November 23, 2015
People found guilty of making “terroristic threats” will face greater charges and have to pay for the fire-rescue and law-enforcement response, as well as any costs if public transportation is used for an evacuation, under a bill (HB 257) that received support from the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
The proposal by Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, would make it a felony for calling in a threat.
“Currently under Florida law, terroristic threats are only punishable as a criminal mischief or disturbing the peace,” Smith said. “However, as we have seen across the nation these threats of violence must be taken seriously and require a law-enforcement response.”
A similar measure (SB 436) by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, has yet to be scheduled for any of its three planned committee appearances.
by The News Service of Florida
November 23, 2015
The annual Northview High School FFA Fruit Sale is underway with delivery before Christmas.
Orders must be made by Monday, November 30. The pickup date is Wednesday, December 16.
For an order form click here. Order forms and payment can be returned to Northview by mail (the address is on the order form), or dropped off at the school office. Fruits available include red apples, grapefruit, navel oranges, tangelos and Hamlin oranges. Mixed trio half bushels are also available.
For more information, call (850) 327-6681, ext. 248.
November 22, 2015
The Town of Century has rescheduled their regular meeting for the month of December.
The twon council normally meets on the first and third Mondays of each month. However, in December, the council only holds one meeting. This year, that December meeting will be held on December 14, the second Monday of the month, at 7 p.m.
The Century council will return to their normal meeting schedule in January.
November 22, 2015
Want a fried turkey but afraid to try it yourself? Volunteers from the Miracle League of Pensacola will fry your turkey for you on Wednesday, November 25, saving you the time and trouble while benefiting the charity. And there is still time to make an appointment.
Completely thaw your turkey, removing all of the inside packaging and giblets. Write down exactly how much your turkey weighs so it is fried perfectly and take it to the Miracle League Park at 555 East Nine Mile Road from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, November 25. For a monetary donation to Miracle League, the volunteers will fry your turkey to perfection. A minimum of $20 per turkey is necessary to help cover costs, and any additional donation will benefit the Miracle League of Pensacola.
Call (850) 384-9180 with questions or to schedule your time (leave a message if no answer). Reservations should be made early as they number of time slots is limited.
November 22, 2015
Air Force Airman Rickey H. Smith graduated from basic military training at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, San Antonio, TX.
The airman completed an intensive, eight-week program that included training in military discipline and studies, Air Force core values, physical fitness, and basic warfare principles and skills. Airmen who complete basic training earn four credits toward an associate in applied science degree through the Community College of the Air Force.
Smith is the son of Heather M. Brooks of Seminole, AL, and Rickey D. Smith of Molino.
He is a 2015 graduate of Northview High School.
November 22, 2015
As state lawmakers move forward with measures to expand where and how people can carry handguns, they don’t want Floridians trading government food aid to get firearms.
People found swapping state food-assistance benefits for firearms or drugs would face tougher penalties, under a bill that cleared its first legislative committee .
The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously supported the bill (SB 218), filed by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton. Hutson said the measure is needed as Florida is one of 10 states where trafficking involving Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, cards has become a problem.
“I’ve heard from our state attorneys and assistant state attorneys, where they’ve gone into individuals’ homes and seen drugs, firearms and stacks of EBT cards,” Hutson said. “Their thought process is, this is happening. It is a problem. But we don’t give them enough tools in their tool belts to identify what they can do with the trafficking of these EBT cards.”
Hudson’s proposal would make it a first-degree misdemeanor to trade the benefits from EBT cards, better known as food stamps, for firearms, ammunition, explosives, controlled substances, cash or considerations other than eligible types of food.
A House bill (HB 105), sponsored by Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, also attacks the underground trading of EBT cards. It would go further than the Senate bill by making an initial arrest a third-degree felony for possessing two or more EBT cards that have been issued to other people or to attempt to sell one or more of the cards.
The penalty would also include a six-month mandatory sentence of community service spent with a non-profit that distributes food to the needy. Smith’s bill goes before the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee on Wednesday.
In 2013, the Legislature approved a law that prohibited EBT cards from being used at strip clubs, liquor stores and gambling establishments. During the 2013 session, several Democrats called the Republican-backed proposal political posturing, noting that the state Department of Children and Families already had the ability to shut off EBT cards from being used at such facilities.
November 22, 2015
One of the lobbying groups with the most firepower at the Florida Capitol is the National Rifle Association. It’s rare, though not unheard of, for the organization to lose a legislative vote.
Which is why it was somewhat surprising to see a House committee shoot down a measure the NRA has backed for the 2016 session.
That was just one of a series of bills about firearms considered in Tallahassee this week, and in most cases the NRA managed to outgun its opponents.
But the gun-rights lobby and those who want more restrictions on firearms — or just to keep the current ones — were hardly the only people trading political fire in recent days.
Gov. Rick Scott was in a face-off with the Obama administration over whether to let Syrian refugees into Florida after a series of terrorist attacks in Paris that left 130 people dead. Intelligence agencies believe some of those involved in the attacks, claimed by the Islamic State militant group based in Iraq and Syria, might have used the flow of refugees from Syria’s civil war to sneak into Europe undetected.
Meanwhile, the Legislature and voting-rights groups prepared for a legal shootout in a Leon County courtroom that will decide the future of the state Senate — and could give Florida’s downtrodden Democrats an opportunity to regain a foothold in Tallahassee after 20 years defined more or less by GOP dominance.
One of the most notable defeats of a bill in committee so far this fall came Tuesday, when the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee narrowly voted down a measure that could have made it easier for people to claim self-defense in shooting incidents.
Subcommittee Chairman Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, joined four Democrats and Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, in opposing the measure (HB 169), which proposed to shift a burden of proof to the state in cases involving Florida’s “stand your ground” law. The bill failed on a tie vote.
The controversial stand your ground law says people can use deadly force and do not have a duty to retreat if they think it is necessary to prevent death or great bodily harm.
Trujillo, a former prosecutor, said the law works without the proposed change.
“I’m sympathetic for the individuals who find themselves in bad situations, with bad facts and bad judges,” Trujillo said. “But I’m also more sympathetic to women of domestic violence, young members of my community who are oftentimes killed, (and) individuals try to use a good law that was passed with noble purposes for very ignoble attempts.”
But upon leaving the meeting, NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer said the gun-rights group will continue to push for the measure, even if it is dead for the 2016 session.
“It will be back until it passes, period,” Hammer said. “In the meantime, the people can pay attention and elect people who are more sympathetic to them than prosecutors.”
The NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida seemed intent on helping those people pay attention, sending an email to members calling Trujillo’s actions an “orchestrated” betrayal of “law-abiding gun owners.”
On the other side of the Capitol, supporters were trying to keep a similar bill (SB 344) alive. The Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee voted Wednesday to approve the Senate version, and the sponsor said the fight over the legislation isn’t over.
“Everything is in play until Sine Die,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, referring to the Latin phrase for “without day” that marks the end of a legislative session. “I wouldn’t describe anything as being the end of the road.”
The week was far from a total loss for gun-rights supporters. Two other controversial measures — a bill that would allow the open carrying or firearms in Florida and another that would allow guns on college campuses — both moved closer to becoming law.
The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on Wednesday narrowly backed the bill (HB 163) that would allow the 1.45 million people in Florida with concealed-weapons licenses to openly carry.
The 7-6 vote came after language was attached to the bill that is intended to protect businesses and private property owners who don’t want people to openly carry on their premises.
The specter of the terrorist attacks in France loomed over the hearing, at least for some supporters of the bill. Liberty County Sheriff Nick Finch said the state needs to give citizens every opportunity to defend themselves, “especially in the times we’re living in.”
“Look at what happened in Paris, France,” Finch said. “Nobody was armed, so there is a lot of dead folks. It’s ugly, but that’s the facts.”
Opponents argued the bill would hurt tourism and create public-safety issues.
“I buy the argument that this is a top-down bill and not one that cries out from the public for change,” said Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg. “I still don’t get it, how does bringing more guns to a fight bring more safety?”
The following day, the House Judiciary Committee voted 13-5 to approve legislation (HB 4001) by Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, that would allow concealed-weapon permit holders to carry guns while out of their vehicles on state campuses.
The Judiciary Committee vote was the final step for the bill before it goes to the House floor during the session that starts in January.
“It’s not about outsourcing campus police,” said Steube, who pursued similar legislation that reached the House floor in the spring but got stalled in the Senate.
“It’s about Greg Steube and other people that have served admirably and have a conceal-carry permit to be able to defend themselves and others,” Steube continued. “That’s what it’s about, and no one can tell me I don’t have the training to do that.”
But Lake Worth Rep. Dave Kerner, one of five Democrats on the committee who opposed the bill, disputed that the measure is intended to correct an infringement on Second Amendment rights, as supporters have claimed.
“On this policy issue, it’s very clear that nobody wants this save for some very passionate students that have come before us,” Kerner said. “There is no groundswell of support for this bill. We’ve had people that rarely stick their neck out, in positions of high authority come out against this bill and this policy. And I think that we should be humble enough to defer to them.”
SCOTT THROWS UP ROADBLOCK TO REFUGEES
Gun debates weren’t the only ones influenced by the events in Paris. Scott announced he wants to close Florida’s borders to additional refugees from Syria in the wake of last Friday’s terrorist assault on Paris in which at least one of the attackers held a Syrian passport.
Scott advised U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a letter Monday that the Florida Department of Children and Families, which receives federal funds, won’t assist efforts to relocate Syrian refugees destined to be resettled in Florida.
As the move doesn’t preclude federal officials from resettling Syrian refugees by working with local social-service agencies, Scott also asked in the letter for congressional leaders to prevent funding for such relocations to Florida or anywhere else within the U.S.
“As the federal elected body that exercises oversight and authorizes federal spending, please take any action available through the powers of the United States Congress to prevent federal allocations toward the relocation of Syrian refugees without extensive examination into how this would affect our homeland security,” Scott wrote.
Some Republican state lawmakers, meanwhile, said they want Florida to crack down on cities and counties that provide “sanctuary” for individuals illegally in the country.
In one of a series of bills outlined Tuesday, government officials could face fines up to $5,000 a day for enacting policies or encouraging practices that could provide sanctuary to undocumented people. The proposal would also allow people who have been victims of crimes in sanctuary communities, committed by immigrants illegally in the country, to sue the local governments.
“We’re just saying when the federal government asks for assistance, provide it,” said Rep. Larry Metz, R-Yalaha.
But Maria Rodriguez, executive director for the Florida Immigrant Coalition, denounced the legislation as forcing local officials to “essentially turn in families who lack immigration status.”
“Beyond the fueling of hate and racism that will further divide communities, this ‘big brother is watching’ bill actually strong-arms local government, at taxpayer expense, to go after its own residents,” Rodriguez said in a press release. “It is not only costly; it will actually harm our safety by undermining the public trust.”
READY FOR BATTLE
A quieter fight, set to be waged in a Leon County courthouse, saw the battle lines drawn this week. The Florida Senate and a coalition of voting-rights groups filed dueling plans for the 40 Senate districts.
The Senate recommended to Leon County Circuit Judge George Reynolds a plan for the chamber’s districts that was never voted on by either the House or Senate during a recent redistricting special session.
That proposal would essentially combine two “base maps” drawn by legislative aides in the run-up to the special session. Legislative leaders say that process insulated the base maps from political pressures that could have led to violations of the voter-approved, anti-gerrymandering “Fair Districts” amendments.
The voting-rights groups filed a half-dozen maps, all of which could change the state’s political landscape in one key respect: All six could increase Democrats’ odds of retaking the Senate for the first time since the 1990 elections. In all six of the maps, there are 19 or 20 districts that would have been carried by both Republican Gov. Rick Scott in his first run for re-election in 2010 and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.
Meanwhile, the maps have 17 or 18 seats that went for former state Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, the Democrat who opposed Scott in 2010, and President Barack Obama two years later. Anywhere from two to four seats swung between the two parties in the two elections, primarily voting for Republicans in the 2010 midterm elections, where GOP turnout is stronger, and for Democrats in 2012.
After a four-day hearing in December, Reynolds will decide which plan to recommend to the Florida Supreme Court.
Whichever plan is selected will be used instead of the current map, crafted by lawmakers in 2012. The new proposals came after a legal settlement between the Senate and the voting-rights organizations. In the settlement, the Legislature conceded that the current districts were likely to be struck down for violating the “Fair Districts” standards.
STORY OF THE WEEK: The NRA suffered a rare defeat on a revision to the state’s controversial “stand your ground” self-defense law, but otherwise continued pushing proposals it supports through the process.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “She believed in the contagious power of ideas to really galvanize people, to bring them together. An idea like walking the state of Florida could inspire the entire state. An idea like limiting people’s campaign contributions could restore people’s faith in the democratic process.”—Katie Ottenweller, a granddaughter of former Florida First Lady Rhea Chiles, at a memorial service for Chiles, who died Nov. 8 at age 84.
by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida
November 21, 2015
Drivers will encounter traffic disruptions on the following state roads in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties as crews perform construction and maintenance activities.
- U.S. 98 Resurfacing, Santa Rosa County – U.S. 98 between Live Oaks Village shopping center and the Gulf Breeze Zoo in Santa Rosa County. Alternating lane closures from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. Friday, Nov. 20 through Monday, Nov. 23 and Tuesday, Nov. 24 from 7 p.m. to midnight. Crews will be placing the final layer of asphalt on the roadway and completing work list items.
- State Road (S.R.) 281 (Avalon Boulevard), Santa Rosa County- Traffic will be shifted to a new traffic pattern between Moors Oak Drive and San Pablo Street Friday, Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. One lane in each direction will be maintained. Traffic flaggers will be on site to assist with traffic control.
- I-10 Six Lane, Escambia County- Alternating lane closures on I-10 between Davis Highway (Exit 13) and Scenic Highway (Exit 17) Sunday, Nov. 22 and Monday, Nov. 23 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and Tuesday, Nov. 24 from 8 p.m. to midnight. The speed limit has been reduced to 60 mph.
- I-10 Six Lane, Santa Rosa County – Avalon Boulevard near the I-10 Interchange in Santa Rosa County will encounter alternating lane closures from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 22 and Monday, Nov. 23 and Tuesday, Nov. 24 from 7 p.m. to midnight as crew begin bridge work. I-10 east and westbound between the Escambia Bay Bridge and S.R. 281 (Avalon Boulevard/ Exit 22) in Santa Rosa County. Alternating lane closures Sunday through Thursday through the end of 2015. Lane closures will be in effect from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. as crews perform construction activities.
- Nine Mile Road from west of I-10 to Heritage Oaks Drive, Escambia County – Eastbound and westbound lane closures from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. through Sunday, Nov. 22 as crews perform paving operations.
- I-110 Bridge Painting, Escambia County – Drivers may encounter intermittent daytime restrictions on city streets under I-110 between Maxwell and Garden Streets as crews clean the bridges. The $2.6 million rehabilitation project is anticipated to be complete summer 2016.
- S.R. 87 north of U.S. 98, Santa Rosa County – New driveway connection construction at the Navarre RV/Boat Storage facility, through Sunday, Nov. 22. Lane closures in effect 8 p.m. to 6 a.m.
- State Road 289 (9th Avenue), Escambia County- The week of Dec. 1 crews will perform paving operations at Airport Boulevard and Bayou Boulevard. Work is anticipated to take two to three days. When complete, crews will pave between Bayou Boulevard and Creighton Road. Lane closures will be in effect from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. for approximately two to three weeks. Motorists traveling between Bayou Boulevard and Cervantes Street will also encounter intermittent and alternating daytime lane closures the week of Dec. 1 as crews adjust manholes and valves.
Drivers are reminded to use caution, especially at night, when traveling through a work zone.
All planned construction activities are weather dependent and may be re-scheduled in the event of inclement weather.
November 21, 2015
The latest job numbers released Friday show the unemployment level decreasing in the three county North Escambia area.
Escambia County’s unemployment rate fell slightly from 5.2 percent in September to 5.0 percent in October. There were 7,024 people reported unemployed during the period. One year ago, unemployment in Escambia County was 5.8 percent.
Santa Rosa County unemployment decreased from 4.6 to 4.4 percent from September to October. Santa Rosa County had a total of 3,241 persons still unemployed. The year-ago unemployment rate in Santa Rosa County was 4.9 percent.
In Escambia County, Alabama, unemployment decreased from 6.9 percent in September to 6.5 percent in October. That represented 969 people unemployed in the county during the month. One year ago, the unemployment rate in Escambia County, Alabama, was 7.3 percent.
Florida’s unemployment rate inched down from 5.2 percent in September to 5.1 percent in October, according to figures released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. In a news release, Gov. Rick Scott focused on the creation of 36,600 private-sector jobs across the state during the month. Scott called it the “highest month for job growth in 10 years.” The unemployment mark is the lowest for the state since January 2008.
Alabama’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate, at 5.9 percent in October, was down from September’s rate of 6.0 percent and was below the year-ago rate of 6.2 percent.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.
November 21, 2015
Two drivers were cited after a school bus crash on Davis Highway Friday afternoon.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the school bus, driven by 72-year old Edna Shaw Dohl, was stopped in traffic on Davis Highway when it was rear-ended by a 2014 Toyota Camry driven by 62-year old James Carl Engel of Pensacola. Engel’s Camry was then rear-ended by a Ford 350 pickup driven by 48-year old Jacob Fredrich Hartman of Milton.
There were no injures.
Engel and Hartman was both cited for careless driving by the FHP.
Reader submitted photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.