Motor Vehicle Fee Cuts Await Scott’s Signature

March 27, 2014

The largest portion of Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $500 million in tax and fee cuts is on the way to Scott’s signature.

The House and Senate formally sent a reduction in vehicle registration fees (SB 156) to Scott’s office Wednesday, giving him a week to sign or veto the bill. Scott is certain to sign the measure, which he has touted for months.

The bill, which takes effect September 1, would reduce the fees by a total of $309 million in the budget year that begins July 1 and $395 million the following year. The savings for each vehicle will vary by type, but many motorists will see the fees drop by $20 to $25.

Woman Convicted In Toddler’s Drowning In Neighbor’s Landscaping Pond

March 27, 2014

An Escambia County woman was convicted Wednesday on negligent manslaughter and three counts of child neglect stemming from the drowning of her toddler in a neighbor’s small pond.

Jennifer Lynn Eiland, 32, will be sentenced April 10. Her 14-month old, Alana Mae Eiland, was found unresponsive in her neighbor’s landscaping pond in August 2013 in the 10600 block of Betmark Road, just off 10 Mile Road.

The neighbor was alerted to the child by one of the child’s siblings. First responders attempted rescue efforts, but Alana Mae was pronounced dead shortly after arrival at a local hospital.

Neighbor Larry Kruger made the discovery in his front yard after one of Eiland’s children knocked on his door. The little girl’s body was under a small bridge the crosses the pond, which is less than two feet deep.

Investigators found “unsanitary living conditions” in the Betmark Road home where Eiland and her children were living at the time of the drowning, according to the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.

The child’s father, a Merchant Marine, returned home from being at sea following the incident.

Eiland has had prior abuse allegations in Alabama. According to investigators, the children,whose ages range from three to eight,had been placed in foster care and were only returned to the care of their mother in the recent months before the drowning.

Two of Eiland’s surviving children are living with a friend of the father, and two are in foster care.

Pictured top and bottom: Larry Kruger (bottom photo) discovered the lifeless body of a nieghbor’s 14-month old girl in his landscaping pondin August 2013. Photo by Joe Douglass WEAR 3 for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

DUI: ‘Choose Your Ride’ Vehicle Unveiled

March 27, 2014

The Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office has a new taxi cruiser to bring attention to driving under the influence.

In 2013, the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office had over 200 DUI related arrests. This was in addition to arrests made by other agencies in the county.

The “Choose Your Ride” vehicle highlights the choice individuals make to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or call a taxi or make other arrangements.

The front of the old Ford cruiser is painted as a taxi while the rear retains the Sheriff’s Office markings. The side windows read: “Ride in the front seat $24″, ““Ride in the back seat $10,000.”

“Our intention is to showcase this vehicle to reduce the amount of DUI related accidents. As we all know, if just one DUI is  prevented by this project, it is well worth the effort,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

The project was completed with the help of sponsors and was done at no cost to taxpayers.

Courtesy photo for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Man Convicted On 43 Child Porn Charges

March 27, 2014

An Escambia County man has been convicted of 43 child pornography counts.

Jairo Scott Domanski, 31, was charged after a search warrant was served in June 2013 and several electronic items were seized and later determined to contain videos and images of children involved in sexual activity.

Circuit Judge Michael Jones scheduled sentencing for June 17. Domanski faces a minimum guideline sentence of 34 years state prison.

ECAT Rolls Out New Website

March 27, 2014

Escambia County Area Transit (ECAT) announced the launch of the new www.goecat.com website Wednesday. The site was redesigned and streamlined for easier navigation and faster access to the tools people need to plan their travel on ECAT.

The site has user-friendly navigation that allows the site to be a more comprehensive resource to the community, providing information about how to ride, news, online ticket ordering, visitor information, transit connections, advertising information and more.

The star of the new website is the trip planner application, which is an interactive transit map that locates routes and bus stops. Users can zoom in on transit stops and see the routes that serve it as well as view any related bus routes or stops within 1000 feet. With another click, customers can plan a trip to or from that stop by inputting their beginning start and final destination addresses.

House Budget Moves Forward On Bipartisan Vote

March 27, 2014

The House’s top budget-writing committee advanced a $75.3 billion spending plan Wednesday in a lopsided vote that showed Democrats already divided about whether to support the Legislature’s main responsibility.

Four of the 10 Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, including the ranking member, joined the 21-6 vote to move the spending bill forward. It marked the first time since 2007 that any Democrat on the committee has voted for the budget.

“We don’t have chairmanships to hold over people’s heads to make them do things,” said House Minority Leader Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale. “We let our members express themselves. And we’re not that party that says that you have to vote this way or that way.”

The votes give Republicans an opportunity to tout the budget as a bipartisan document as they move through the process — much as they did last year, when Democratic opposition eventually broke down in the final votes on the spending plan. The full House still needs to vote on the proposed 2014-15 budget before negotiations begin with the Senate.

Helping out is the state’s revenue surplus, which allowed budget writers to shower money on education and other politically popular items in an election year. Public school spending would increase by almost 3.1 percent per student, and the total amount of education funding would mark the highest on record.

The budget (PCB APC 14-09) would also provide services to about 1,260 Floridians seeking services from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities, clearing a waiting list of the patients with the most serious needs.

Democrats who voted against the budget bill tried to highlight the shortcomings in the proposal. They pointed out that the $6,988 in pre-student funding was still less than it was before the recession wrecked the state budget — with a healthy portion of the increase coming from local taxes. And they got Republicans to concede that the spending plan knocks out just 6 percent of the total Agency for Persons with Disabilities waiting list.

“Education is not at historic levels,” said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. “It’s not keeping pace with growth. And, frankly, it’s relying more on property tax. That should be an issue. … We still are keeping so many wait lists, with so many people that are vulnerable out there on these wait lists.”

They also blasted the proposal for continuing to leave out an expansion of Medicaid, which House Republicans have ruled out.

But other Democrats said they believed the issues they had with the budget could be resolved later in the process.

“I’m hoping that we will be able to address those also,” said Rep. Hazelle Rogers, D-Lauderdale Lakes. “So I’m keeping hope alive this afternoon.”

While stopping short of issuing a clear-cut threat, at least one Republican suggested that other Democrats should take a similar tack. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, suggested that the chairmen of the House’s budget subcommittees might have less motivation to work with lawmakers who vote against the plan.

“It’s hard to work with people and negotiate with them about adding or fixing or changing things when they’re already locked down in opposition,” Baxley said. “What is the reason they would even work with you? Thankfully, most of them are fair-minded people, and I think will continue to try to.”

Perhaps more significant than the squabbling between the parties, though, were the negotiations between the House and Senate set to begin after both chambers finish their versions of the spending plan. The Senate Appropriations Committee is set to vote Thursday on a plan totaling $74.9 billion.

House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, said the differences between the two budgets are small.

“I feel very confident that we’ll get to a comfortable place relatively quickly,” he said. “It doesn’t seem insurmountable from my perspective.”

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

Man Sentenced To 25 Years For Shooting At Cops

March 27, 2014

An Escambia County man has been sentenced by Circuit Judge Ross Goodman to a minimum mandatory of 25 years in state prison.

On February 13, 2014, Timothy Jerome Lowe was convicted by an Escambia County jury of attempted second degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence.

On December 16, 2012, Lowe shot at Melvin Coley in the parking lot of the Travel Inn on Cervantes in a dispute over narcotics. Two police officers were in the area and heard the shots. When those officers responded to the scene, Lowe turned his gun on them. The officers fired at Lowe, striking him one time in the leg. The officers were not harmed. After a short foot pursuit, Lowe was apprehended.

Watch Their Video, Help Escambia Westgate Win National Contest

March 27, 2014

Escambia Westgate School is in the running to win a school recording package in a national contest.

The Concert for Music In Our Schools Month contest from the National Association for Music Education contest ends March 31, with the prize package awarded to the school with the most online views of their video.

View the Escambia Westgate video below, or click here.

Man Jumps Airport Fence, Gets In Pilot’s Seat To Go See Mom

March 26, 2014

A Georgia man told police he wanted to fly to Atlanta to see his mother and that he didn’t have any money, so he jumped the fence and climbed into a plane at the Pensacola airport this afternoon.

Mahiri Hanif, 20, of Atlanta, was charged with burglary/unoccupied conveyance unarmed after police said he climbed over a fence at the Pensacola International Airport and boarded an unoccupied cargo plane.

The incident occurred around 1:30 p.m. Police officers said Hanif had gone inside the airport and tried to enter the airport concourse through the exit lane. An officer made contact with Hanif at the exit lane and told him he had to go through the TSA checkpoint.

Hanif left the area and was seen a short time later climbing over a fence topped with barbed wire, running up portable steps leading to the cargo plane, opening the door, and entering the plane.

When officers arrived, they found him sitting in the pilot’s seat and took him into custody.

I-10 Speed Limit To Be Increased

March 26, 2014

The speed limit on a portion of I-10 in Escambia County will be increased.

On Friday, the speed limit on I-10 in Escambia County will be increased from 55 to 60 mph from Davis Highway to west of Highway 29 beginning Friday, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The change is being made based upon the results of a recent speed study, according to FDOT.

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