District 5 Residents Express Concerns About Roads, Transportation At Town Hall
Roads and transportation were hot topics Monday evening as Escambia County District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry held a town hall meeting in Barrineau Park.
Several residents told the commissioner about dirt roads that need paving, or existing paved roads that need widening or improvement.
Barry said an existing project was underway to widen Jacks Branch Road with [...]
Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law Under Fire, But Likely To Remain
Civil-rights leader Al Sharpton led a crowd of about 1,000 people to the Florida Capitol on Monday, demanding that Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature fix or repeal the “stand your ground” self-defense law.
Sharpton marched alongside the parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, two teens the marchers said were wrongly killed [...]
Senate Backs Tax Holiday Smaller Than Scott Wants
Senators started moving forward Monday with a sales-tax holiday for back-to-school shoppers, but the proposal is a week shorter than requested by Gov. Rick Scott.
The sponsor of the bill, however, hasn’t closed the book on extending the proposed discount timeframe from three days to 10 days.
The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on [...]
Going Up: Construction Continues On New Ernest Ward Middle
Construction is making visible progress for a new $17 million Ernest Ward Middle School in Walnut Hill. The new building, expected to open to students as early as January 2015, following Christmas Break 2014, will be an ultra modern, energy efficient building.
Escambia County voters played a big part in making the $17 million [...]
Fannie Road Closes This Week For Bridge Replacemet
Crews will begin construction activities on Fannie Road just outside Century next week.
The $1.8 million project will replace the bridge on Fannie Road over Dead Lake with a new concrete structure consisting of two 12-foot wide travel lanes and eight foot shoulders. Fannie Road will be closed during construction [...]
Atmore Motorcyclist Killed In Cantonment Crash
A 19-year old Atmore motorcyclist was killed Saturday afternoon in Cantonment.
The Florida Highway Patrol said Jacob Dale Lisenby was northbound about 1:08 p.m. on Highway 29 on a 1999 Honda motorcycle at a high rate of speed when he noticed 69-year old Mary O. Simpkins of Cantonment pulling out of the Grocery Advantage parking lot [...]
Escambia County To Try Again This Week To Name Adminstrator
Escambia County will try again this week to hold interviews and name a county administrator.
The Escambia County Commission was set to hold one-on-one job interviews with each of the five finalists for the county administrator position the last week of January, but a freak winter storm literally iced those plans.
Chloe Channell Headlines FFA Blue Jacket Jamboree (With Photo Galleries)
The annual Blue Jacket Jamboree was held Saturday at Northview High School to benefit the school’s FFA program.
The day’s entertainment included 12-year old Chloe Channell of America’s Got Talent fame, The Dusty Sanderson Band and more.
For a Chloe Channel photo gallery, click here.
Have your photo taken with Chloe Channell? Click here for a fan photo [...]
Escambia Murder Suspect Arrested In Mississippi
An Escambia County man is behind bars in Mississippi, charged in the Friday murder of his wife in the Mayfair community.
Antoine Tyshawn Banks, 34, is being held without bond in the Harrison County (MS) Jail. He was booked into the jail at 7:24 Saturday morning by the Biloxi (MS) Police Department. Banks [...]
Work Set To Begin On New Weight Training Facility At Northview High
Work is set to begin soon on a new weight training facility for Northview High School.
The $625,510 bid was awarded to R.D. Ward Construction Company, the lowest of nine bidders. Other bids ranged from $669,400 to $836,300.
The Escambia County School Board approved the weight training facility back at their January 22, 2013, meeting, [...]
Search Continues For Missing Crestview Boy, Might Be In U-Haul
Authorities are still trying to find 3-year-old Emmanuel Menz, who was abducted from the Burger King located at 3210 South Ferdon Boulevard in Crestview at approximately 11:15 a.m. Thursday morning, during a supervised visit at that location.
Emmanuel’s father and mother, Karl R. Menz and Virginia M. Lynch, do not have custodial rights to Emmanuel, and [...]
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Local Students Represent India At Model United Nations Conference
Four Northview High School students recently took part in the 35th annual Florida High Schools Model United Nations conference in Orlando. The high school conference was modeled after real debate and United Nations actions and programs. Northview students Jessica Amerson, Moriah McGahan, Bethany Reynolds and Madison Weber, under the leadership of teacher Anna Barry, represented the assigned country of India. They learned about the government, history, current problems and other important subjects within India. Amerson and Weber were part of the committee United Nations Entity for Empowerment and Gender Equality (UNWOMEN); McGahan and Reynolds were a part of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) committee. Students were provided with topics to debate with representatives of other countries to formulate a resolution paper to solve the problem in a way beneficial to their represented country. Northview was the first Escambia County public school to participate in a Florida High Schools Model United Nations conference. The trip was made possible by supporters including the Walnut Hill Ruritan Club, Town of Century Gas Department, Barrineau Park Historical Society, Steven Barry, Escambia River Electric Cooperative and the Northview High School Rho Kappa club. Pictured top: Northview representatives to the Florida High Schools Model United Nations (L-R) Moriah McGahan, Jessica Amerson, Madison Weber and Bethany Reynolds. Pictured inset: Reynolds and McGahan represented India on the UNICEF committe. Pictured below: Amerson and Weber negotiate during the conference. Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge. Read More →
Sherry Carter Named Bratt Elementary Teacher Of The Year
Third grade teacher Sherri Carter was named Teacher of the Year at Bratt Elementary School. Carter has been teaching for 18 years – her first eight years as a kindergarten teacher at Century Elementary and her last 10 years at Bratt. She received her bachelor degree from the University of West Florida and earned a master’s degree from Troy State University. Carter said she loves teaching and working with students and parents. She was honored at the Golden Apple Awards reception recently at New World Landing in Pensacola. Read More →
Motorcyclist In Critical Condition After School Bus Collision
A motorcyclist is in critical condition after hitting a school bus that pulled into his path Monday afternoon. School bus driver Brenda Gentry Matchett, 66, attempted to pull from the stop sign on 46th Avenue onto Lillian Highway. She failed to see motorcyclist Larry Dakota Austin, 22, and pulled the school bus into the path of his 1998 Honda motorcycle, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Austin attempted to stop before hitting the bus but was unable to do so, according to the FHP. He slid under the bus, colliding with the right rear tires before sliding out into Lillian Highway, troopers said. Austin was transported by Escambia County EMS to Baptist Hospital in critical condition. Charges in the accident are pending investigation, the FHP said. Read More →
Northwest Florida House Members Have Big Money Month
Across North Florida, incumbent House Republicans raked in campaign cash in February, according to newly filed finance reports. In Escambia County’s District 1 which includes North Escambia, Rep. Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola, collected $37,300 during February, giving him an overall total of $107,250. Rep. Doug Broxson, R-Midway, raised $60,950 for his campaign account during the month, bringing the overall total to $109,000 as he seeks re-election in House District 3 in Okaloosa and Santa Rosa counties. Meanwhile, across the top of the state, Rep. Travis Cummings, R-Orange Park, raised $42,350 during the month, giving him a total of $120,671 in Clay County’s District 18. To the east and south, Rep. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, brought in $28,801 in February and reported an overall total of $73,796. Hutson is seeking another term in House District 24, which includes Flagler County and parts of St. Johns and Volusia counties. by The News Service of Florida Read More →
Showers, Possibly A Thunderstorm Today
Here is your official North Escambia area forecast: Tuesday: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 69. Light south wind increasing to 5 to 10 mph in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation is 60%. Tuesday Night: A chance of showers. Cloudy, with a low around 57. South wind 5 to 10 mph becoming southwest after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 50%. Wednesday: A 20 percent chance of showers before 1pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 72. West wind 5 to 15 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph. Wednesday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 33. North wind 5 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph. Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 58. North wind 5 to 10 mph. Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 36. North wind around 5 mph becoming east after midnight. Friday: Sunny, with a high near 67. East wind 5 to 10 mph becoming south in the afternoon. Friday Night: A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 46. Southeast wind around 5 mph. Saturday: A 40 percent chance of showers. Cloudy, with a high near 70. Saturday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 52. Sunday: A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 71. Sunday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers. Cloudy, with a low around 50. Monday: A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 71. Read More →
Controversy Emerges Over Allowing Guns In Schools
Military veterans or retired law-enforcement officers with concealed weapons permits and special training could be designated to bring guns into elementary, middle and high schools under a proposal moving through the Florida Legislature. The Senate Criminal Justice Committee approved the controversial proposal (SB 968) by a 5-2 vote on Monday over the objections of the Florida School Boards Association and members of the public, many of whom had participated in a march earlier in the day led by civil-rights leader Al Sharpton. The group was protesting the state’s “stand your ground” law. Florida parent groups and the state teachers’ union also oppose the measure. The measure is similar to one pushed by the National Rifle Association in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 students and six school staff. Under the bill, principals and school superintendents could appoint staff members or volunteers who are military veterans with honorable discharges, active military or retired law enforcement officials as gun-toting “designees.” They would be required to carry concealed weapons with them at all times on school property. The designees would have to undergo 40 hours of school-safety training and an additional 12 hours of special training annually, comprised of eight hours of active shooter training and four hours of firearm-proficiency training. The measure is intended to prevent another Sandy Hook or Columbine in Florida and would be optional, said bill sponsor Alan Hays, R-Umatilla. “Part of our tactics here is to not let those perpetrators of evil, for them to think there’s no weapons at a school so I can go in there and not have any resistance. They don’t know that there are going to be weapons there but neither do they know that there are not,” Hays said. But Florida School Boards Association Executive Director Wayne Blanton said that many schools already have school resource officers, who are active law-enforcement officers, and that the goal is to have such an officer in each school. “Uniformed, trained, police officers in every school… That’s what we really need,” Blanton said. “We do not need teachers, or in this case, volunteers, in our schools, carrying weapons.” The proposal now leaves decisions about whether to have an armed “designee” up to school principals. Hays said he would amend the measure to allow school boards to decide whether they want such a program, instead of leaving it up to principals. by Dara Kim, The News Service of Florida Read More →
Blue Angels Change NAS Pensacola Practice Times
The Blue Angels are changing their Tuesday and Wednesday weekly practice demonstration times onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola (NASP) for the 2014 air show season. The scheduled practice demonstrations will now begin at 11:30 a.m. onboard the air station. This change more closely matches the time the Blue Angels typically perform at air shows. The later practice time will also help alleviate some of the traffic arriving onboard the base during the busy morning commute. The Blue Angel pilots will be at the National Naval Aviation Museum Wednesdays immediately following the practice demonstration to meet the public and sign autographs. Public viewing of the Blue Angel practice demonstrations is available at the designated seating area behind the museum. Pictured: The Blue Angels practice at NAS Pensacola last year. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge. Read More →
Jay Upends Northview’s Varsity; Northview’s JV Downs Jay
The Northview Chiefs and the Jay Royals split a couple of games Monday in Bratt. The junior varsity Chiefs defeated the JV Royals 7-2, while the varsity Chiefs lost to Jay 2-1. In varsity action, Aaron McDonald was 1-2, Branon Freeman was 1-3 and RJ Pritchett was 1-3 with a double and an RBI for Northview. For Jay, Dalton Edwards was 3-3 with 2 RBIs, A.J. Nash was 1-3 and Steven Archer 1-3. Dalton Edwards pitched seven for the Jay win, allowing one run, four hits, one error and striking out 10. Brannon Freeman took the loss for the Chiefs, pitching five while allowing two runs an five hits. Northview will travel to Holmes County Tuesday with the JV playing at 4:00 and the varsity at 6:00. The varsity Jay Royals will host T.R. Miller at 4 p.m. Tuesday. NorthEscambia.com photos by Ramona Preston, click to enlarge Read More →
Committee Moves Forward With Florida Voting Bill
A Senate committee Monday moved forward with a bill that would allow online voter registration in Florida and put new restrictions on drop-off locations for absentee ballots. The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee unanimously approved introducing the measure (SPB 7068), which will still have to return to the panel for another vote. Because of that, Democrats backed away from offering amendments that could still become flashpoints in the debate over the measure. Much of the controversy over the provisions in the bill focused on language that would allow elections supervisors to provide secure boxes to receive absentee ballots, but only at early-voting locations and supervisor of elections’ offices. The language is a response to a Nov. 25 directive by Secretary of State Ken Detzner essentially ordering supervisors to stop providing locations other than the supervisors’ offices where voters could drop off completed absentee ballots. But Pinellas County Supervisor Deborah Clark threatened to defy that order in a set of elections to choose a successor for the late Congressman C.W. Bill Young. Eventually, Detzner agreed not to go to court in an effort to force Clark to follow the directive. Ethics and Elections Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said the incident is part of a long-running quest by Clark to move toward voting by mail. He claimed Clark opens just three early-voting locations in an effort to push voters toward casting absentee ballots. “What we have here is we have one supervisor of elections who has decided to try to do everything possible to have vote-by-mail elections. … She’s made a policy decision that affects everybody, that we’re going to have mail elections,” Latvala said. “And I just frankly think that’s wrong.” Latvala said that, in part, he was trying to force Clark to open more early-voting locations, and complained about the possible unintended consequences of voting by mail. “I’m waiting on the day when somebody gets indicted on the Thursday before the election, and they get elected because everybody’s already voted and they can’t get their ballot back,” he said. The online voting-registration portion of the bill, following legislation filed by Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth, was applauded by Democrats on the committee and voting-rights organizations, though some are concerned about a provision of the legislation requiring people who use the method to vote in person the first time. By encouraging Democrats to offer their amendments when the bill comes through the committee again, the panel avoided a politically sensitive clash over the possible use of Reitz Union at the University of Florida as an early-voting location. Democrats were looking to reverse an order from Detzner barring the student union from being used as an early-voting site in municipal elections. Latvala contended that if elections officials had asked to use the site as a “bonus pick” provided by law, instead of trying to use it under a provision that allows officials to designate a community center as a site for early ballots, it would have been approved. “I think there would have been a different answer if it had been asked that way. … No one asked that question with respect to the Reitz Union,” he said. But UF students who showed up at the meeting still said the rules should be changed. “There’s no reason why the student union should be used as the bonus location when it could easily be an already-set location,” said Jose Miranda, 21, a senior at the university. Read More →
Robot Of The Future: IMHC’S Atlas Featured On CNN
The work of the IHMC Robotics team from Escambia County with the Atlas humanoid robot is featured in an episode of a new monthly CNN program, “The Art of Movement.” To see the video, click here, or look at the bottom of this story. The segment features interviews with IHMC scientists and extensive video shot both in the IHMC Robotics Lab in Pensacola and at the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) trials at Homestead Miami Speedway in December 2013. IHMC’s own video team shot some of the footage used by CNN, especially from the DARPA trials. The episode focuses on IHMC’s work with the two-legged Atlas robot, built by Boston Dynamics and used in the DRC competition. The teams participating in the DRC represent some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world. They are collaborating and innovating on a very short timeline to develop the hardware, software, sensors and human-machine control interfaces that will enable their robots to complete a series of challenge tasks selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for their relevance to disaster response. IHMC finished first in the initial stage of the DRC in June 2013, a computer simulation competition dubbed the Virtual Robotics Challenge. The robotics team followed that up with an overall second-place finish among 16 robotics development teams at the trials at Homestead Miami Speedway, featuring the actual robots. IHMC finished first among the seven teams using Atlas. The concluding phase of the DRC is tentatively scheduled for spring 2015. According to CNN’s website, “The Art of Movement is a new monthly show that highlights the most significant innovations in art, culture, science and technology that are helping shape our modern world. From the visually beautiful to the technically awe inspiring, from ocean tides to animal migration, from bionic limbs to ballet, The Art of Movement will showcase the latest cultural currents and scientific new waves redefining how we engage with the world.” The Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC) is one of the nation’s premier research organizations with world-class scientists and engineers investigating a broad range of topics related to building technological systems aimed at amplifying and extending human cognitive, perceptual, and physical capacities. IHMC headquarters are in Pensacola with a branch research facility in Ocala. Read More →
Rep. Miller, Comm. Robinson Talk RESTORE Act In Washington
Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson was in Washington last week to attend the National Association of Counties (NACO) Legislative Conference and visited with Congressman Jeff Miller to discuss implementation of the RESTORE Act. “It is vital to ensure that RESTORE is implemented successfully and that the individuals and businesses impacted by the Deep Water Horizon spill are made whole. I appreciate Commissioner Robinson’s continued leadership on this crucial issue,” Miller said in his weekly newsletter. Courtesy photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge. Read More →
Aviation Company To Hold Job Recruitment And Info Session
An aviation company that may expand to Escambia County will hold a job recruitment and information session later this month. ST Aerospace maintains, overhauls and repairs aircraft. They currently employ over 1,300 people in Mobile. The company plans to construct a satellite operation inside the Pensacola International Airport Commerce Park that may produce as many as 300 jobs for the area. A recruitment and information session for ST Aerospace will be held on Thursday, March 20, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at the National Naval Aviation Museum located at 1750 Radford Boulevard aboard NAS Pensacola. ST Aerospace Representatives will be on-site to discuss available employment opportunities and answer related questions. Multiple openings are currently available for aircraft maintenance inspectors, avionics mechanics, APG mechanics, structure/sheet metal mechanics and interior mechanics. Area training providers will also be on-site to discuss available aeronautical training programs. Detailed job descriptions and requirements for each position are available on the EmployFlorida Marketplace at www.employflorida.com. Read More →
Escambia SO Neighborhood Watch Academy Accepting Applications
Applications are now being accepted for the 19th Escambia County Sheriff’s Office Neighborhood Watch Academy which will be held Tuesday, March 18 in the ECSO Administration Building at 1700 West Leonard Street in Pensacola. The free training is being provided to neighborhood volunteers for new and existing neighborhood watch programs, or anyone interested in preventing crime. The one evening seminar begins with a complementary meal at 5:00 pm and ends at 9:00 pm.Should you wish to start a Neighborhood Watch group or simply make yourself less likely to be a victim of crime, this class is for you. Much of the curriculum covers basic safety and security tips for the home, anonymous reporting and crime prevention through environmental design. The classes fill quickly so if you’d like to attend the Academy, please contact David Craig in Community Services Unit at (850) 436-9281 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read More →
Chiefs Fall To Chipley
The Northview Chiefs lost two to the Chipley Tigers Friday night. Chipley’s junior varsity topped Northview 9-4, and Chipley beat Northview’s varsity 7-2. Northview will be in action Monday as they host Jay in make up games from last week. The JV plays at 4:00, the varsity at 6:00. NorthEscambia.com photos by Ramona Preston, click to enlarge. Read More →
Featured Recipe: Homemade Egg Rolls
This weekend’s featured recipe from Janet Tharpe is a Homemade Egg Roll. Have fun and fill them with any of a variety of fillings to satisfy everyone in your house. To print today’s “Just a Pinch” recipe column, you can click the image below to load a printable pdf with a recipe card. Read More →
Commissioner Barry To Hold Town Hall Meeting Monday
District 5 Escambia County Commissioner Steven Barry will hold a town hall meeting beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, March 10, at the Barrineau Park Community Center at 6055 Barrineau Park School Road. For more information, contact Barry’s office at (850) 595-4950. Read More →
Ethics Commission Dismisses Complaint Against Sheriff
The Florida Commission on Ethics has unanimously dismissed an ethics complaint against Sheriff David Morgan. John Powell, who was defeated by Morgan in the 2012 Republican primary, raised allegations that Morgan used his position as sheriff of obtain a document that was not otherwise public record, and subsequently use the document in a political advertisement. Meeting Friday morning, the Commission considered Powell’s complaint and Morgan’s response and found that there was no probable cause to support any ethics violation by Morgan, according to a press release issued by the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. Read More →
Weekend Gardening: Caring For Camellias
One of Northwest Florida’s most reliable and rewarding shrubs is the camellia. Providing dark green leaves throughout the year, gardeners are rewarded in late winter or early spring with a variety of beautifully colored and shaped flowers. Camellias tend to thrive in our acidic soil but they do require some routine maintenance. Pick up the fallen flowers. A fungal disease known as petal blight will rapidly turn entire flowers brown. If a camellia has petal blight, remove and dispose of all blighted flowers both on the plant and on the ground. You may also consider discarding the old mulch around the shrub and apply a layer of fresh mulch. This practice sometimes helps prevent fungal spores from blowing back onto new flowers. One of the best ways to prevent this disease is to pick up and destroy fallen blooms. Flowers will continue to drop for several weeks, so it’s important to pick up blooms several times a week. Scout for tea scale. One of the most common insect pests of camellia is a scale insect known as tea scale. Check the underside of leaves regularly for this annoying pest. These small, sessile, white, thin, sap-sucking insects can build up large numbers if you do not regularly inspect your plants and take corrective measures when scale is first found. Often your first clue will be spotty yellowing on the upper surface of the leaves. Horticultural oil can be used in the winter time if used before blooming or in spring after blooming. Do not apply horticultural oil when near-freezing temperatures may be expected. Always carefully read and follow pesticide label directions before use. Expect some leaves to fall in the spring. Camellias are “evergreen” meaning that they have leaves on the shrub year round. However, as individual leaves age, they will fall from the shrub and are replaced with new leaves in the spring. It is not unusual for camellia to drop up to 30 percent of their leaves. As long as new leaves are developing, there is no need for concern. Camellia can be pruned after they flower. The most important reason for pruning camellias is to improve the overall health of the plant. Many times, camellias that have not been pruned in a few years will develop dead or deteriorating twigs. Removing the dead and dying limbs will minimize the possibility of diseases such as “dieback” and will also allow the plant to re-concentrate its energies. In many instances, camellias that have been neglected for a number of years will become infested with scale insects. Pruning is an effective way to provide for better coverage of chemical sprays and increase air circulation. Lichens are warning signs. Lichens are gray-green to green mossy growths on the stems of old, neglected camellias. The lichen is a combination of a fungus and an alga that grows symbiotically. They are not parasitic to the camellia. Affected plants usually need fertilizing, watering, and mulching for better growing conditions. Fertilizer applications help to achieve maximum performance. Apply fertilizer in the spring after blooming but before new growth starts. With many fertilizers, small amounts at frequent intervals are better than heavy applications. Special camellia fertilizers are available at your local stores. One application in early spring after blooming should be followed by a second application in mid June to early July. Scatter the fertilizer evenly on top of the mulch and away from the main stem of the plant. Water the fertilizer into the soil. Do not fertilize after July, so the plants will have a longer time to harden off and avoid freeze damage. by Santa Rosa Extension Service Read More →
Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: Few Surprises In Session’s First Week
This is the way the legislative session begins: Not with a bang but with a whimper. There wasn’t much surprising about the first week of the legislative session, which opened Tuesday with the normal arrangement of leadoff speeches and Gov. Rick Scott’s State of the State address. After that were a couple of drama-less votes on bills that were certain to pass. But the week also brought some reminders of bills that could still bring some drama to the process: A massive expansion of the state’s de facto voucher program and the beginnings of movement on a proposal to legalize medical marijuana — just not that kind of medical marijuana. And it was just the start of the 60-day demolition derby that will presumably end on May 2. Plenty of time still remains to cause trouble. THE STATE OF THE ‘LAND OF OPPORTUNITY’ Scott had long laid out most of his agenda in the run-up to the legislative session, and the one new substantive proposal in his annual State of the State address — a call to repeal the differential tuition law that allows universities to increase their costs by 15 percent a year — dribbled out in excerpts of the speech released Monday. But the governor, facing re-election in eight months, used the speech to make progress on two political goals, comparing the state of the Florida economy now to what it looked like in 2010 and highlighting his personal biography in hopes of connecting with an electorate that has never really viewed Scott favorably. In one of the more personally evocative moments of his speech, Scott brushed away any concerns that he was too narrowly-focused on job-creation and making Florida “the land of opportunity.” The governor pointed, as he has only in recent weeks, to his father once losing a job and having the family car repossessed. “All I can say is that we’re all a product of our own experiences in life,” Scott said. “I’ve seen what happens to families who struggle for a job. I’ve had Christmas without presents. I don’t want anybody in our state to ever feel stuck in those situations.” Even some Republicans were surprised by the biographical tales from a governor who has rarely spoken about his own past. “I’d never heard that side of the governor, and I thought it was very compelling,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. Democrats focused their fire on the other part of Scott’s speech, when the governor blasted the record of his predecessor and chief opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist. The Florida Democratic Party once spent much of Crist’s term in office issuing similar criticisms of the former Republican’s economic woes. “Floridians heard clearly that Rick Scott only cares about his own re-election,” Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant said in response to the address. “This speech wasn’t about the state of Florida. It was about the state of Rick Scott’s campaign, and he is desperate.” Whether Scott’s speech will help the effort to reintroduce himself to voters won’t really be known until the polls open in November. And Crist is sure to try to rough up the incumbent in return. His campaign issued a statement criticizing the address shortly after Scott delivered it. “With the blessing of the people, next year I will deliver a State of the State that puts people first,” Crist said. PARTY ON THE FLOOR The first day’s slate of action was confined to bills in the joint House-Senate “work plan” that were certain to gain unanimous, bipartisan support. Those parts of the work plan that would spark partisan food fights, as well as other legislation that could lead to pointed debates, were left for the future. So, with the mother of a murdered child looking on, the Florida Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed four bills intended to make the state as inhospitable as possible to sexually violent predators. Diena Thompson, whose 7-year-old daughter Somer disappeared in Clay County in 2009 while walking home from school, watched in tears from the gallery. After an extensive search, the child’s body was found in a South Georgia landfill, and last year a 26-year man was sentenced to life in prison for her death. The legislative package has been at the top of Senate President Don Gaetz’s agenda since August, when the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that 594 sexual offenders had gone free since 1999 — only to commit 463 child molestations, 121 rapes and 14 murders. “We will protect our children and we will scorch the earth against sexually violent predators,” said Gaetz, R-Niceville. “We cannot waste one more day. We cannot lose one more child.” The House is expected to take up that package of bills in the next couple of weeks. On Tuesday, it approved the so-called “Florida GI Bill,” aimed at encouraging military veterans to take up residence in Florida. The measure (HB 7015) would increase educational aid for veterans and National Guard members, increase funding to upgrade the state’s National Guard facilities and buy land around U.S. military bases. It would also set up a non-profit to attract more veterans to Florida. The House proposal would cost the state at least $33.5 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1. The companion to that bill (SB 860) sailed through the Senate Appropriations Committee and headed to the full Senate. Lawmakers also approved legislation encouraging themselves to take up residence in their own districts, passing a joint rule spelling out some standards for legislators to follow in deciding where they live. The measure passed the Senate on 39-0 vote and flew through the House on a voice vote. “By, now, putting very clearly in our rules what the residency standards are, if someone were to ever file a complaint, we’d have very clear standards to take that complaint and put (it) up against,” Weatherford said. PENDING: POT AND VOUCHERS Two of the more intriguing bills that lawmakers could approve during the session took their first steps toward the House floor this week: A measure legalizing non-euphoric marijuana and a sweeping expansion of the state’s voucher plan. While medical marijuana seems to be getting nowhere with the Legislature, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee voted almost unanimously to sign off on a measure that would legalize a version of the drug that doesn’t produce a high — but can help treat children wracked by potentially deadly seizures. Subcommittee Chairman Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said the vote on the bill allowing “Charlotte’s Web” was historic because it’s the first time in modern history that the Legislature has advanced any marijuana-related measure. Peyton and Holley Moseley’s 10-year-old adopted daughter RayAnn is one of about 125,000 Florida children diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that can cause hundreds of seizures a day and does not respond to other treatments. The couple said they traveled to Colorado, where Charlotte’s Web is manufactured, and met with parents of other children who had responded to the treatment. “These kids can walk now. These kids can talk now. These kids are saying ‘I love you’ to their parents for the first time,” Peyton Moseley told the panel. The bill was not without its critics. Some supporters of non-euphoric marijuana said the bill didn’t do enough to clear up the legal webs that surround pot. And Rep. Gayle Harrell, who cast the only vote against the measure, asked a series of questions highlighting concerns about a lack of regulation over the substance, especially compared to other drugs. “If you really want to solve a problem and just not legalize marijuana then you need to do it appropriately,” she said. Meanwhile, the House Finance and Tax Subcommittee voted along party lines to introduce the voucher bill (PCB FTSC 14-02), which would broaden eligibility for the “tax credit scholarships,” boost the cap on the program for several years, and allow retailers to divert sales-tax revenue to nonprofit organizations that award the scholarships. Rep. Manny Diaz, a Hialeah Republican who sponsored the measure, rejected the idea that it was an attack on public education, suggesting that the scholarship program was a part of that system. “When we’re talking about public education, I think we’ve got the idea a little bit in reverse,” he said. “We’re talking about educating the kids in the public, not about sustaining public institutions.” Democrats said including sales-tax dollars in the program marked a profound change from a program that has been funded until now through tax credits against corporate income tax and other taxes paid by the businesses. “Taxpayers have a right to make choices about the way they spend their money,” said Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach. ” … If you have a person that is opposed to this program and shops at an entity that supports the program, their money, their sales tax dollars that they paid from their pocket, will be used to support a program that they’re in opposition to.” STORY OF THE WEEK: The 2014 legislative session began, kicking off a 60-day period when lawmakers are set to approve a spending plan for the state and consider a slate of other measures. QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “That’s because people here in Tallahassee have realized that we can’t just have a bumper-sticker approach to marijuana where you’re either for it or against it. Not all marijuana is created equally.”–Rep. Matt Gaetz on a proposal to legalize non-euphoric marijuana that can be used to treat seizures in some children. by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida Read More →
Man Charged In Death Of 76-Year Old
An Escambia County man has been charged in connection with the beating death of a man earlier this week. Marcus Ferrell Toler was charged with aggravated battery on an elderly person in the death of Ben Stallworth, 76. At 11:45 Tuesday night, deputies responded to a disturbance in the 1700 block of West Lakeview Avenue where they found Stallworth was sitting on his couch with obvious injuries. He was transported to a local hospital by ambulance were he was pronounced deceased. The victim’s son told deputies that he had heard his father yell for him and upon entering the room, discovered an unidentified black male in a struggle with his father. The suspect fled. Forensic evidence and witness interviews led to Toler’s arrest, investigators said. The charge against Toler could be upgraded when the Medical Examiner’s final report is completed, according to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. He remains in the Escambia County Jail without bond. Read More →
Mom Sentenced After Cocaine Found In Elementary Student’s Backpack
A Cantonment mom has been sentenced to probation after her daughter showed up at her elementary school with plastic bag of cocaine in her backpack. Shana Christina Beck, 29, was charged with felony child neglect without great bodily harm but pleaded no contest to a lesser charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Adjudication was withheld and she was sentenced by Judge Michael Jones to 12 months probation. She was also ordered to look for a job, stay off drug and alcohol and complete parenting classes. Students tipped off administrators last December at R.C. Lipscomb Elementary School that a student had a suspicious bag of white powder in her backpack. The student told school officials and deputies that Beck and a friend were in their car the night before when they dropped the baggie and began a frantic search for it. The student said the baggie must have fallen into her open backpack, according to an Escambia County Sheriff’s Office report. The white powder in the bag field tested positive for cocaine. The Department of Children and Family Services is also investigating the incident. Read More →
BBB Warns Of Misleading ‘Annual Minutes Requirement’ Mailings
The local BBB is warning area businesses about a misleading mailing from “Compliance Services”. For a $125 fee, Compliance Services claims they will prepare documents “to satisfy the annual minutes requirement for your corporation”. There is no requirement that you submit the information they’ve requested or any annual minutes to the State of Florida, according to the BBB, and Compliance Services is not associated with the State of Florida or the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations. The BBB said these notices should not be confused with the Division of Corporations notices reminding each business entity to file it annual report by May 1. Those reports can be filed electronically with the Florida Department of State Division of Corporations at sunbiz.org. Any business owner who believes he has been a victim a scam should call the Florida Attorney General’s Fraud Hotline at 866-9-NO-SCAM. Pictured: A sample notice from “Compliance Services” as provided by the BBB, click to enlarge. Read More →
Fannie Road Bridge Replacement To Cost Town Of Century’s Utilities
The Florida Department off Transportation’s $1.8 million project to replace a bridge on Fannie Road over Dead Lake will create indirect costs over $40,000 for the Town of Century. According to Mayor Freddie McCall, rerouting the town’s water and gas lines, currently supported by the old bridge,will cost the town about $35,000 plus about $9,000 in engineering fees, permits and inspections. Rather than attaching the water and gas lines to the new bridge, the town will bore under the waterway. The money, McCall said, will come from $50,000 that was budgeted for a new sewage lift station that is not currently needed. Fannie Road will close next week for the bridge replacement, which is expected to be complete by the Fall of 2015. [Read more...] Read More →
Florida House Moves Ahead On Insurance Gun Bill
Despite questions about whether the bill is needed, a House committee Thursday approved a measure that supporters say will prevent insurance companies from discriminating against gun owners. Florida law already bars insurers from denying coverage or increasing premiums based on customers’ ownership of firearms or ammunition. But sponsor Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said the bill (HB 255) “supercharges” the potential legal consequences against insurers by adding the prohibition to part of state law that deals with unfair and deceptive practices. The House Regulatory Affairs Committee approved the bill, which is ready to go to the full House. Supporter Neil Combee, R-Polk City, said people have a constitutional right to own guns. “This is a vote about discrimination and whether or not we’re opposed to discrimination,” Combee said. But other members of the committee said there was little evidence that insurers have denied coverage or increased premiums based on gun ownership. Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, said the bill was a “waste of our time” and that supporters were pushing it for political purposes in an election year. “It’s only here because you want to be able to say we did something for gun owners this year, so we can go out there and talk about everybody’s Second Amendment rights,” Waldman said. by The News Service of Florida Read More →
Commission Pledges $8 Million To Help Lure ST Aerospace To Pensacola
The Escambia County Commission has voted to pledge $8 million in local option sales tax funds to help bring ST Aerospace to the Pensacola airport. The Singapore-based aerospace company that employees 1,300 in Mobile, plans to hire 300 in Pensacola. The county will loan $3.2 million directly to the City of Pensacola for the project and add another $4.8 million in contributions. District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry voted against the plan, express concerns over insufficient collateral from the city’s pledged Communications Service Tax. He said the city has already pledged too much of the tax, and the legislature may cut the tax during their current session. “I’d don’t think the Communications Services Tax is secure enough,” Barry said. “I’d like to have a second revenue source that’s pledged.” Pictured: Commissioner Steven Barry addresses ST Aerospace during a Thursday morning meeting. Read More →
Florida To Join Multi-State Lawsuit Over Gulf Oil Disaster
Florida expects to be added to a multi-state federal lawsuit against BP over “widespread” damages from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, after spending nearly three years unsuccessfully trying to resolve the matter on its own. On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Panama City about the environmental impacts from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil-spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kendra Parson said the state anticipates the suit will be added to an ongoing federal lawsuit against BP in the Eastern District of Louisiana by Alabama, Louisiana and other plaintiffs. In April 2011, the state rejected a chance to join the federal lawsuit, with Gov. Rick Scott saying at the time he wanted to ensure Florida was “treated fairly” in terms of receiving reimbursement from BP. Officials with the Attorney General’s Office said at the time that a settlement could be reached without litigation as early as the summer of 2011 unless the oil company refused to cooperate. Parson said attempts to reach a settlement have been unsuccessful and that discussions related to the case remain confidential. Scott, when asked Thursday about plans to join the federal lawsuit, said it’s the “right time to hold BP accountable for doing harm to our state.” Attorney General Pam Bondi said state attorneys continue to work with BP “to do the best we can.” She added that the change in the state’s legal approach is “a necessary step to begin to restore Florida’s vital resources and the tremendous damage Florida suffered because of this oil spill. We are a tourism state.” The 17-page complaint doesn’t estimate the extent of damages to Florida. “While the full extent of the Deepwater Horizon spill and the environmental damages may not be known for years, the impacts to date have been widespread and severe, damaging the organisms, habitats and ecosystems in Florida waters and to Florida’s coastline,” the suit states. “The damages include, but are not limited to, damages to Florida’s sandy beaches, salt marshes, wetlands, estuaries, submerged aquatic vegetation, deepwater communities and coral reefs as well as injuries to numerous wildlife species and aquatic species including fish, sea turtles, oysters, birds, and manatees.” Geoff Morrell, BP senior vice president for U.S. communications and external affairs, said in an email that BP is reviewing Florida’s lawsuit and highlighted the actions the company has taken since the Deepwater Horizon accident. “To date, BP has spent more than $26 billion to help restore the Gulf, including more than $14 billion on response and clean-up and more than $12 billion on claims paid to individuals, businesses and government entities,” Morrell said. “To accelerate environmental restoration, BP voluntarily agreed to spend up to $1 billion on early restoration projects and has reached agreement or agreements in principle with the trustees on approximately $698 million in projects.” Florida’s suit also names Anadarko Petroleum Company, Anadarko E&P Company, Transocean Ltd., Transocean Holdings, Transocean Offshore Deepwater Drilling, Transocean Deepwater Inc., and Triton Asset Leasing. The suit is separate from one filed last April by Florida against BP and contractor Halliburton seeking to recoup at least $5.48 billion in lost state revenue because of the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and oil spill. by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida Pictured: Oil washed onto Pensacola Beach following the BP spill. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge. Read More →
Century CI Employees Read Dr. Seuss To Elementary Students
Century Correctional’s Assistant Warden Hutchins and Officer Tony deGraaf read to a kindergarten class at Jay Elementary School as part of Read Across America Day. They read the popular Seuss book The Foot Book, gave each student a special treat and helped with a special assignment. They also expressed the importance of learning to read and of a good education. Read Across America Day, the signature program of the National Education Association, focuses on motivating children and teens to read through events, partnerships and reading resources. It’s held annual on or near Dr. Seuss’ birthday. Pictured: Century Correctional Institution Officer Tony deGraaf and Assistant Warden Hutchins (in tie) read to a kindergarten class at Jay Elementary School. Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge. Read More →
Volunteers, Officials Team Up To Save Rescued Horse
Volunteers, family, friends, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Escambia County Animal Control and the ingenuity of the Cantonment Station of Escambia Fire Rescue came together Wednesday afternoon to help a rescue horse in need in Cantonment. The horse, named Ebony, is being housed by Escambia County at Panhandle Equine Rescue in Cantonment after being seized about a week ago from the 400 block of Crowndale Court. Ebony was severely malnourished when seized, according to PER President Diane Lowery. A second horse seized from the property was put down by a veterinarian due to its state of malnourishment. But volunteers have been working, almost literally around the clock, to save Ebony. Tuesday night, she fell in her stall, requiring numerous volunteers to get her back to her feet. She went down again Wednesday, with volunteers unable to lift her….until the crew of Cantonment’s Fire Rescue Engine 419 put their training and brainpower to work. The firemen designed a sling and used a ladder, chains, straps and a come-along to lift her. Once she was upright, a veterinarian was able to administer IV fluids. “A lot of people have invested a lot of time, labor and emotions into this horse,” Lowery said. “I just oh so want to see her live.” About 11 p.m. Wednesday, Lowery was preparing to begin watch over Ebony to make sure she remained upright and warm during the night. “There’s thunder and it’s raining,” she said. “But I’ve got to go out there and check on her.” Lowery said she had IV fluids, plus a group of volunteers and the Cantonment firemen on standby in case she needed help during the night. “We can’t say that nobody tried for Ebony,” she said. “Everyone has gone above and beyond.” Lowery said the owner of Ebony and the horse that was put down are expected to face felony charges. The case is currently under investigation. Pictured above: Escambia County Animal Control, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Escambia County Fire Rescue’s Cantonment Station and volunteers use a makeshift sling to lift Ebony Wednesday afternoon. Pictured below: Ebony, a malnourished horse seized about a week ago by Escambia County, was unable to get on her feet in her stall Tuesday night. Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge. Read More →
Sacred Heart: Door To Door Children’s Book Sales Are A Scam
Someone may be going door to door selling children’s books saying that proceeds will benefit Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital, but hospital officials say it is a scam. The individuals selling books door-to-door may identify themselves as working for “Experience Sales”, but Sacred Heart said they have no affiliation whatsoever with the group. Anyone solicited with such an offer should call their law enforcement agency. Read More →
Man, 76, Dies After Home Invasion Beating
A family is looking for answers after a 76-year old man was found beaten to death inside his home late Tuesday night on Lakeview Avenue in Pensacola. Family members say Ben Stallworth was beaten in the head and robbed. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office says they found him on his couch with obvious injuries. He was transported by ambulance to a local hospital were he was pronounced deceased. Further details have not yet been released. Anyone with information on the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (850) 433-STOP. Read More →
NJROTC Cadet Braun Receives Prestigious Area Award
Northview High School Cadet LCDR Kasie Braun, NJROTC Company Commander, was selected for the Area Eight ROTC “Joseph C. Gilliam Award”. Braun completed against cadets from 50 ROTC units in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana to win this prestigious award, a first for Northview’s NJROTC unit. Pictured: LCDR Kasie Braun watches cadets during a Pass In Review recently at Northview High School. NorthEscambia.com file photo, click to enlarge. Read More →
Florida House Panel: Not All Marijuana The Same
With just one “no” vote, a Florida House panel signed off on a measure Wednesday that would legalize a strain of non-euphoric marijuana used to treat children wracked by potentially deadly seizures. House Criminal Justice Chairman Matt Gaetz, the sponsor of the bill known as “Charlotte’s Web,” called the bipartisan support historic because it’s the first time in modern history that the Florida Legislature has advanced any marijuana-related measure. “That’s because people here in Tallahassee have realized that we can’t just have a bumper-sticker approach to marijuana where you’re either for it or against it. Not all marijuana is created equally. Here, this strain of marijuana can do a lot of good and has a very low likelihood of abuse,” Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said. Gaetz’s subcommittee approved the proposal (HB 843) after nearly an hour of testimony from parents and other advocates who believe the strain of marijuana called “Charlotte’s Web” can dramatically reduce seizures in children with a rare form of epilepsy. Some Republican leaders, including Gaetz’s father, Senate President Don Gaetz, have galvanized support around the Charlotte’s Web measure as an alternative to a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow doctors to write prescriptions for marijuana. Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, also the boss of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist, is pushing the ballot initiative, which will go before voters in November. Under the proposal approved Wednesday, strains of marijuana that contain .8 percent or less of tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive component in marijuana, and more than 10 percent of the derivative cannabidiol, or CBD, would be legal, along with the seeds of the plant. Supporters of the proposal say the amount of THC in Charlotte’s Web, which is not smoked but is ingested as an oil or paste, is not enough to get users high. The proposal also includes $1 million for research on the substance. Peyton and Holley Moseley’s 10-year-old adopted daughter RayAnn is one of about 125,000 Florida children diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that can cause hundreds of seizures a day and does not respond to other treatments. The couple said they traveled to Colorado, where Charlotte’s Web is manufactured, and met with parents of other children who had responded to the treatment. “These kids can walk now. These kids can talk now. These kids are saying ‘I love you’ to their parents for the first time,” Peyton Moseley told the panel. The Florida Sheriffs Association is also backing the measure, which was amended on Wednesday to put the burden on people who are arrested or investigated to prove that the drugs they are holding meet the THC and CBD levels laid out in the bill. Questioned by his colleagues about enforcement issues, Matt Gaetz said he hoped that state attorneys and other officials would not bring charges against growers and manufacturers or the physicians who distribute the substance to their patients. But lobbyist Louis Rotundo, who represents a newly formed coalition of businesses and land owners interested in Charlotte’s Web, said the bill as passed poses problems for potential growers and suppliers. “Frankly, telling me that it’s at the discretion of my state attorney or my sheriff, good men and women that they may be, leaves me a little queasy. I don’t think that you get a loan from a bank on a situation like that,” Rotundo said. Rep. Gayle Harrell cast the only vote against the measure after asking a series of questions highlighting concerns about a lack of regulation over the substance, especially compared to other drugs. “If you really want to solve a problem and just not legalize marijuana then you need to do it appropriately,” Harrell, R-Stuart, said. But Rep. Dave Hood, R-Daytona Beach Shores, argued the bill is a “no-brainer” and implied that it does not go far enough to help cancer survivors like himself whom studies show can benefit from traditional medical marijuana. “It is absolutely an abomination … for us to continue to have unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious rules that relate to marijuana,” said Hood, a lawyer. The measure has two more committee appearances before heading to the House floor. A Senate companion (SB 1030) has not yet had a committee hearing. by Dara Kim, The News Service of Florida Read More →
Molino Library Reads Across America With Dr. Seuss
The Molino Branch Library recently celebrated Dr. Seuss and Read Across America with stories, characters, popcorn a lots of reading fun. Several participants also took the “Reader’s Oath”, promising to read each day and each night (because it’s the key to “growing up right”). Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge. Read More →