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Health Department To Offer Immunization Clinics For Kids In Century And Molino

Health Department To Offer Immunization Clinics For Kids In Century And Molino

Mark your calendars….the Florida Department of Health Escambia County will hold three walk-in immunization clinics for children ages six weeks to 18 years in Molino and Century. The clinics will be held at the Molino Service Center at 3470 Highway 29 on Thursday, April 23 and Thursday, May 21 from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., and Wednesday, June 17 from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Healthy Start in Century, 501 Church Street. For more information call (850) 595-6500 ext. 1700.  Read More →

April 1, 2015 | Read the story »

Partly Sunny Today

Partly Sunny Today

Here is your official North Escambia area forecast: Wednesday A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms after 1pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 83. West wind around 5 mph. Wednesday Night Patchy fog after 1am. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 58. Southwest wind around 5 mph. Thursday Partly sunny, with a high near 83. South wind 5 to 10 mph. Thursday Night Partly cloudy, with a low around 61. South wind around 5 mph. Friday Mostly sunny, with a high near 84. South wind 5 to 10 mph increasing to 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. Friday Night A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 58. South wind around 10 mph becoming west after midnight. Saturday Partly sunny, with a high near 68. North wind 10 to 15 mph. Saturday Night Partly cloudy, with a low around 46. North wind 5 to 10 mph. Sunday Mostly sunny, with a high near 71. Sunday Night A 20 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 59. Monday A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 80. Monday Night A 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 60. Tuesday A 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Partly sunny, with a high near 84.  Read More →

April 1, 2015 | Read the story »


Texting While Driving Targeted In Florida Senate

A Senate committee Tuesday narrowly approved two bills that would strengthen the state’s ban on texting while driving. The Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee voted 5-3 to approve the bills by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, and  by Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach. Both bills would lead to enforcement of texting while driving as a “primary” offense — meaning police could pull over motorists for texting behind the wheel. Currently, police can only cite motorists for texting while driving if they are pulled over for other reasons. The bills were considered separately because Sachs’ proposal also would double fines for texting while driving in school zones or at designated school crossings. “Texting and driving kills people,” Sachs said. “That’s the bottom line.” The committee, however, voted 5-3 to reject a proposal by Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, that would make it a felony if motorists are texting while driving and cause fatal accidents. Also, the committee approved a proposal  by Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, that would ban the use of cell phones while driving in school zones, at designated school crossings or on school-district property. House versions of the Altman, Sachs and Thompson bills have been filed but have not been heard in committees. by The News Service of Florida  Read More →

April 1, 2015 | Read the story »


Florida House Keeps Guns, Ammo In Proposed Sales Tax Holiday

Guns and ammunition remain in a proposed Independence Day sales-tax holiday on hunting gear that is part of a wide-ranging tax cut package that advanced Tuesday in the House. In supporting the $690 million tax-cut package (PCB FTC 15-05), the House Finance & Tax Committee rejected efforts by Democrats to remove firearms and ammo from a proposed one-day sales tax holiday for July 4. Also, it rejected a separate amendment to remove a tax exemption on admissions and membership fees for gun clubs. The tax package, which is expected to next go to the House Appropriations Committee, awaits a Senate counter offer. “I think we’ve got a great broad-based tax package that’s going to help millions of Floridians, all 20 million of them,” said House Finance & Tax Chairman Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, sought to remove firearms and ammo from the Independence Day tax holiday. He said the proposal sends mixed messages, as law enforcement will be telling people at the same time not to fire guns into the air. “It’s not an exaggeration to say that it really is a bad policy when we have law enforcement expending resources to address a public safety issue and in our tax code he have the exact opposite incentive and we’re encouraging people to purchase ammunition for the holiday,” Rodriguez said. But Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, said the proposal could help increase tourism by promoting hunting and fishing in the state. In addition to rifles, shotguns, spearguns, crossbows, and bows, the July 4 sales-tax event would cover camping tents and fishing gear. “While I understand my Democratic colleagues don’t like firearms and ammunition, the reality is that fish hooks also kill fish,” Artiles told Rodriguez. “But apparently fish are not important to you.” National Rifle Association lobbyist Marion Hammer called the Fourth of July tax holiday “tremendously appropriate.” “On Independence Day honoring our founding fathers, who used firearms and ammunition to purchase our freedom, is not only symbolic, it is a tribute to the patriots who carried firearms and ammunition against our enemies and built our new nation,” Hammer said. The committee, in being asked to consider 15 amendments to the tax plan, agreed to a couple of minor changes, including one that would maintain a tax credit for groups such as Habitat for Humanity and Building Homes for Heroes when those projects are within areas of former enterprise zones. Lawmakers are allowing the reauthorization of enterprise zones to die at the state level, Artiles said. The Senate, which continues to review individual bills offering tax cuts and business incentives, has held off on introducing a tax package as Florida continues to negotiate with the federal government over funding for the Low Income Pool program. The program helps pay for health care for low-income and uninsured patients. Katie Betta, a spokeswoman for the Senate President Andy Gardiner, said in an email Tuesday that no timetable has been set for the Senate’s tax-cut package. The House tax-cut proposal is $17 million larger than a $673 million package requested by Gov. Rick Scott. Both packages are highlighted by a Scott proposal to reduce taxes on cell-phone and pay-TV bills by 3.6 percentage points. The House package also includes such moves as eliminating sales taxes on college textbooks and cutting a tax on commercial-real estate leases from 6 percent to 5.8 percent. The package also would lead to a three-day period starting July 31 when back-to-school shoppers would be able to avoid paying sales taxes on clothes and other school-related items. Also, the House has proposed a small-business tax holiday two days after Thanksgiving. by The News Service of Florida  Read More →

April 1, 2015 | Read the story »


State Colleges No More?

The battle over how far Florida colleges should be allowed to go in offering four-year degrees, once largely the responsibility of state universities, has spawned a new effort to more strictly limit those opportunities. The newest measure is sponsored by Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican who could become Senate president after the 2016 elections and has worked before to limit college offerings that he says overlap with what four-year universities already provide. “One of my goals over the next several years is to make our good universities great,” Negron said. “And you can’t find the funding to do that when you have unnecessary duplication of effort.” Under Negron’s proposal, which was attached to an existing measure on higher education (SB 1252), colleges would have to give notice a year before they expect to start offering new four-year degrees, up from 60 days in the current law. It would cap at 5 percent the share of a college’s enrollment that could be made up of students pursuing baccalaureate degrees. And in a shot to the marketing of the colleges — which used to be called “community colleges” — the institutions would no longer be allowed to use “state” in their names. Sixteen colleges would have their names changed to comply with that rule, in addition to Florida Gateway College being renamed Lake City College. Negron said that part of the proposal would refocus the colleges on their regional missions. Each state college has an area of the state which it is supposed to serve spelled out in state law. “As far as the use of the term ’state,’ it’s a misleading, inaccurate term,” he said. “When you say ‘Florida State College,’ that college does not serve all of Florida, it does not serve all the state.” There has long been tension between colleges, which are overseen by the State Board of Education, and universities, which are managed by the Florida Board of Governors, about whether the Board of Education is too quick to grant four-year degrees to its institutions. Last year, when he chaired the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, Negron threatened to slash $3.5 million from state colleges and give it to universities to try to force a change. Senators also considered taking away the Board of Education’s authority over four-year degrees. Eventually, lawmakers settled on a moratorium on new four-year programs at state colleges. Negron’s new proposal would do away with that moratorium, as would a House bill (HB 7127) approved Tuesday by the House Education Appropriations Subcommittee. However, the House measure doesn’t have Negron’s further language about the colleges and four-year degrees. A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Education said through email that officials there “prefer to not comment on proposed legislation since it may change.” Jim Henningsen, president of the College of Central Florida, speaking to a Senate committee last week on behalf of college presidents, said colleges were focused on the narrow goal of the original authority for them to offer four-year programs. “Our goal in our system is to support exactly as you stated, that regional approach to economic development, workforce training in those areas. … There are some (situations) where universities as well as the colleges work together and find a baccalaureate solution that was needed for that specific region,” he said. But there have been some concerns raised about the enrollment cap, which Negron has conceded might need to be modified. St. Petersburg College, which was one of the earliest schools to offer four-year degrees, now has about 12 percent of its students enrolled in those programs, according to senators. Negron said he would be open to language capping that school’s four-year enrollment at 15 percent, along with other levels for colleges that already have more than 5 percent of their students pursuing those degrees. Institutions with less than 5 percent of their students in those programs might still face the lower cap. Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, said he doesn’t want the proposal to come across as adversarial, highlighting especially the impact of striking “state” from the names of the colleges. “That means that the students are the ones that end up bearing the brunt of this,” he said. But Negron said he doesn’t believe the institutions would lose any prestige under his proposal, which would change the name of the system to the Florida Community College System but would give the schools themselves names without that term, like Daytona College. “To me, let’s agree on the place of the community colleges in our overall educational system,” he said. by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

April 1, 2015 | Read the story »

Northview Beats PCA; Jay Gets Four-Homer Win Over Holmes

Northview Beats PCA; Jay Gets Four-Homer Win Over Holmes

BASEBALL Northview 12, PCA 1 The varsity Northview Chiefs beat Pensacola Christian Academy in Pensacola Tuesday 12-1. The Chiefs will take a week break before their next game on April 7 as they host the Jay Royals in a district game. SOFTBALL Jay 7, Holmes County 5 Destiny Herring and Samantha Steadham each had a home run for the Royals, and Emily Dobson had two including a two-run homer for the win in the seventh. Herring pitched seven for Jay, striking out three. The Royals will travel to Baker on Thursday. Pictured: Northview at Pensacola Christian Tuesday. NorthEscambia.com photos by Ramona Preston, click to enlarge.  Read More →

April 1, 2015 | Read the story »

Governor Appoints Two To PSC Board Of Trustees

Tueday, Governor Rick Scott announced the appointments of Patrick Dawson and Kevin Lacz to the Pensacola State College District Board of Trustees. Dawson, 49, of Milton, is the general manager of G4S Secure Solutions (USA) Inc Pensacola. He is a retired command sergeant major with the United States Army Military Police. Dawson currently serves as a board member for Santa Rosa Kid’s House. He received his bachelor’s degree from Baker College. He succeeds John O’Connor and is appointed for a term beginning March 31, 2015, and ending May 31, 2017. Lacz, 33, of Gulf Breeze, is a physician assistant for Regenesis LLC. He was a platoon sniper, breacher, and combat medic with the United States Navy SEAL Team 3. Lacz received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and his master’s degree from Wake Forest University. He succeeds Stephania Wilson and is appointed for a term beginning March 31, 2015, and ending May 31, 2018. The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.  Read More →

April 1, 2015 | Read the story »

One Day Only – Save 27% On Past Due Traffic Tickets, Court Costs, Fines, Fees

If you have unpaid traffic tickets, court costs, fines, or fees, Pam Childers, the Escambia County Clerk of the Circuit Court & Comptroller, is giving you a break by putting the brakes on collection fees – for one day only. The Clerk’s office is offering convenient Saturday hours and opening to the public for “Operation Green Light” on April 18.  This special program allows anyone with unpaid traffic tickets, or misdemeanor or felony court costs, fines, or fees to make payment in full without paying the 27 percent collections surcharge.  You will also be able to restore your driving privileges which may have been suspended for non-payment once all outstanding traffic tickets, court costs, fines, and fees are paid. There are thousands of people in Escambia County who have unpaid traffic tickets, court costs, fines, and fees.  As a result, many are driving with suspended licenses.  Operation Green Light is a chance for people to pay their traffic tickets, court costs, fines, and fees without paying the 27 percent collections surcharge and restore their driving privileges.  By opening on a Saturday, we’re making it convenient for those who need it. Late fees will not be waived, but anyone paying traffic tickets, court costs, fines, and fees during Operation Green Light won’t have to pay collections surcharges.  That’s a savings of $55.62 on a $206 ticket. Operation Green Light is scheduled from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 18, at the main courthouse at:  M. C. Blanchard Judicial Building, 190 West Government Street, Pensacola. Payments in full will be accepted by cash, personal or cashier’s check, money order, or credit card.  Read More →

March 31, 2015 | Read the story »

Motorcyclist Dead After Falling Off I-110 Bridge

A Navarre man was killed when he flipped his motorcycle off a downtown I-110 bridge near the civic center Monday evening. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 20-year old Timothy Ryan Davey was southbound on I-110 exceeding the posted speed limit. He failed to maintain control of his 2015 Suzuki GSXR as it entered a downhill curve. He struck a sound barrier wall and was ejected off the bridge while his motorcycle continue in an upright position around the curve and into a grassy median at the Gregory Street exit. Davey was pronounced deceased at the scene.  Read More →

March 31, 2015 | Read the story »

Singleton Places At District Level In Veterans Essay Contest

Northview High School sophomore Mitchell Singleton has earned third place at the district level for his essay in the Voice of Democracy competition, sponsored by the Veterans of Foreign Wars and its Ladies Auxiliary. Singleton won first place in the competition at Northview. Judged on originality, delivery, and content, Singleton and the other competitors wrote about “Why Veterans Are Important to Our Nation’s History and Future.” The top three winners at Northview won cash awards, with Singleton’s essay advancing to the district competition. Second place winner at Northview was Alyssa Borelli, and third place was Alyssa Bell. All three of Northview’s top winners are in Vicki Baggett’s Honors English class. The Voice of Democracy is open to students in grades 9 -12, who are enrolled in public, private or parochial high school or home study programs.  Read More →

March 31, 2015 | Read the story »

Northview’s Newsome Signs In Football, Track With Iowa School

Cameron Newsome is set to continue his athletic career as a dual-sport athlete at Waldorf College in Forest City, IA.  Newsome, a senior at Northview High School, has signed a letter of intent play football and compete in track and field for the Warriors. “He’s got a good future because of his athleticism and the skill set he has,” Waldorf football coach Kent Anderson said. At Northview, Newsome was a four-year varsity letter winner in both sports. A four-year starter on the gridiron, the 6-foot-2, 175-pound wide receiver helped the Chiefs win the 2012 Class 1A state championship. Northview won back-to-back district and regional titles in 2011 and 2012. As a senior, Newsome was selected to the Pensacola Sports Association (PSA) All-Star Game. “He’s a talented wide receiver,” Anderson said. “He’s got nice reach, tracks the ball well and does a lot of good things naturally. We’re expecting him to compete.” Newsome also saw time as a defensive back, kick returner and punt returner for the Chiefs, who reached the state playoffs the past four seasons. A track and field standout, Newsome owns Northview school records in both the high jump and triple jump. He qualified for regional competition in the high jump as a junior, setting a new school mark at 6 feet, 4 inches. Joining the Warriors, Newsome has the ability to contend with the best jumpers in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). “Cameron is a very talented athlete that is currently capable of meeting an NAIA national-qualifying mark,” Waldorf track and field coach Kendrick Clay said. Waldorf is currently competing in its inaugural track and field season. The addition of Newsome helps elevate the program. “As we begin our 2015-16 seasons, he will most likely be able to help Waldorf College establish a presence not just at the regional level, but potentially the national level as well,” Clay said. “We are excited to bring aboard any committed athlete that is capable of helping our program progress.” Newsome was also active in basketball at Northview, where he was a three-year letter winner. He guided the Chiefs to the playoffs in his final two seasons and was named to the PSA All-Star Game as a senior. The son of Vivian Morel, Newsome is still weighing his options as he decides on a college major. He’s excited to continue his education and athletic career at Waldorf. “It is truly a blessing,” Newsome said. “It means the world to me and it is something I have worked towards since I was a kid. It is just a dream come true.” Newsome said those who pushed and motivated him along the way have greatly influenced the success he’s enjoyed throughout his career. “I would like to thank all of my coaches for making me into the great player I am today and my mom for staying on me day in and day out to do what I love and to pursue my dreams,” Newsome said. Pictured top: Cameron Newsome ties his Northview school record high jump at 6 feet, 4 inches at a March 11 meet.  Read More →

March 31, 2015 | Read the story »

Spring Break: Free Blue Angel Practice Shows This Week

The Blue Angels will hold two more practices this week at the National Naval Aviation Museum. Practices are set for  10 a.m. on Wednesday and 11:30 a.m. on Thursday. The Blues will sign autographs following the Wednesday practice inside the museum. All events are free. Pictured: The Blue Angels soar over Pensacola Beach Sunday afternoon. Photos by Diann Tagert for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

March 31, 2015 | Read the story »

What Is Your Church Doing For Easter? Share With Our Readers

What is your church doing for Easter? NorthEscambia.com will provide free promotion for churches in North Escambia or North Santa Rosa counties in Florida, or Atmore or Flomaton in Alabama. If your church is having a special Good Friday and/or Easter service, or any other special service or event, let us know! We will share your information with thousands of readers across the area. We will list the services on our Events page free of charge. Please try to keep your announcement for our events page to 100 words or less. Send your announcement to news@northescambia.com or click here for our contact page. We will also be happy to publish photos after your event; email them to news@northescambia.com. Pictured top and below:  A morning “Sonrise Service” at Pensacola’s Maritime Stadium last year. Pictured inset: The sign last Easter at Poplar Dell Baptist Church sums up the Easter story in simple terms. NorthEscambia.com photo, click to enlarge.  Read More →

March 30, 2015 | Read the story »

Education Changes Approved By House

Charter schools would get more construction funding, class-size penalties would be relaxed and school districts would be encouraged to enact dress codes under a series of education bills approved Friday by the Florida House. Most of the school-related bills were passed in lopsided votes, though Democrats united to oppose a measure that could funnel local tax dollars to charter-school construction (HB 7037). While the construction bill would change the standards needed to qualify for the facilities funding and make it easier for some charters to expand, the most controversial provision would allow charter schools to tap into local property taxes used to pay for capital projects at traditional public schools. If the Legislature failed to fully fund charter-school construction under a state formula, local districts would be required to use a portion of a 1.5-mill property tax to make up the difference. That would amount to about $34 million in the budget year that begins July 1, even if lawmakers follow through on a House plan to spend $100 million on charter-school capital projects, according to one estimate. Supporters of the change, which passed in a 75-35 vote, say charters receive less funding per pupil for construction costs than other public schools and that the new law would help ensure that their funding more closely tracks the number of students. “That 1.5 mill puts the public charter-school student and the district school student on somewhat equal footing,” said Chris Moya, a lobbyist for Charter Schools USA, a management company. But in a statement issued after the vote, House Minority Leader Mark Pafford blasted the change. “The Legislature shouldn’t starve public schools while shoveling resources to special interests,” said Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. A bill (HB 665) relaxing penalties for school districts that don’t comply with the state’s class-size limits was approved on a 107-3 vote. Voters added the class-size limit to the Florida Constitution in 2002, but some lawmakers complain that the funds could be better spent elsewhere. The penalties are not established in the constitutional amendment, leaving lawmakers with the ability to ease them. “What we’re trying to do now is make sure that those dollars go back into the classroom,” said Rep. Shevrin Jones, D-West Park. But Pafford said the move was part of longstanding legislative efforts to undermine the class-size amendment. “This is basically death by a thousand cuts in terms of class size,” he said. The House also passed, by a 102-8 margin, a bill (HB 7043) that would make it easier for school districts to approve student dress codes and establish financial bonuses for districts that do so. by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

March 30, 2015 | Read the story »

Travis Smith Named Florida Peanut Producers Young Peanut Farmer Of The Year

Travis Smith from Jay has been named the 2015 Florida Peanut Producers Young Peanut Farmer of the Year. A fifth generation farmer, he started his farming career as a youngster when he could barely see over the steering wheel of his father’s tractor. Several years ago he was a recipient of a scholarship from the Peanut Producers Association.  Today, he still assists his father while farming over 200 acres of his own and managing a small herd of cattle. Travis is married to Brittany Smith and they have three children: Leah, Lexie, and Tate.   Travis is a member of the Florida Peanut Producers Association and is active in the Young Farmers and Ranchers program.  Travis and his family are members of the Century Church of Christ. Photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

March 30, 2015 | Read the story »

Century Residents Can Apply For Windstorm Upgrades To Their Homes

The Town of Century will assist local residents strengthen their homes against hurricanes and other windstorms. The program will provide funding for the installation of hurricane resistant windows and doors, roof upgrades, installation of hurricane straps or clips, anchor walls or columns to the foundation and other upgrades. Applicants must meet HUD low and moderate income limits, based on family size and reside within the Century town limits. To apply, call the Century Town Hall at (850) 256-3208 during the application period which ends at 3 p.m. on Friday, April 10. Funding will be provided by the Florida Division of Emergency Management.  Read More →

March 30, 2015 | Read the story »

Senate Takes Pot Regulation Into Its Own Hands

Facing another legal challenge to the state’s attempt to craft a framework for a medical-marijuana industry, a Senate committee moved forward last week with a measure that would jump-start the process after hearing from dozens of speakers who objected that the proposal does not go far enough. Senate Regulated Industries Chairman Rob Bradley, who was instrumental in passing a law last year that legalized non-euphoric cannabis for patients with cancer or chronic muscle spasms, is pushing a new plan that would expand the types of patients who would be eligible for the treatment. The plan also includes specifics about how the Florida Department of Health would choose nurseries that can grow, process and distribute the substance. Under the current law, health officials were supposed to begin selecting by Jan. 1 five nurseries to operate as vertically-integrated “dispensing organizations.” Those nurseries would have to meet qualifications, such as being in business for at least 30 years and processing a minimum of 400,000 plants. But a judge tossed the department’s first attempt at regulations last year, siding with a handful of nurseries and other businesses that objected, among other things, to the use of a lottery to select the licensees because a lottery wasn’t included in the law. Health officials earlier this month took a second stab at the regulations after a rare and exhaustive “negotiated rule-making” workshop. But a lawyer representing a 4-year-old girl with inoperable brain cancer filed a legal challenge to the revised proposal two weeks ago, creating more delays in getting the law implemented. A judge has set an April 14 hearing in the case. Last year’s law was “a promise to families across Florida that had children suffering from as many as 100 seizures a week that we would give them the relief they were asking for,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said. “A year has passed and unfortunately we have yet to be able to fulfill this promise that we made to those families, even though we wrote a law that said a system would be in place to deliver the substance by Jan. 1. The purpose of this bill is simple. To deliver on the promise we made last year.” The Department of Health “was given an impossible task,” Bradley said he concluded. Bradley’s new proposal, approved by the Regulated Industries Committee in an 11-1 vote, would expand the number of licensees to 20 nurseries and broaden the types of eligible patients to include those with multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, HIV and AIDS and a handful of other ailments. His plan (SB 7066) would also lower a bond required for the applicants from the current $5 million to $1 million, set the initial application fee at $50,000 and the biennial licensure fee at $125,000. But to the consternation of a standing-room only crowd who nearly all complained that Bradley’s proposal won’t help them or their children, his current plan does not increase the levels of euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, now limited to .08 percent, or change the amount of cannabadiol, or CBD, now required to make up at least 10 percent of the product. Moriah Barnhart, whose lawyer filed the challenge to the low-THC pot rule on behalf of her 4-year-old daughter Dahlia, pleaded with the committee to consider expanding the THC levels to benefit children like her daughter, who suffers from inoperable brain cancer and uses a high-THC treatment. Barnhart said she filed the challenge to speed up the process of implementing the law and does not oppose Bradley’s measure but wants more. “We are desperate. We are desperate to get their medicine here in this state and not have to fear being arrested for saving their lives,” Barnhart said. Former medical-marijuana user Dani Hall told the committee she had been addicted to opiates for years after repeated back surgeries until she began to the pot treatment. “Medical marijuana saved my life. Literally,” Hall said. But the current law won’t do anything for her son, who was diagnosed with autism, Hall said. “This bill … is simply not good enough. It’s not going to help my child,” she said. Others complained that expanding the patient base without expanding the THC levels would do nothing to help patients because the benefits of the low-THC treatment are likely restricted to patients who suffer from seizures. Bradley has refused to hear in his committee a measure that would legalize full-fledged medical marijuana and has consistently said he wants last year’s bill to be implemented before expanding THC levels. But, at the end of  testimony on the bill, the chairman left the door open for that possibility after being questioned by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Miami Republican. “I’m not one for ultimatums, and I’m certainly not going to start on this one,” Bradley said. Bradley’s measure would also create more specific guidelines for the University of Florida to conduct research on the efficacy of the low-THC treatment, something in last year’s law. Research is sparse because, under state law, marijuana is classified along with other dangerous drugs like heroin, he said. “There is not enough research in this area. There just isn’t … because this is a Schedule 1 substance in state law, and frankly it shouldn’t be,” Bradley, a former prosecutor, said. “We should acknowledge that. That has kept the research from happening.” by The News Service of Florida  Read More →

March 29, 2015 | Read the story »

Florida Department Of Health Reminds Residents To Test For Radon

The Florida Department of Health is reminding Floridians about the importance of identifying and addressing elevated indoor radon levels in homes and buildings statewide. Radon is a naturally occurring radioactive gas that you cannot see, smell or touch and is found in most soils and earthen construction materials. It is formed by the natural radioactive decay of uranium in rock, soil and water. While outdoor levels produce little risk, higher concentrations found indoors present potential health hazards. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), radon in indoor air is estimated to cause about 21,000 lung cancer deaths each year in the United States. Radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. after smoking and the leading cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. “Exposure to elevated indoor radon levels is dangerous to a person’s health, so it is important to know how to protect yourself from this health hazard,” says Dr. Anna Likos, director, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection. “One in five Florida homes tested for radon has elevated levels, so we encourage you to test for radon and to take corrective actions if needed to keep your family safe and healthy.” Radon levels can be measured with a simple test and elevated levels can be lowered through well-established techniques. To prevent dangerous radon exposure, the department and EPA recommends the following: All residents should test their homes. Schools, day cares and work places should be tested. Test kits are available at many hardware and home improvement stores as well as through online retailers. The department has certified radon measurement professionals who are available to provide radon testing for a fee. Building owners should address elevated radon-related problems immediately—this can be done by a department-certified radon mitigation professional. New buildings should include radon-resistant features, which can be easily and inexpensively installed during initial construction—these features are especially important in areas reporting elevated radon levels. For more information about radon, its health effects and testing procedures, please visit the department’s Radon Program’s website at http://radon.floridahealth.gov or contact the Department’s Radon Hotline at 1-800-543-8279.  Read More →

March 29, 2015 | Read the story »

Lady Aggies Take Second In Kissimmee Klassic

The Tate High School Lady Aggies took second place in the Kissimmee Klassic Saturday after a 5-2 loss in the championship game against 8A Hagerty. The Aggies’ Tori Perkins was named defensive player of the tournament. The Lady Aggies moved into the championship game after an earlier victory Saturday 4-0 over St. Cloud.  Read More →

March 29, 2015 | Read the story »

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: Nearing The Halfway Mark

The House and Senate committees charged with crafting budget plans have finished their first drafts. Differences between the two chambers on some of the major policy issues are starting to emerge. And Capitol insiders are beginning to speculate that a special session could be in the cards. In others words, all the usual signs that the midpoint of the session is at hand are on display in Tallahassee. And as usual, there are almost as many questions as answers. Will the budget include money to defray the medical costs of low-income Floridians, either through a form of Medicaid expansion or something else? Just how far will lawmakers really go in reining in the testing and accountability system that has been the hallmark of the state’s education reform efforts for 15 years? And is this the year that advocates of a gambling deal hit the jackpot, or will they once again go bust? The past week helped set up some of the battles. The next month will be about resolving them. Unless, of course, the chattering classes finally have it right and lawmakers will need a few extra weeks to hammer out their differences. WHAT’S A FEW BILLION AMONG FRIENDS? There’s always a gap of some sort between the House and Senate budgets. Usually, one of the chambers floats the idea of removing a program from the state ledger, or adding something to the spending plan, or cutting this tax or that expense. This year, though, the difference is a bit larger than usual. With the Senate Appropriations Committee passing an $80.4 billion for the budget year that begins July 1 and the House Appropriations Committee checking in with a $76.2 billion outline, the gap between the two is more than $4 billion. That means legislative leaders will likely have to reach some sort of agreement before negotiations about the budget details can begin. And the biggest source of friction comes in health care. The Senate would include $2.8 billion for a plan to use Medicaid expansion money from the federal Affordable Health Care Act, better known as Obamacare, to help lower-income Floridians purchase private insurance. The upper chamber also would use nearly $2.2 billion from a potential extension of the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program, which funnels additional money to hospitals and other health providers that serve large numbers of poor and uninsured patients. That program is set to expire June 30 unless the state can reach an agreement with the federal government. In the case of expanding health coverage with Medicaid money, the Senate has tried before to get the House to go along with a similar plan, only to get soundly rejected. And the House is also hesitant to put LIP money in the budget, given that the LIP program is scheduled to not exist when the budget takes effect. But something’s got to give, Senate leaders say. “Whether or not the House wants to embrace either of those two proposals remains to be seen, but we’re going to have to have some solution,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon. As reluctant as they are to talk about Medicaid expansion and LIP funding, though, House leaders are eager to discuss taxes. The chamber rolled out a $690 million package of tax relief that slashes levies or offers holidays for a range of items, including cell phone bills, pay TV, gun-club memberships, college textbooks and book fair purchases. “The average Floridian pays about $1,800 bucks a year in state taxes. That is the lowest in the country, but we can do even better and we will,” said House Finance & Tax Chairman Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. But Lee said tax-cut measures may not advance for a couple of weeks due to the talks with the federal government. “And we’re not going to get into conference (negotiations with the House) unless we get some remedy, in all likelihood anyway, on the health-care funding problems that we have,” Lee said. INHERITED VICE The sins — or at least the sinful ideas — of past legislative sessions are coming back to pester lawmakers in 2015. One of the thorniest issues is gambling. On one hand, the House is vetting a soup-to-nuts gaming measure that might end up going nowhere fast; on the other, the Senate is pursuing negotiations with the Seminole Tribe of Florida focused on the state’s existing deal with the tribe. House Regulatory Affairs Chairman Jose Felix Diaz’s comments at the introduction of a four-hour workshop Thursday on gambling might have foreshadowed the future of a sweeping proposal released by House Majority Leader Dana Young the day before the legislative session began earlier this month. “Welcome to the most anticipated non-event of the year,” Diaz, R-Miami, quipped to a packed meeting room. Young’s plan (HB 1233) would allow a maximum of two Las Vegas-style casinos to open in Miami-Dade or Broward counties and would effectively do away with a 20-year revenue-sharing agreement, called a compact, with the tribe. A portion of the deal with the Seminoles giving the tribe exclusive rights to operate banked card games such as blackjack is set to expire on July 31 unless the Legislature reauthorizes it or signs a new agreement. Meanwhile, Senate Regulated Industries Rob Bradley told The News Service of Florida that his talks with the Seminoles have intensified over the past week. “We are negotiating right now with the Seminole Tribe. Those are ongoing negotiations. Whether they will be fruitful or not remains to be seen,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said. Under the current agreement, the Seminoles agreed to pay the state a minimum of $1 billion over five years in exchange for exclusive rights to banked card games at five of its seven facilities throughout the state. The tribe’s payments to the state have thus far exceeded the minimum and are expected to increase under a complicated revenue-sharing formula inked in 2010. Meanwhile, Bradley’s committee has also tackled a state law that allows a limited form of medical marijuana. Facing another legal challenge to the state’s attempt to craft a framework for the pharmacological pot industry, the committee moved forward with a measure that would jump-start the process. Bradley, who was instrumental in passing a law last year that legalized non-euphoric cannabis for patients with cancer or chronic muscle spasms, is pushing a new plan that would expand the types of patients who would be eligible for the treatment. The plan also includes specifics about how the Florida Department of Health would choose nurseries that can grow, process and distribute the substance. The Department of Health has tried twice to craft rules for the industry. But a lawyer representing a 4-year-old girl with inoperable brain cancer filed a legal challenge to the revised proposal two weeks ago, creating more delays in getting the law implemented. A judge has set an April 14 hearing in the case. Also, two other challenges were filed this week. Last year’s law was “a promise to families across Florida that had children suffering from as many as 100 seizures a week that we would give them the relief they were asking for,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said. “A year has passed and unfortunately we have yet to be able to fulfill this promise that we made to those families, even though we wrote a law that said a system would be in place to deliver the substance by Jan. 1. The purpose of this bill is simple. To deliver on the promise we made last year.” TEST OF WILLS Lawmakers are also considering, as usual, an array of measures dealing with education. Perhaps the highest-profile legislation related to schools is a plan to roll back the number of standardized tests that public-school students take each year, and the Senate Appropriations Committee took perhaps the biggest step in that direction yet. Under the newest version of a Senate measure (SB 616), Florida third-graders would not have to pass the Florida Standards Assessment to be promoted to fourth grade this year until the tests for that grade and others are found to be valid by an independent examination. In exchange, the proposal would require school districts to identify students who scored in the bottom 20 percent on the test and come up with strategies to help those students. “You can promote them, if you want to promote them, but you need to demonstrate why you’re promoting them,” said Senate Education PreK-12 Committee Chairman John Legg, a Lutz Republican sponsoring the overall bill. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, didn’t seem eager to join. “Social promotions, to us in the House, are not something that we’re interested in,” he said. The House, having already passed its version of the testing bill, moved on this week to other education measures. It approved a proposal that could funnel local tax dollars to charter-school construction (HB 7037), a bill (HB 665) relaxing penalties for school districts that don’t comply with the state’s class-size limits and a measure (HB 7043) that would make it easier for school districts to approve student dress codes and establish financial bonuses for districts that do so. STORY OF THE WEEK: The House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved the chambers’ respective budget proposals for the fiscal year that begins July 1. QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I would say to our friends in the House, who have their own views about this matter — views that I respect — that ‘no’ is not a health-care policy. ‘No’ is not a solution for 800,000 people.”—Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, on the House’s reluctance to take up a Senate plan to help low-income Floridians purchase health insurance. by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

March 29, 2015 | Read the story »

Navy Helicopter Mishap Off Nine Mile Road

A Navy helicopter suffered a “mishap” at a practice field on Nine Mile Road just before 7 p.m. Friday. There were no serious injuries reported. A Training Air Wing FIVE helicopter had a training mishap at around 6:45 p.m. Friday, according to a press release, at Naval Air Station Whiting Field’s Navy Outlying Landing Field Site 8. Initial reports from the scene indicate that the helicopter rolled on its right side while landing and the two officers, one instructor pilot and one student, exited the helicopter on their own accord. The pilots were evaluated by NAS Whiting Field EMS personnel  and were transported to a local hospital for a routine evaluation. A witness described the crash an extremely hard landing, after which the helicopter rolled over on its side. Damage to the aircraft was described as “heavy”. The field is located on Nine Mile Road near Bell Ridge Drive, just west of the Navy Federal complex.  Military helicopters frequently use the field to practice landings. Multiple Escambia Fire Rescue stations, Navy Fire, Escambia County EMS and a Navy crash response crew responded to the site. Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.  Read More →

March 28, 2015 | Read the story »

Tate Hosts District Special Olympics (With Photo Gallery)

The 19th Annual Escambia County School District’s Special Olympics Spring Games were held Friday at Tate High School with over 500 student athletes. Over 600 Tate student volunteers assisted as “buddies” and event workers. The event began with Special Olympic athletes running with the Special Olympics Torch around the track.  There will was also an Olympic Village with plenty of fun and games, and even a petting zoo, for the athletes to enjoy after they completed their track and field events. Athletes received the traditional gold, silver and bronze medals for top finishes, plus a participation medal for all athletes. For more photos, click here. NorthEscambia.com photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

March 28, 2015 | Read the story »

Weekend Gardening: Hit A Home Run With Knock Out Roses

by UF/IFAS Extension Landscape shrub roses will not make you great cut flowers, but they will give your landscape an abundance of rose flowers for the majority of the year. They practically bloom non-stop during the growing season, from March to November in Northwest Florida. Also, they are much less prone to blackspot disease than the traditional hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses. The Knock Out family of roses was started by rose breeder Bill Radler when he crossed seedlings of ‘Carefree Beauty’ with ‘Razzle Dazzle’ to create the original Knock Out rose. The family now includes varieties that range from blush to vibrant red and even yellow. In general, Knock Out roses are drought tolerant, self cleaning, and resistant to black spot and powdery mildew. Since they require little maintenance, they are ideal for gardeners who enjoy roses but who aren’t interested in the upkeep required to grow hybrid tea roses. The only drawback of Knock Out roses is that they don’t have a strong fragrance. According to the Conrad Pyle website, the only true fragrant Knock Out is the yellow ‘Sunny’ cultivar. Like all roses, Knock Out roses need to be planted where they will receive at least six to eight hours of sun each day. It also helps to have a site with good air movement and well-drained soil that falls between pH 6.0 and pH 6.5. Knock Out roses generally grow three to five feet tall and equally as wide, but some sources say they can reach eight feet tall if not pruned, so be sure to space them appropriately. After planting, water them regularly until they get established. Apply a three-inch layer of mulch to help retain moisture in the soil, pulling the mulch back from the stem of the plants. Be sure to avoid overhead watering which can increase the chance of fungal leaf spots. They prefer a deep watering every once in a while rather than frequent light waterings. Knock Out roses are referred to as self-cleaning meaning that the spent blooms will fall off on their own. They will re-bloom every five to six weeks regardless of your deadheading practices. Deadheading is the removal of faded blooms. Most gardeners have found, however, that occasionally deadheading will create and maintain a tidier, more attractive plant. For more information on rose pests and diseases, refer to the University of Florida/IFAS online publication at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ep371 or contact your local Extension Office.  Read More →

March 28, 2015 | Read the story »

Santa Rosa Death Investigated As Homicide

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a death has a homicide. Stephen Richmond Rice, Jr., 43, was found deceased in his Persimmon Hollow Road home after deputies responded for a welfare check.  Deputies said it was evident that Rice had been dead in the home for an undetermined period of time. The Sheriff’s said foul play is suspected. The cause of death is not yet known as investigators await the outcome of an autopsy by the Medical Examiner’s Office. Anyone with information related to this case is urged to contact the Santa Rosa County Crime Stoppers at (850) 437-STOP.  Read More →

March 28, 2015 | Read the story »

Area Unemployment Rate Falls

The latest job numbers released Friday show the unemployment level decreasing in the  North Escambia area. Escambia County’s unemployment rate decreased from 6.1 percent in January to 5.9 percent in December.  There were 8,125 people reported unemployed  during the period. One year ago, unemployment in Escambia County was 6.8 percent. Santa Rosa County unemployment decreased,  from 5.1  to 4.8 percent from January to February. Santa Rosa County had a total of  3,530 persons still unemployed. The year-ago unemployment rate in Santa Rosa County was 5.3 percent. In Escambia County, Alabama, unemployment decreased  from 7.6 percent in January to 7.0 percent in February. That represented 974 people unemployed in the county during the month. One year ago, the unemployment rate in Escambia County, Alabama, was 9.4 percent. Florida’s unemployment rate dipped slightly from January to February, with Gov. Rick Scott continuing his focus on private-sector job creation. The state’s jobless rate for February stood at 5.6 percent, down from 5.7 percent a month earlier, the state Department of Economic Opportunity announced Friday. Out of a workforce of 9.7 million, the monthly mark represented an estimated 548,000 jobless Floridians, a decrease of 6,000 from January, according to the state agency. The largest month-to-month gains were found in the fields of education, health care, food and drink services, administrative and support services, and state and local government. Increases were also recorded in construction, real estate, and transportation. Alabama’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, at 5.8 percent in February, was down from January’s rate of 6.0 percent and was below the year-ago rate of 7.2 percent The jobless numbers released by Florida and Alabama do not include persons that have given up on finding a job and are no longer reported as unemployed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.  Read More →

March 28, 2015 | Read the story »

Northview Tops Central; NHS Over Neal; Tate Beats Monroe; Tate Over Pines

Northview 13, Central 6 Northview 6, W.S. Neal 1 (JV) The Northview Chiefs beat Central Friday night  13-6. Thomas Moore had a home run for the Chiefs, along with three RBI’s as he went 2-5 at the plate for the Chiefs.Quentin Sampson was 2-5 with a RBI; Brian Cantrell 2-5; Brett Weeks 2-5 with a RBI; Roman Manning was 2-4 with two RBIs; and Aaron McDonals was 1-5 with a RBI. McDonald pitched the win for the Chiefs allowing five hits and five runs, two errors and three strike outs. The varsity Chiefs will travel to PCA on March 31; the JV will travel to Tate on April 2. Tate 7, Monroe 0 Trace Penton pitched the win as the Tate Aggies beat Monroe 7-0. Sawyer Smith was 2-2 with a run and RBI; Mark Miller was 2-4; Stephen Harris was 1-2 with two runs; Hunter Worley was 1-3 with a run and double; and Josh Kea was 1-1 wih two runs, two RBIs and two SB. Kississimee Klassic Tate 2, Pembroke Pines 1 Pictured: Northview versus Central. NorthEscambia.com photos by Ramona Preston, click to enlarge.  Read More →

March 28, 2015 | Read the story »

Deputies Name Suspect In Century Double Shooting

Two people are recovering after being shot Thursday night in Century, and the Escambia Sheriff’s Office is asking the public’s help in locating  a suspect Deputies are searching for 28-year old Brian Keith Sanders (pictured, but deputies said his head is now shaved). He is wanted on charges of aggravated battery, deadly missiles, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and criminal mischief. Deputies said he should be considered armed and dangerous and not approached. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office received a call from the Jay Hospital emergency room Thursday night alerting them that two gunshot victims had arrived in a private vehicle seeking treatment. The gunshot victims advised that they were shot on Jefferson Avenue in Century. Both victims were shot in the shoulder or upper-arm area, and they were treated and released . They were apparently shot while in a vehicle that was discovered on Mayes Street at Jefferson Avenue. It appeared that the driver’s window of the Chevrolet Impala had been shot out. Anyone that knows the whereabouts of Sanders is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at (850) 436-9620 or CrimeStoppers at (850) 433-STOP. Further details were not released. NorthEscambia.com exclusive photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

March 27, 2015 | Read the story »

‘Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day’ Planned For Saturday

Saturday is “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in the city of Atmore, and organizers are encouraging Vietnam veterans from across the area and the public to attend a special ceremony. The event will be held this Saturday, March 28 at 4 p.m. at Heritage Park at the corner of Main and West Craig streets in Atmore. It is hosted by the Ladies Auxiliary of VFW Post 7016. Vietnam veterans from the entire area, both from Alabama and Florida, are encouraged to attend. For more information, call (251) 294-2356, (251) 363-0000, or (251) 359-1768. Pictured: The 2014 “Welcome Home Vietnam Veterans Day” in Atmore. NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.  Read More →

March 27, 2015 | Read the story »

Tate Student Struck And Killed By Train In Cantonment

A Tate High School student was struck and killed by a train Thursday afternoon in Cantonment. She has been identified as 15-year old Katelyn White. The accident happened about 4:15 p.m. on the CSX tracks north of 10 Mile Road, roughly between Tara Dawn Circle and the end of Gateway Lane. White was pronounced deceased at the scene. The Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said the incident was a “tragic accident”. NorthEscambia.com photo by Kristi Price, click to enlarge.  Read More →

March 27, 2015 | Read the story »

Jay Lindsey Named Tate Interim Head Football Coach

Jay Lindsey has been named the interim football coach at Tate High School. He will hold the position through the spring as Tate follows school district policies in advertising the job, according to Tate Principal Rick Shackle. Lindsey was offensive coordinator  for the Aggies last season. He has nine years coaching experience, including his time at Tate and years at Pace High school. Lindsey’s appointment follows the resignation of Ronnie Douglas, who stepped down to spend more time on his car wash business ventures.  Read More →

March 27, 2015 | Read the story »

Florida House, Senate Differ On Gambling Tracks

House and Senate leaders are taking divergent approaches to the perennially thorny issue of gambling, with the House vetting a soup-to-nuts gaming measure Thursday even as the Senate pursues negotiations with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. House Regulatory Affairs Chairman Jose Felix Diaz’s comments at the introduction of a four-hour workshop on gambling might have foreshadowed the future of a sweeping proposal released by House Majority Leader Dana Young the day before the legislative session began earlier this month. “Welcome to the most anticipated non-event of the year,” Diaz, R-Miami, quipped to a packed meeting room. Young’s plan (HB 1233) would allow a maximum of two Las Vegas-style casinos to open in Miami-Dade or Broward counties and would effectively do away with a 20-year revenue-sharing agreement, called a compact, with the tribe. A portion of the deal with the Seminoles giving the tribe exclusive rights to operate banked card games such as blackjack is set to expire on July 31 unless the Legislature reauthorizes it or signs a new agreement. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Young — who previously characterized a gambling deal as “an enormous, gargantuan lift” — conceded it is uncertain whether the measure would come up for a vote at all. “I don’t know yet,” Young, R-Tampa, said. Meanwhile, Senate Regulated Industries Rob Bradley told The News Service of Florida that his talks with the Seminoles have intensified over the past week. “We are negotiating right now with the Seminole Tribe. Those are ongoing negotiations. Whether they will be fruitful or not remains to be seen,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said. The Senate is watching the progress of Young’s bill but has no plans to offer a similar package, according to Republican leaders in the Senate. “The House has taken a very comprehensive approach. We understand that that’s the position of House leadership. If they are able to pass that bill in some form out of the House, then we will workshop it and take a very serious look at it. Meanwhile, we’re pursuing negotiations with the tribe,” Bradley said. Echoing Young’s comments earlier this session, Senate GOP leaders this week indicated that passage of the House proposal in its current form would be a difficult task as the 60-day session nears the midway point. “Trying to put a gaming bill up in committee was like throwing a side of beef into a shark tank,” Senate budget chief Tom Lee, a former Senate president who spent a decade in the Legislature before returning to the upper chamber in 2012, said of his experience with similar measures. “So good luck in the last three weeks of session trying to bring something in for a landing.” Senate President Andy Gardiner was equally cryptic. “Given the size of the gaming expansion that the House put out there, and it being the majority leader and everything…we sort of paused,” Gardiner, R-Orlando, told reporters on Tuesday. “If they really are going to push for extensive expansion, then the Senate will have to figure out what to do. Never say never.” The future of the deal with the Seminole Tribe is a major looming question. Under the current agreement, the Seminoles agreed to pay the state a minimum of $1 billion over five years in exchange for exclusive rights to banked card games at five of its seven facilities throughout the state. The tribe’s payments to the state have thus far exceeded the minimum and are expected to increase under a complicated revenue-sharing formula inked in 2010. The agreement requires the Seminoles to share with the state 12 percent to 25 percent of what is known as the “net win” on their earnings — essentially the difference between how much money they take in and how much they pay out to gamblers. The tribe shares a higher percentage of the net win if it increases, from a minimum of 12 percent on a net win of up to $2 billion to a maximum of 25 percent on a net win of $4.5 billion. But Amy Baker, the Legislature’s chief economist, told the House panel on Thursday that analysts do not predict the state during the remaining life of the 20-year compact to ever receive more than the current share, which is a 15 percent share on revenues up to $3 billion. Baker offered lawmakers a swath of options for a new deal with the tribe, including changing what is included in the net win; imposing new minimum payments for activities such as expansion of facilities; greater exclusivity for the tribe by allowing it to offer games such as roulette or craps; and changing the revenue-sharing formula by increasing minimum dollar thresholds. “All of these would take renegotiating the compact. None of these could be done in a simple extension,” Baker noted. Baker also said that lowering the tax rate on slots at pari-mutuel “racinos” in Miami-Dade and Broward counties — now set at 35 percent, and reduced to 25 percent in Young’s bill — would generate a recurring loss for the state. The talks between the Senate and the Seminoles could allow Miami-Dade and Broward pari-mutuels, which have slots, to add blackjack, increase the tribe’s revenue-sharing amounts and give the Seminoles exclusive rights to roulette and craps, sources close to the negotiations said. The cash from the Seminoles could be even more alluring in what was initially considered to be a rosy economic year but has since been overshadowed by uncertainty about health care funding. Florida could lose up to $822 million over the next five years by not renewing the card deal, according to state economists’ projections. Lawmakers have not included card-deal funds in their budget proposals this year. But that issue did not arise during the four-hour House workshop on Thursday, where the panel received a briefing on gaming law and heard from more than 30 speakers representing in- and out-of-state gambling operators, horse breeders, Las Vegas casinos, business groups, greyhound protection and industry advocates and anti-gambling Christian conservatives. The Seminoles, whose lobbyists were present at the meeting, were not among those who addressed the panel Thursday. The tribe has taken to the airwaves in three television ads to pitch a renewal of the card portion of the compact, emphasizing that the Seminoles have exceeded their $1 billion commitment in the past five years. “Leaders of the Seminole Tribe closely followed today’s workshop and felt the state did a fine job of sharing the value of the compact, which is not the subject of the three bills filed by Rep. Young. The Tribe is focused on the important task at hand, which is to work out a way to keep the table games provision of the compact from expiring in July,” Gary Bitner, the Seminoles’ spokesman, said in a statement. by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida  Read More →

March 27, 2015 | Read the story »