‘Stand Your Ground’ Change Remains In Limbo

April 28, 2017

High noon is approaching in a standoff over part of a controversial bill dealing with “stand your ground” self-defense cases.

The House and Senate have both backed passing a bill that would shift a key burden of proof in “stand your ground” cases, but they have taken different stances on an important legal detail.

The Senate is deciding which chamber’s proposal to put up for a vote next week, the final scheduled week of the 2017 legislative session.

Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who is sponsoring the Senate bill (SB 128) said Thursday the issue won’t “die in messages” — the process of bills bouncing back and forth between the House and Senate.

“There is going to be some bill in some form,” Bradley said. “We’re either going to take the House bill, or we’re going to replace the House bill with the Senate position and send it back. We’re going to deal with it one way or another.”

The issue stems from a Florida Supreme Court ruling in 2015 that said defendants during pre-trial hearings have the burden of proof to show they should be shielded from prosecution under the “stand your ground” law. The House and Senate would shift that burden to prosecutors, a change backed by groups such as the National Rifle Association.

In changing the burden of proof, the House wants to require prosecutors in “stand your ground” cases to overcome the asserted immunity sought by defendants through “clear and convincing evidence.”

But the Senate, which rejected the “clear and convincing evidence” language earlier this session, wants a higher standard known as “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

The “stand your ground” law has long been controversial. It says people can use deadly force and do not have a duty to retreat if they think it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.

Critics contend that either the House or Senate approach to the issue would make it easier for people involved in fatal shootings to use “stand your ground” when there are no victims to counter the self-defense claims.

The Senate approved the bill 23-15 on March 15, while the House gave its version a 74-39 vote of support on April 5.

While the “stand your ground” issue remains to be resolved, Second Amendment advocates have had relatively little to show for the legislative session.

On Thursday, the Senate prepared for a possible vote Friday a measure (SB 616) that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to hang onto their handguns until they reach security checkpoints inside courthouses.

The proposal cleared the Rules Committee on Tuesday. But even if it is approved by the entire Senate, the fate of the bill remains to be seen as the House doesn’t have a companion bill.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican who is sponsoring a number of firearm-related bills including the courthouse measure, said he hopes House Speaker Richard Corcoran will pick up the proposal when it comes over from the Senate.

Steube refused to say many of his other proposals — including proposals that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry guns or carry firearms on university campuses or into airport terminals — are dead for the session.

Steube has been unable to advance many of the bills through his divided Judiciary Committee, largely because of opposition Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami.

“They’re still live bullets, I mean the language is alive, but I think the members of the Senate have made it very clear where they’re at,” Steube said.

On Wednesday, the Senate voted 22-13 to approve a measure (HB 849) that would allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to pack heat at private religious institutions that have schools.

The proposal will have to go back to the House because the Senate included a change that would prohibit people from carrying guns during school hours or when school activities are underway. The restriction was not included in the bill when passed by the House.

Supporters have said people with concealed-weapons licenses should be able to be armed at churches for security reasons.

“In this era across the country, we have had attacks during worship services, burglaries or thefts or robberies during worships, and people appear at church services with problems,” Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said. “There is a security aspect in every environment and many people are willing to embrace that responsibility.”

Outside of law enforcement officers, state law prohibits people from carrying guns at schools.

With some high-profile gun bills getting stuck in the Senate, the House hasn’t focused on the measures.

“Obviously, I think there is interest in the House, but without any movement in the Senate, we’ve decided to spend time on things that we can actually get done,” Rep. Neil Combee, an Auburndale Republican who is a key backer of gun-rights bills, said early this month.

by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

Byrneville Elementary Continues Toward Multi-Million Dollar Construction Project

April 27, 2017

Byrneville Elementary School is continuing to work toward a change in the school’s charter status and the construction of a new multi-million dollar facility.

Exactly how much a newly constructed building will cost remains to be seen.

Wednesday afternoon, the school’s board of directors met with an area banker to discuss possible finance options, but the discussion did not move very far because the board does not yet have a bottom line cost estimate. One finance program discussed by the banker requires a note of at least $5 million.

Currently, over one-half of Byrneville’s classrooms are located in eight aging wooden portable buildings with administration, a lunchroom and a few classrooms located in a wood frame brick building constructed in 1941.

School officials have expressed interest in a new modern building containing some number of classrooms, likely a cafetorium and possibly even a small gym. Wednesday, the board decided to hold an organizational building committee meeting on May 25 at a time yet to be determined. The committee will meet with teachers and staff to learn about what they feel is needed in a new facility. After that meeting, the board hopes to determine a preliminary cost for a new facility.

The new building, if approved by the board of directors and if financing is approved, would be constructed on the Byrneville Elementary School’s current four acre property at 1600 Byrneville Road.

Byrneville has been a “conversion charter” school since 2002 when the Escambia County School District closed the existing Byrneville Elementary School and converted it into charter school operated under its own board of directors. Funding for the school is still provided by the state and local government, with the local school district providing the campus and major maintenance services.

Byrneville will need to become a full charter school, taking over building ownership, to become eligible to construct a new permanent building.

Pictured top: The main building at Byrneville Elementary was constructed in 1941. Pictured below: One of the portable classrooms on the Byrneville Elementary campus. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.

Partly Sunny This Afternoon

April 27, 2017

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast:
This Afternoon: Partly sunny, with a high near 83. Southwest wind around 10 mph.

Tonight: Partly cloudy, with a low around 68. South wind around 5 mph.

Friday: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 84. South wind 5 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.

Friday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 71. Southeast wind 5 to 10 mph.

Saturday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 85. South wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.

Saturday Night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 71. Southeast wind 10 to 15 mph.

Sunday: A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 82. South wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.

Sunday Night: Showers and thunderstorms. Low around 62. South wind 5 to 15 mph becoming west after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 80%.

Monday: A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 76. West wind around 5 mph.

Monday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 55.

Tuesday: Sunny, with a high near 81.

Tuesday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly cloudy, with a low around 61.

Wednesday: A 40 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 80.

Escambia County Asserting Right Of Way On Salters Lake Road

April 27, 2017

Escambia County is asserting ownership of a right of way along Salters Lake Road near Century.

The county has maintained about 3,490 feet of  Salters Lake Road northeast of North  Century Boulevard for numerous years. By adopting the maintenance map and certifying that the county has maintained the private road for over seven years, Florida law dictates that the county will have right of way on the portion of the road that has been maintained.

The process will allow the county to continue to maintain the road without having a deeded right of way.

Escambia 4-H Leadership Club Serves Breakfast At Ronald McDonald House

April 27, 2017

The Escambia County 4-H Leadership Club recently got up early to cook breakfast and serve the residents of the Ronald McDonald house in Pensacola. Courtesy photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Art Show Featuring Fred Hassebrock Works Opens Saturday In Molino

April 27, 2017

The Molino Mid-County Historical Society will host an Art Show featuring the works of Fred Hassebrock (1903-1975).

Some of Hassebrock’s work has been displayed at the Smithsonian National Art Gallery.

The art show opening is Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at the Lil King Museum, located in the old Molino School complex, 6450 Highway 95A. The art show will remain on display until June 24, 2017. Museum hours are 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The museum and the art show are closed on Wednesday and Sunday. Admissions is free.

Pictured: A few of the works of Fred Hassebrock on display at Lil Kings Museum in Molino. The art show open on Saturday. Photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Florida Senate Apologizes For Dozier School Abuse

April 27, 2017

With one senator pointing Wednesday to “violations of fundamental human decency,” the Florida Legislature has formally apologized for the mistreatment of juveniles held at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

The Senate on Wednesday joined the House and unanimously approved a resolution (SR 1440) acknowledging the physical and sexual abuse of boys who were sent to the now-closed reform school, and a related facility in Okeechobee, from 1900 to 2011.

“We apologize. We are sorry,” said Sen. Darryl Rouson, a St. Petersburg Democrat who sponsored the resolution and was joined by 35 other Senate co-sponsors. “This resolution on behalf of this Florida Senate commits to ensuring that the children of Florida are protected from this kind of abuse and violations of fundamental human decency.”

Turning to more than a dozen former Dozier students sitting in the Senate’s public gallery, Rouson said: “Through you, yet the living, the bones still cry out.”

He was referring to a forensic investigation carried out by the University of South Florida that identified 55 graves sites at the Jackson County facility, although there were only official records for 24 burials. The investigation led to the identification of some of remains, allowing families to reclaim their relatives.

The House unanimously passed a similar resolution (HR 1335) on April 18.

“It brought tears to my eyes because it was a good feeling that they had admitted to the wrong that they had done to us,” said Johnny Lee Gaddy, a 71-year-old Brooksville resident who was sent to Dozier as an 11-year-old in 1957.

He spent five years at the reform school, and suffered a half-dozen beatings, because he was labeled as a “truant” while in the fifth-grade.

“I didn’t go to school because I stuttered and the kids used to pick at me,” he said.

In addition to the resolution, Rouson said he hopes the Senate will take up a House bill (HB 7115) that would fund two memorials for the Dozier victims, one in Tallahassee and another in Jackson County. The bill would also authorize the reburial of the unclaimed Dozier remains in Tallahassee and the reinterment of the 1914 fire victims at the Boot Hill cemetery at the former reform school.

Rouson said the formal apologies from the Senate and House were “huge” in affirming the Dozier students’ stories and helping “the healing process.”

“It gives them something to live the golden years of their lives with, the fact that the state acknowledged this shameful part of our history,” Rouson said.

by Lloyd Dunkelberger, The News Service of Florida

Pictured top: A trench dug in the search for human remains at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. NorthEscambia.com file photo.

NWE 12U Team Captures Division Title In Pace Tournament

April 27, 2017

The Northwest Escambia 12U softball team  won the 12U “B” Division this past weekened  in the Gulf Coast Girls Softball Association (GCGSA) Tournament in Pace.

They played a total of six games starting Thursday and ending Sunday night with the championship game.  The girls went undefeated until the championship game.

PARA Chaos beat the girls the first game resulting in a winner take all final game.  The NWE girls came back in the second game beating the PARA Chaos team 7-6 winning the tournament.

Photo for NorthEscambia.co, click to enlarge.

Escambia School District Announces 2017 Graduation Dates

April 27, 2017

The Escambia County School District has released 2017 graduation dates for schools across the county:

Escambia Westgate School’s Graduation
May 19, 6:00 p.m.
Booker T. Washington High School Auditorium

Escambia Virtual/George Stone Technical/Second Chance Graduation
May 22, 6:00 p.m.
Pensacola High School Auditorium

ECSD’s Extended Program Graduation
May 24, 9:30 a.m.
J.E. Hall Center, Room 160

Booker T. Washington High School’s Graduation
May 25, 11:00 a.m.
Pensacola Bay Center

Pensacola High School’s Graduation
May 25, 2:30 p.m.
Pensacola Bay Center

Escambia High School’s Graduation
May 25, 6:00 p.m.
Pensacola Bay Center

Pine Forest High School’s Graduation
May 26, 11:00 a.m.
Pensacola Bay Center

West Florida High School’s Graduation
May 26, 2:30 p.m.
Pensacola Bay Center

J.M. Tate High School’s Graduation
May 26, 6:00 p.m.
Pensacola Bay Center

Northview High School’s Graduation
May 27, 4:00 p.m.
Northview High School

Graduation ceremonies will be live streamed on YouTube.

Wahoos End Three Game Skid With Win Over Baybears

April 27, 2017

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos’ bats went missing for part of the five-game series against its arch-rival Mobile BayBears.

But in the final game Wednesday against Mobile, Pensacola’s bats came to life as they pulled off a, 5-3, victory over the BayBears at Hank Aaron Stadium. As a team, the Blue Wahoos lineup went a combined 11-35 for a .314 average.

In the first four games, Pensacola scored a total of four runs on 24 hits for a .183 team batting average.

Pensacola snapped its three-game skid with its offensive outburst. Leading the way at the plate for Pensacola was shortstop Blake Trahan, who went 2-5 and drove in two runs. Left fielder Leon Landry went 1-4 with a triple and had two RBIs. Designated Hitter Eric Jagielo was 4-5 and scored twice. Third baseman Taylor Sparks had a 1-4 day and scored a run.

Pensacola is batting .214 on the season for eighth best in the Southern League ahead of Mobile (.212) and Biloxi (.200).

Blue Wahoos starter Austin Ross kept Pensacola in the game. Ross didn’t allow a run in his past two starts. But his scoreless inning streak came to an end at 19.1 innings when Mobile scored in the second inning. He ended up pitching 6.1 innings, allowing two runs, one earned, on five hits, walked two and struck out three. He picked up the victory to improve to 2-0 with a 0.99 ERA.

Jimmy Herget, Pensacola’s saves leader with eight saves, came in to pitch the ninth and allowed three singles to the first three batters he faced. Mobile scored a run when shortstop Alberto Triunfel singled to left field to drive in right fielder Forrest Allday, pulling the BayBears within, 5-3. With runners on first and second, Herget calmed down to strike out two of the next three batters to end the game.

Mobile scored first when catcher Wade Wass crossed the plate on first baseman’s Luis Tejada’s ground out to go ahead, 1-0, in the second inning.

In the fifth inning, Pensacola tied the score, 1-1, when center fielder Brian O’Grady scored on pinch hitter Leon Landry’s ground out to the pitcher.

Pensacola’s Trahan added two more runs in the sixth when his line drive single to left field scored Jagielo and Sparks for a 3-1 Blue Wahoos’ lead.

The BayBears pulled back within one run, 3-2, in the seventh inning when center fielder Michael Hermosillo hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score shortstop Angel Rosa.

Pensacola went back up, 4-2, in the eighth inning when Jagielo scored when Mobile right fielder Zach Welz made an error on O’Grady’s hit to him.

The Blue Wahoos added an insurance run in the top of the ninth inning when left fielder Landry tripled in second baseman Josh VanMeter, who had walked, to go up, 5-2.

Pensacola now returns to Blue Wahoos Stadium Thursday for a five-game home stand against the Biloxi.

The Blue Wahoos lead the Southern League South Division with a 14-6 record and is ahead of Mobile (10-10) by four games.

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