Friends Of The Library Book Sale Continues

April 24, 2015

The annual Friends of West Florida Public Library Spring Book Sale and Silent Auction will be held today and Sunday at the downtown library. Thousands of hardcover, paperback, and collectible books will be available for purchase, plus a variety of DVDs, CDs, puzzles, and other items. Proceeds are used to fund programs and enhancements at all WFPL branches.

On Saturday, the book sale will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with free admission and reduced prices for all shoppers.

Sunday is the final day of the book sale with free admission from noon until 3 p.m. Sunday is the popular “Bag Sale”, where shoppers can pay one price and take home as many items as will fit in their bag.
Book sale items include thousands of generous donations from the public and some library books retired from circulation, many of them now out-of-print. Novels and mysteries are sorted by author or into genres like science fiction and westerns. Other book categories include arts and entertainment, children’s, cookbooks, history, holidays, home and hobbies, literature, foreign language, military, modern living, nature and gardening, religion, science, sports, technical, and travel. Most prices range from $0.50 for paperbacks to $2 for hardcover. There are also recorded books, magazines, and other media for sale.

The Collector’s Corner will feature an assortment of signed books, pre-1950s books, books by local and Florida authors, and other special books that are great for gifts. These items are priced as marked and must be checked out separately, so shoppers paying by check should bring two of them.

Payment by cash or check is preferred. Credit cards are accepted for sales of $20 or more. All profits are used to support the West Florida Public Library branches and programs. The Main Library and the book sale are located at 239 North Spring Street.

NorthEscambia.com file photo.

Santa Rosa Drops Plans To Rezone Nine Schools

April 24, 2015

After a public outcry against the idea, the Santa Rosa County School Board voted late Thursday night to kill a plan that would have rezoned nine schools. The measure failed on a 3-2 vote after numerous residents, mostly from the Ashley Plantation subdivision, spoke out against the plan.

The rezoning proposal would have changed the attendance boundaries for Avalon Middle, Bennett Russell Elementary, Chumuckla Elementary, Central School, Dixon Primary and Intermediate, Pace High, Pea Ridge Elementary and Sims Middle.

Northview Chiefs Win District 1A Championship (With Photo Gallery)

April 24, 2015

The Northview Chiefs captured their first District 1A  title as they destroyed Chipley 11-1 Thursday night in Bonifay.

Brett Weeks pitched six innings for the Chiefs, allowing just one run and striking out seven. Hitting for Northview were: Chasen Freeman 3-4, 2 runs, double; Thomas Moore 2-4, 5 RBIs, 2 doubles; Roman Manning 2-4, run, RBI, double; Bryan Cantrell 1-3, run, 2 SBs;  Brodie Amos 1-1, run; Aaron McDonald 1-4.

Northview will next host the winner of Friday’s Bozeman vs. Liberty County game.

The Chiefs won a 2A district title in 2004.

For a photo gallery, click here.

Photos by Ramona Preston for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Bratt First Graders Present ‘How Does Your Garden Grow’ (With Gallery)

April 24, 2015

First grade students at Bratt Elementary School presented the program “How Does Your Garden Grow” Thursday morning for the student body and an encore performance Thursday night for parents  and friends. Submitted photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.




Pot Challenge Rolls Ahead

April 24, 2015

The fight over the state’s attempt to get a non-euphoric pot industry off the ground continued Thursday during a day-long hearing in a challenge filed by a Florida nurseryman who complains that health officials’ proposed regulations are unfair and vague.

The hearing over the rule challenge, filed by Baywood Nurseries of Apopka, comes as legislators said this week they have abandoned an effort to revamp Florida’s first-in-the-nation law, passed last year, legalizing cannabis that purportedly does not get users high. The cannabis is low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, and high in cannabadiol, or CBD.

Administrative Law Judge W. David Watkins kept open the possibility of dismissing the challenge prior to hearing more than five hours of testimony from nursery owner Raymond Hogshead, his partner, Heather Zabinofsky, and others. The challenge is filed against the state Department of Health, which is in charge of carrying out the law.

Watkins is the same judge who tossed out the Department of Health’s first attempt at a rule last year. That prompted the agency’s Office of Compassionate Use to hold a rare “negotiated rulemaking” workshop earlier this year in which a 12-member panel, handpicked by the office’s executive director Patricia Nelson, spent 27 hours over two days hashing out the proposed regulations.

Watkins earlier dismissed a challenge to the new rule filed by Zabinofsky, sole proprietor of Sanford-based Master Growers, P.A. The decision came because she is not a nursery that meets criteria to compete for selection as one of five “dispensing organization” that will grow, process and distribute the medical marijuana ordered by doctors for patients with severe muscle spasms or cancer.

But the testimony of Zabinofsky, who claims she is an expert in growing marijuana and has appeared at several rule-making workshops held by health officials since Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law last year, was the highlight of the dry administrative hearing.

Eduardo Lombard — a private lawyer who, along with his partner William Robert Vezina, is representing the Department of Health — shredded Zabinofsky for admitting to growing cannabis, a Schedule 1 drug that is illegal under state and federal law. The department is paying $400 an hour, up to $150,000, for the legal representation.

Although Zabinofsky admitted in her deposition that she grows marijuana, she hedged when grilled by Lombard on Thursday about growing the illegal substance in Florida.

“I assist medical marijuana patients with their marijuana needs,” she repeatedly told Lombard.

Charles Moure, a Seattle lawyer representing Hogshead, argued that the members of the negotiated rulemaking committee — which included representatives of large nurseries, marijuana growers from other states and Holley Moseley, the mother of a child with epilepsy who was the figurehead of the push for the low-THC law — were selected because of extensive “lobbying” on their behalf.

But Lombard disputed that, saying that the negotiated rulemaking process — which makes it more difficult to challenge regulations —”was a thoughtful, rational, deliberate process” that resulted in “rules that make sense.”

He conceded that the nurseries who participated in the process had an interest in the rule.

“That is the point of negotiated rulemaking. You’re supposed to bring people who have different perspectives … and get them in a room and hash it out,” Lombard said.

Under the law, nurseries that have been in business for at least 30 years in Florida and grow a minimum of 400,000 plants are eligible for the licenses. About 100 nurseries meet the criteria, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture.

Moure complained about how the rule deals with a $5 million bond required in the law.

“We contend that it creates a situation that not the entire 98 applicants but maybe less than 10 percent of them, 20 percent of them, can truly apply,” Moure said.

Part of the scoring mechanism used to select the five dispensing organizations is also tilted toward large nurseries, Moure said.

The health department’s lawyers spent much of the day trying to lay the groundwork for Watkins to dismiss the suit by painting Hogshead’s nursery as lacking the financial wherewithal to get a license. Under the proposed rule, dispensing organizations would have to prove that they would be able to stay in business for at least two years and be able to cover not only the bond but what could be expensive start-up costs.

Lombard challenged Hogshead, who said in a deposition last week that he would not be able to afford the “certified financials” required as part of the application. But on Wednesday, Baywood Nurseries filed a letter from Hogshead’s accountant saying the grower would be able to provide the audited financial statements, but that they would be expensive.

“Based on what I know right now, it will be difficult, expensive, but I think I can do it,” Hogshead said.

Baywood Nurseries, which specializes in gardenias, saw net sales drop 30 percent, from $650,000 in 2009 to $440,000 in 2013, Vezina noted. But Hogshead said that about half of the state’s nurseries went under during the recession, and that he believes he will have the backing to participate in the pot business.

“I will have a financial partner at that point that will show that we’re good to go,” he said.

Vezina also pressed Hogshead on whether he was concerned that Zabinofsky, the vice president of his nursery, is currently growing marijuana illegally.

“Yes, I have a little concern of that,” Hogshead said.

by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida

Florida House Sends Budget Offer To Senate

April 24, 2015

The state House sent an initial budget offer to the Senate on Thursday, an apparent effort to jump-start moribund efforts to reach an agreement on a spending plan for the year that begins July 1.

It wasn’t clear if the proposal was enough to get lawmakers talking about their budget differences, which have now ensured that lawmakers will fail to reach a deal on their one constitutionally required duty by the May 1 end of the annual legislative session. But the offer marked an unexpected step forward in what had been shaping up to be a protracted battle over health-care funding in the differing plans.

The House offer would use $200 million in state money, and draw down another $300 million in federal funding, to offset potential losses to hospitals from a pending federal decision on the Low Income Pool, or LIP, program.

State officials have been negotiating with the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services over funding for LIP, which is largely used to cover the expenses of uninsured, low-income Floridians who show up at hospitals needing treatment. That program is set to expire June 30.

Senate leaders have been pushing for a plan that would bring in $2.2 billion for LIP and use $2.8 billion in Medicaid expansion funds to help low-income residents purchase private health insurance. But the House and Gov. Rick Scott are fiercely opposed to using the expansion dollars, which come from the federal Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, conceded that the idea proposed Thursday would not fully cover the loss of the LIP program if it were to expire.

“I don’t think that necessarily hospitals should be held harmless on the whole thing from the standpoint of what the feds have typically given them,” he said. “But if we can find ways to kind up shore them up a little bit, that would certainly be a conversation-starter — at least we feel it is.”

The House sent the offer over about 1:30 p.m., Crisafulli said, when both chambers were in session. Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, did not mention the offer when speaking to reporters after the Senate adjourned. A spokeswoman said Gardiner and his staff were still reviewing the proposal Thursday evening.

“As we move to the final week of session, the president and speaker have made great progress towards completing their joint agenda,” Gardiner spokeswoman Katie Betta said by email. “Many of the outstanding items are related to the budget, so the president appreciates the offer Speaker Crisafulli made this afternoon and is looking forward to working together as we head towards the finish line.”

Betta also pointed to statements by Gardiner earlier this week, when he indicated the Senate would look to spend $600 million, and draw down additional federal matching funds, if LIP were to expire completely. Gardiner also said that neither LIP nor the expansion proposal individually could “address the health care challenges facing our state.”

The House would finance its proposal by dipping into other priorities. It would reduce public education funding by $90.3 million from the initial House budget, though that would still mark an increase overall. The House would also shave $78.5 million off a tax-cut proposal and take $50 million out of reserves, as well as making an array of smaller tweaks to make the whole plan balance.

Lawmakers would still have significant issues to iron out if they can get past their differences on health care. The House’s overall budget plan weighs in at $76.2 billion, compared to $80.4 billion for the Senate.

Democrats were skeptical about the House proposal.

“My feeling is if we’re offering plans last minute … I cannot imagine there’s any well thought-out or intended goal at this late hour, doing that type of last-minute submission to the Senate,” said House Minority Leader Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach.

Still, if the offer prompts more negotiations, it would mark the first concrete movement on the budget in weeks. But even with the chasm separating the two sides, leaders on both sides have worked to provide at least the appearance that discussions are cordial.

“My view is that people have been very, very respectful on balance,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon. “And to have gotten this far in the process with as little acrimony as we have had play out in the media is really an extraordinary accomplishment.”

J.M. “Mac” Stipanovich, a Republican consultant and lobbyist, said Crisafulli and Gardiner were dealing with a fraught issue while avoiding the almost open warfare that sometimes accompanied even smaller disagreements between the chambers.

“If you look at the rhetoric and the body language and all that sort of stuff, I would suggest that given the magnitude of the differences … the discussion has been remarkably without rancor,” Stipanovich said.

The back-and-forth between House and Senate leaders seems to mark a difference from the cozy relationship enjoyed by former House Speaker Will Weatherford and former Senate President Don Gaetz, who oversaw their respective chambers the past two years. But Weatherford and Gaetz rarely had deep disagreements, making it easier to portray a strong partnership, Stipanovich said.

“If you’re taking your wife to Europe, y’all are going to get along just fine,” he joked.

House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, also sounded conciliatory earlier this week when talking about the standoff.

“The lines of communication are great, and I think that it’ll work itself out,” he said Wednesday.

Corcoran spoke as the House’s post-session music — a staple of the final weeks of lawmakers’ annual gathering — was winding down. The song was “These Boots Are Made for Walking,” with the trademark line: “One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.”

By Thursday, the House had chosen a different selection. As reporters entered the chamber, the sound system began playing “Everything Is Awesome.”

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

West Florida Lady Jags Win Regional Quarterfinal Over Florida High

April 24, 2015

The West Florida Lady Jaguars beat Florida High in Tallahassee 8-4 Thursday in the Region 1-4A quarterfinals.

Hitting for West Florida were Kayla Miller, 1-2; Emily Loring 2-2, RBI; Lauren Carnley 1-4, RBI; Kristin Gunter 2-3, 3 RBI; Jibrasha Moore 1-2, RBI; Bre Rogers 1-2, Farrah Nicholas 2-4. Nicholas pitched seven innings for West Floroida, allowing four funs, 10 hits and striking out one.

West Florida will play at Walton on Tuesday in the regional semi-finals.

For more photos, click here.

NorthEscambia.com photos by Gary Carnley, click to enlarge.


West Florida Jags Win Consecutive District Championship

April 24, 2015

The West Florida High Jaguars beat Catholic 5-2 Thursday night for a back to back District 1-4A titles, and the ninth overall under Coach Marc Conti.

Photos by Missy Reber for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Northview’s Bates Signs With Baton Rouge Community College

April 24, 2015

Northview High School senior E’Layzha Bates has signed to play basketball with Baton Rouge Community College.

At Northview, she average 10 point and nine rebounds per game, and accounted for more than 75 percent of the team’s offensive output last season. She was also selected to play in the Pensacola Sports Association All-Star game.

Photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Winker Homers, Wahoos Win In Birmingham

April 24, 2015

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos evened up the five-game series in Birmingham with a 5-3 win over the Barons on Thursday night at Regions Field.

Jesse Winker continued to swing a hot bat with a 2-for-5 night including his second home run of the year, which got the Wahoos on the board in the first inning. Pensacola opened up a 5-0 lead with a three run fifth inning sparked by an RBI double from Chris Berset.  He finished the game with three two baggers on the night. Zach Vincej singled home Berset later in the inning before Jesse Winker drove in Beau Amaral with his second hit of the night.

Josh Smith (W, 1-0) started for the Blue Wahoos and pitched well in his first Double-A action since he was a Southern League All-Star with Pensacola in 2013. He retired the first seven batter he faced before the Barons got to him for two run in the fourth. Brian Fletcher and Danny Hayes each delivered RBI doubles in the inning to get Birmingham on the board. Fletcher doubled home another run off Smith in the sixth before the bullpen took over and shut the door in the seventh.

Kyle McMyne, Carlos Gonzalez and Ben Klimesh (S, 2) all worked scoreless innings to preserve the win for the Wahoos. Klimesh retired the Barons in order in the ninth to record his second save of the season. Josh Smith was tagged with all three Birmingham runs over six innings on his way to his first win of the year. Mike Recchia (L, 0-1) took the loss for the Barons after allowing all five Wahoos runs, four earned.

The Wahoos are back in action tomorrow night for the final game of the series in Birmingham at 7:05 pm.

The Blue Wahoos return to Pensacola Saturday, April 25th against the Biloxi Shuckers.

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