will do everything it takes to continue making the association and our community proud.”

In addition to President, FSA picked its new board of directors: Gilchrist Sheriff Bobby Schultz will serve as VP, Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight as Secretary, Levy Sheriff Bobby McCallum as treasurer, Columbia Sheriff Mark Hunter as immediate past President, Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis as Chair, and Nassau Sheriff Bill Leeper as Vice-Chair.

“Electing a new board of directors to lead the efforts of the Florida Sheriffs Association for the coming year and through the legislative session is a top priority every year,” said FSA Executive Director Steve Casey.

“The sheriffs who have been elected by their peers for their roles are truly the best in the country, and we know that they will lead with the principle and integrity upon which our association was founded over 125 years ago.”

Fishermen cheer red tide task force

Keep Florida Fishing is on board with DeSantis reviving a task force to study the root cause of red tide.

The Red Tide Task Force, housed within the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, has been dormant for more than a decade. Now, the state has put nearly $5 million behind the task force so they can get to work.

L to R — Gary Jennings, Director of Keep Florida Fishing; Ron DeSantis; Glenn Hughes, President of American Sportfishing Association; Kellie Ralston, Southeast Fisheries Policy Director, American Sportfishing Association.

“Thank you, Gov. Ron DeSantis, for your continued leadership in the area of Everglades restoration and water quality issues. Today’s announcement of a Red Tide Task Force, which will complement current efforts of the Blue-Green Algae Task Force, is yet another reason why Gov. DeSantis is Florida’s environmental governor,” Keep Florida Fishing Director Gary Jennings said.

“His reorganization and reactivation of the Red Tide Task Force, with an initial $4.8 million allocation, will not only look at the cause of red tide on the front end, but allow Florida’s more than 4 million anglers to have clean waters, abundant fisheries and access to both.”

RTTF members announced Friday include environmental experts, university researchers and government officials. They will coordinate research into what causes red tide blooms and whether — or how — Lake O discharges contribute to them.

LEOs lauded

The Florida Sheriffs Association has picked its 2019 Law Enforcement Officers of the Year, and it’s a family affair.

Father and son duo Sgt. Jeff Hewitt and Deputy Jared S. Hewitt of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office earned this year’s honor.

“We normally recognize only one Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, but exceptions are made when deputies carry out courageous actions together as a team,” said Florida Sheriffs Association President and Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter. “This year, we are proud to applaud both Sgt. Jeff Hewitt and Deputy Jared Hewitt for their heroic actions.”

Father and son duo Sgt. Jeff Hewitt and Deputy Jared S. Hewitt win Law Enforcement Officers of the Year.

Their herculean feat: saving a family of three from a burning truck.

“I could only see a couple of yards in front of my truck when I was locating the family and could feel the heat of the fire from inside my truck,” the elder Hewitt said. “The furthest I could drive was the curve in the road, and luckily, the family was right there.”

His son added, “Once I heard the call that there was a family trapped in a burning vehicle, my instincts kicked in and my only concern was saving them. I was pleased to see that my dad had the same thought when we arrived at the scene at the same time.”

New ‘sheriff’ in town

As a show of appreciation, the Florida Sheriffs Association (FSA) named Martin County Clerk of Court Carolyn Timmann as an “honorary Sheriff.”

Timmann accepted the honor this week at the association’s Summer Conference in Tampa, according to Florida Sheriffs Association President and Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter.

Martin County Clerk of Court Carolyn Timmann has been named an ‘honorary Sheriff.’

Timmann, as a member of the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, filed a proposal eventually placed on the ballot as Amendment 10, which passed with 63 percent support.

It requires that constitutional officers — like sheriff and clerk of courts — be elected, not appointed, in all 67 counties.

“In 2024, all 67 Florida sheriffs will be elected by the people, and that is largely due to Clerk Timmann being such an incredible champion for Florida’s constitutional officers,” he said.

Capital City golf

Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee this week announced Tallahassee’s Capital City Country Club as the featured course on the Florida Historic Golf Trail for August.

“The beautiful rolling hills and large moss-draped oaks have provided the setting for this historic golf course for more than 100 years,” she said in a statement.

Tallahassee’s Capital City Country Club is the featured course on the Florida Historic Golf Trail for August.

The history: In 1913, George B. Perkins organized the Florida Hills Country Club on land he owned in the southwest portion of Tallahassee. In 1924, Perkins sold the property to the newly incorporated Tallahassee Country Club, and it remained a 9-hole course for nearly two decades.

In 1935, the Tallahassee Country Club gave the property to the City of Tallahassee, which received a federal Works Progress Administration grant to expand the golf course to 18 holes.

Today, Capital City Country Club includes an 18-hole, par-72 golf course with four sets of tees ranging from 5,200 to 6,500 yards.

“The golf course is very special and unique to Florida,” Lee said. “It is a rolling course through massive pines and live oaks, with elevation changes more commonly found in the Northeastern United States.”

Best bang for your buck

College students looking for a good deal should consider applying to Florida State University.

A new ranking from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance says the school offers the third-best value for students planning to leave their home state to earn a bachelor’s degree, a one-spot improvement over the publication’s 2018 list.

For rising first-year students wanting to keep it local, FSU climbed up five rungs on the in-state list to land at No. 9.

Florida State University gives students some of the best bangs for the buck.

“Florida State University’s generous need-based financial aid awards for students who qualify bring the net price to about $7,000, the second-lowest on our top 10 list,” Kiplinger’s said. “Out-of-state students are also in luck, with a sticker price that’s the lowest of our top 10.”

Kiplinger’s list considers the quality of an institution’s academic programs, the student-faculty ratio, the percentage of students who graduate on time and the cost of tuition.

“We are thrilled to be recognized as one of the best value colleges in the nation,” said Sally McRorie, FSU’s Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs.

“Florida State’s continued upward trajectory in these rankings reflects our commitment to high standards of academic excellence and our dedication to affordability, accessibility, and success for all of our students.”

Capitol Directions

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