U.S. Supreme Court Turns Down Scott On Worker Drug Testing

April 23, 2014

In a blow to Gov. Rick Scott, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it would not take up his appeal of a ruling that blocked across-the-board drug testing for state employees.

The Supreme Court did not give a reason for its decision, which was included in a list of dozens of other cases it declined to hear. Justices receive thousands of appeals a year but decide to hear arguments in only about 100.

Scott issued an executive order in 2011 seeking drug testing for state workers but quickly faced a legal challenge from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. They contended that the policy violated the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures.

Attorneys for Scott pointed, in part, to drug testing that is common in the private sector. But opponents argued that “suspicionless” drug testing by government is unconstitutional.

“Every court that has heard Gov. Scott’s argument agrees: Without a threat to public safety or suspicion of drug use, people can’t be required to sacrifice their constitutional rights in order to serve the people of Florida,” Shalini Goel Agarwal, the ACLU’s lead attorney in the case, said in a prepared statement Monday.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that drug tests could not be justified constitutionally for many of the 85,000 workers who would be subject to Scott’s policy and sent the case back to a district court to determine which workers could be tested. That prompted Scott to file a petition in January asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the appeals-court ruling.

The Supreme Court’s decision, however, does not end litigation in the case. The two sides continue to carry out a painstaking process of looking at different categories of workers to determine whether some could be subject to drug testing — a process stemming from the appeals court ruling.

In it decision, for example, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said drug testing could be justified in “safety sensitive” positions, such as for employees who operate heavy machinery.

A document filed April 11 in federal court in Miami indicates that the process of determining which employees are subject to drug-testing could take months and lead to clashes between the two sides. Scott issued a statement Monday indicating he hasn’t budged on the need for drug testing.

“State employees should have the right to work in a safe and drug free environment, just like in any other business,” Scott said. “The merits of this case are still being deliberated in the U.S. Southern District Court, and we will continue to fight to make sure all state employees, who are paid by taxpayer funds, can work in a safe, drug free workplace.”

by Jim Saunders, The News Service of Florida

Escambia Man Sentenced To Life For 2012 Murder

April 22, 2014

An Escambia County man was sentenced to life in prison for an Escambia County murder.

Circuit Judge Terry Terrell sentenced 19-year old Bennie Louis Robbins III to life in state prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Robbins was convicted of first degree felony murder, grand theft auto and possession of controlled substance by an Escambia  County jury in January of this year.

On July 27, 2012, 19-year old Matthew Cox was shot and killed by Robbins in the Montclair community. Just prior to midnight, Robbins approached Cox outside of  his home, displayed a firearm and demanded money. After Cox gave his money to  Robbins, Cox fled. Robbins chased after Cox and fired the fatal shots.

DNA found at the scene identified Robbins as a suspect. Additionally, during a traffic stop three weeks later the murder weapon was found in the vehicle Robbins was driving.

Hunter Jumper Horse Show This Weekend At Equestrian Center

April 22, 2014

The James C. Robinson Escambia County Equestrian Center will host the Pensacola Hunter Jumper Association Horse Show this weekend, Saturday, April 26, and Sunday, April 27. Classes begin each day at 8:30 a.m. and run until everyone competes.

As Pensacola’s only Hunter Jumper club, 200 participants are expected to compete in the show and travel to Escambia County from surrounding states. This event is free to spectators and there is a full service concession stand on site.

The James C. Robinson Escambia County Equestrian Facility is a multi-use facility that hosts horse and dog shows, rodeos, concerts, festivals and more.  The facility is located at 7750 Mobile Highway, Pensacola.

Scott Administration Wants More Restrictions On Marijuana Proposal

April 22, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott and his surgeon general are balking at a proposal headed to the House floor that would open the door for a strain of marijuana that doesn’t get users high but is believed to dramatically reduce seizures in children with a rare form of epilepsy.

Instead, Scott wants a more limited approach that would put children with “intractable” epilepsy, as well as children and adults with other diseases, into clinical trials for the drug. The trials would require cooperation with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration or drug companies.

A plan approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Monday includes language proposed by Scott that would create an “Office of Compassionate Use” within the Department of Health that would “enhance access to investigational new drugs for Florida patients through approved clinical treatment plans or studies.”

“Investigational new drug” studies are the first step in laboratory testing of drugs not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong told the House committee Monday that he has concerns about other areas of the bill but that his approach is “patient-centered and provides access to medications of known content and dose” and could be operational within months.

But Armstrong raised questions about the measure’s “plant-focused system … without quality assurance for the precise chemical composition and protection from impurity.”

The strain of marijuana, which is high in cannabidiol (CBD) and low in euphoria-inducing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), would have “variable and unknown content,” Armstrong said.

“The safety is unknown and the time to establish such a (distribution system) structure is unknown, likely more than 18 months and subject to rule challenges,” he went on.”Your Department of Health is committed to helping children and their families managing refractory epilepsy safely. We support access to investigational new drugs with known composition and a regulated risk profile. We must be wary of unintended consequences and remember that first we must do no harm.”

Armstrong also pointed to a drug called Epidiolex, a synthetic form of marijuana high in CBD but with no THC. The University of California, San Francisco, started clinical trails on the drug, manufactured by GW Pharmaceuticals, earlier this year.

Under Scott’s plan, the “Office of Compassionate Use” could create a network of state universities and medical centers and apply to the FDA or a drug manufacturer for a study. The House measure also includes $1 million for the clinical studies.

“We have concerns with the bill as it is, but have proposed language to ensure safeguards that support the compassionate use through investigational treatments and ensures those suffering get access to treatments in the fastest possible way,” Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz said.

House sponsor Matt Gaetz said that the clinical trials preferred by Scott are a good addition to his bill but an inadequate substitute for allowing anyone whose physician deems they would benefit from the low-THC treatment to get it.

“The governor’s suggestions are good. We’ve taken those suggestions but we’re thinking a little bolder,” Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, said Monday evening. “I would like to do that and have little kids who can’t get into a clinical trial still have their lives saved.”

Apart from the language proposed by Scott, the House proposal (HB 843) adopted Monday edged closer to the Senate’s approach (SB 1030) to the issue. Parents of children with intractable epilepsy, which does not respond to other treatments, believe a strain of the marijuana produced in Colorado and known as “Charlotte’s Web” is their best hope of reducing the hundreds of seizures, some of them fatal, affected children can experience each day.

Like the Senate plan (SB 1070), the House proposal now on its way to the floor would create a “vertical” distribution system where the same company must grow, produce and dispense the product.

The House measure would allow for four distribution centers spread out across the state. The Senate proposal would allow from one to four distribution centers.

The House and Senate bills would create a statewide “compassionate use” registry for anyone who receives the drug, allow doctors to order the low-THC marijuana and require doctors to submit treatment plans for patients to the University of Florida College of Pharmacy quarterly. The Senate version would limit use of the drug to individuals with seizure disorders. The House measure would also require any doctor who orders the medical marijuana to undergo eight hours of training provided by the Florida Medical Association, which supports the bill.

Many of the elements of the House bill could be used as a blueprint for how the state would handle medical marijuana if voters approve a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would allow doctors to order the drug for their patients.

Although the low-THC proposal has the support of many GOP lawmakers, including Senate President Don Gaetz, some Republicans remain unconvinced.

House Judiciary Chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, was one of three “no’s” in the 15-3 vote Monday, objecting that the issue was “a little too edgy” for his approval.

“This is the push-off point. Are we starting an avalanche?” Baxley said. “I just don’t feel that we’re safe there as a policy yet.”

by Dara Kim, The News Service of Florida

Ernest Ward Middle Names April Students Of The Month

April 22, 2014

Ernest Ward Middle School has named Students of the Month for April. They (L-R) Savannah Spence, 6th grade; Conner Riley, 8th grade; and Shelby Sloan, 7th grade. Photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Lutz Hits For Cycle In Wahoos Historic 17-1 Win

April 22, 2014

Donald Lutz hit for the first cycle in Blue Wahoos franchise history on a night where the team set records for runs (17) and hits (21) in a 17-1 win over the Jacksonville Suns at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville. The Blue Wahoos also snapped a five-game losing streak in the process.

The Wahoos jumped out to an early 4-0 lead in the first inning and never looked back. Yorman Rodriguez launched the first of three Wahoos homers on the night, a two-run shot in the first inning.  The game got carried away when Pensacola, already leading 6-1, plated five runs in the sixth inning to move in front 11-1. The Blue Wahoos went on to plate six more runs over the next two innings.

Besides Lutz, Wahoos starting pitcher Robert Stephenson (W, 2-1) also had a remarkable night with what he did on the mound and at the plate. Stephenson fanned seven while allowing just 1 R/ER over 5.0 innings, but he also went 2-for-4 at the plate with three RBI. He was one of three Wahoos to drive in three runs. The others were Rey Navarro (3-for-7, 2 R, 2B, HR, 3 RBI) and Juan Duran (2-for-5, 2B, R, 3 RBI). Everybody in the starting lineup collected at least one hit, and seven Wahoos starters had multi-hit games.

Lutz finished the game 5-for-6 with two doubles, two RBI, four runs scored, a triple and a mammoth solo home run in the cycle. He waited until his final at bat for the triple. With nobody out and a runner at first, he drove a ball off the wall in right-center field, and it caromed away from the Suns centerfield Isaac Galloway, allowing Lutz to coast into third for the third cycle of his career (other cycles: 7/21/11 w/Dayton, 7/10/09 w/ GCL Reds). He later scored to set the team record for runs in a game. The previous record was 16 scored on August 2, 2013 in Birmingham. That same game the Wahoos set the previous hit record with 17.

Stephenson ended up earning the win, his second, with Suns starter Angel Sanchez (L, 0-4) taking the loss. Sanchez was charged with 5R/4ER over 3.1 innings. He allowed seven hits, two walks with three strikeouts.

The Blue Wahoos look to stay hot and even the series on Tuesday against the Suns. Pensacola will send RHP Jon Moscot (0-1, 2.20) to the mound against Suns LHP Justin Nicolino (1-2, 3.38). First pitch from the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville is set for 6:05 p.m. CT.

by Tommy Thrall

Sunday Night Shooting Under Investigation; Friday Night Victim’s Name Released

April 21, 2014

Today, the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office is investigating a Sunday night shooting, just as they have released the name of a the victim in a Friday night incident.

At about 9:00 Sunday night, deputies responded to the 700 block of Smiley Avenue in reference to a shooting victim.  The black male victim was found on a porch with apparent gunshot wounds. He was transported to a local hospital. His name and condition have not been released.

About 10:30 Friday night, deputies responded to the area of Edgewater Drive and Chaseville Stree to assist Florida Highway Patrol after a vehicle crashed into a wooden fence and a male driver, 27 year old Daishawn Willis, was found in the driver’s seat bleeding from the head. He was transported to a local hospital where he later passed away. Further details were not released.

Anyone with information on either incident should contact Crime Stoppers at (850) 436-STOP.

MADD At Odds Over DUI Proposal

April 21, 2014

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is objecting to an abstinence-based proposal that would let judges order twice-daily breath tests instead of ignition interlock devices for repeat DUI offenders. But the head of the National Sheriffs’ Association says the “24/7 Sobriety” model is a better way of keeping drunken drivers off the road for good.

MADD National Director Jan Withers on Friday asked Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, to reject the plan, which was approved by a House committee last week and is known elsewhere as “24/7 Sobriety.”

“MADD believes that amendments allowing for twice a day testing or 24/7 sobriety programs are okay, but these programs should never replace the use of ignition interlock for a convicted drunk driver,” Withers wrote.

Instead, MADD wants Florida lawmakers to expand the use of the interlock devices, which keep vehicles from starting if a driver is drunk, to first-time offenders whose blood-alcohol content is above .08. Current state law requires the devices for second- and third-time offenders as well as for those with a blood-alcohol content of .15 or greater.

In a letter to Weatherford, Withers pointed out that 17,224 Florida residents were convicted in 2012 for driving with suspended licenses that were revoked because of previous DUIs, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“MADD believes Florida needs … a new approach to handle persons arrested for drunk driving as license suspension alone is no longer practical,” Withers wrote. But on Thursday, Sheriff Mike Leidholt of Hughes County, S.D., wrote that he is “wholeheartedly in support” of the proposal (HB 7005), approved last week by the Florida House Economic Affairs Committee. The proposal would allow judges to place drivers with more than one DUI into a 24/7 program instead of or in addition to requiring interlock devices.

Leidholt, who is also president of the National Sheriffs’ Association, helped implement one of the nation’s first 24/7 sobriety programs, now in use statewide in South Dakota and two other states.

“Of all the wonderful programs that sheriffs are initiating, I have not seen one that is as successful in reducing recidivism, managing corrections populations, and reducing alcohol related crashes as the 24/7 Sobriety Program,” Leidholt wrote.

Interlock devices are now in use by more than 10,000 Florida drivers, and the industry generates about $10 million a year.

by The News Service of Florida

Summer Dance Workshop Offered At Byrneville Community Center

April 21, 2014

A Summer Dance Workshop will be offered at the Byrneville Community Center June 9-13.

Classes will be offered as follows:

  • 8:30 – 9 am — Pre-ballet (ages 3-4)
  • 9:15 – 10:15 am — Ballet I (ages 5-7)
  • 10:30 – noon  — Ballet II and Jazz (ages 8-10) 0-3 years dance experience
  • 12:30 – 2 p.m. — Ballet III and Jazz (ages 9-teen) 4 or more years dance experience

Proper dancewear and dance shoes are required. An optional Summer Dance Workship t-shirt will be available for $15 at registration time. The registration deadline is June 2. Contact Heather Leonard’s Danceworks by email at hldanceworks@gmail.com or on Facebook.

Flomaton FFA String Band, Floriculture Teams Place At Districts

April 21, 2014

The Flomaton High School FFA recently competed at a district competition in Enterprise, AL.
The Flomaton FFA string band placed fourth; members were Nik Shivers, Stone Lehmann, Jose Escobedo, and Logan Hendricks. The Floriculture team placed third and will compete at the state competition. Members of the Flomaton Floriculture team were Haley White, Kristin Fillmore, Toni Simmons and Tiffany Hardy.

Pictured top: (L-R) String band members Nik Shivers, Stone Lehmann, Jose Escobedo, and Logan Hendricks; Floriculture team members Haley White, Kristin Fillmore, Toni Simmons and Tiffany Hardy. Submitted photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

There names are
listed in the order they are standing

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