Northview Grad Weeks Inks With Jeff Davis Baseball

July 28, 2015

Northview High School graduate Brett Weeks has signed a full baseball scholarship with Jefferson Davis Community College in Brewton. Weeks was part of Northview’s district and regional championship teams and the’s first appearance in the state final four. Pictured: Brett Weeks (center), his mother Julie Weeks, father Ray Weeks (right) and Northview Coach Marty Lister (standing). Photo for, click to enlarge.

State, Tribe At Odds On Card Games

July 28, 2015

The Seminole Tribe of Florida is refusing to fold on its push to continue hosting blackjack and baccarat at most of its casinos, but Gov. Rick Scott’s administration is trying to shut down the lucrative “banked” card games.

Letters swapped Monday between the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the tribe indicate that the two sides may be heading toward a showdown later this year over the card games, part of a 20-year gambling “compact” inked in 2010.

Authorization of the card games is set to expire Friday. The compact gives the tribe 90 days to put an end to the card games, which include blackjack, baccarat and chemin de fer.

In a letter sent to tribal chief James Billie, Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Ken Lawson asked the tribe “to discuss your plan and proposed timeline for the closure of banked card games at your tribal facilities.”

Lawson also took note of the state’s “great working relationship” with the tribe in his note to Billie, adding that “I look forward to continuing that good will.”

The tribe quickly responded with a letter to the governor’s office requesting mediation in the dispute.

“The tribe alleges the state has triggered the exception to the sunset provision for banked card games, as well as other compact remedies, by electing to permit other entities in Florida to conduct various types of banked card games,” part of the letter reads.

The 2010 agreement gave the tribe exclusive rights to operate banked card games at five of its seven facilities for five years. In exchange, the Seminoles pledged to pay Florida a minimum of $1 billion over the same time period, an amount the tribe has exceeded.

The tribe and its lawyers contend that the state has allowed other gambling operators to operate banked card games, however, in violation of the exclusivity deal.

Billie sent Scott and state legislative leaders a “notice of commencement of compact dispute resolution procedures” last month outlining what the tribe considers violations of the agreement.

The June 24 letter included a claim the tribe has made for years regarding slot machines that look like blackjack and roulette and are authorized by state gambling regulators at non-tribal pari-mutuels. The slots operate essentially the same as the banked games, Billie wrote, the only difference being that the cards are electronic instead of paper, “a distinction we assert is without a difference.”

The Seminoles also raised a new issue in last month’s letter about whether player-banked card games in which the “bank” is another player instead of “the house” — first authorized by state gambling regulators in 2011and now at play in at least three pari-mutuel facilities — also violate the tribe’s rights to exclusivity. “Banked” card games, such as blackjack, are typically considered those in which players bet against the house instead of each other.

The June request triggered a 30-day period — which ended Sunday — for negotiations that apparently went nowhere.

According to Monday’s letter from the tribe’s lawyers, “the parties met on July 16, 2015, but did not resolve the dispute.”

Federal law gives both sides the right to request mediation if the dispute hasn’t been resolved.

Lawmakers failed to pass a renewal of the compact or a new deal during this spring’s legislative session. But some believed that the 90 days provided to the Seminoles to shut down the games would give enough time to reconsider the issue when the Legislature returns for committee meetings in the fall.

The tribe’s push to keep running the games — and possibly add others, such as craps and roulette — comes as out-of-state casinos continue to seek a foothold in Florida.

But leading GOP senators, who have been on front on the issue, insist that no gambling legislation will be approved unless the compact is resolved first.

If the state refuses to renew the deal, it is almost certain the Seminoles will turn to the courts to resolve the matter.

Monday’s exchanges, however, don’t mean that litigation is a certainty, according to Senate Majority Leader Bill Galvano, who headed negotiations with the tribe while a House member in 2010.

“This is similar to the position we were in last time before we were able to enter into a deal. I think the state has significant leverage at this point, and there’s nothing to preclude us from having those negotiations,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, said.

by Dara Kam, The News Service of Florida

Putnam Fast-Tracks Concealed Weapons Licenses For Military Members, Veterans

July 28, 2015

Florida, which already has the most concealed-weapon licenses in the nation, is now fast-tracking the process for active-duty military members and honorably discharged veterans.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced Monday that active and retired service members will immediately begin to get top priority when applying for the licenses.

The expedited process is part of the state’s reaction to a shooting rampage in Tennessee in which four Marines and a sailor were killed on July 16.

“The men and women who serve and have served our country deserve all of the support we can provide,” Putnam said in a prepared statement.

The announcement expands upon an executive order issued July 18 by Gov. Rick Scott. The executive order included a requirement that preference be given to members of the Florida National Guard when applying for concealed-weapon licenses.

The order also directed Adjutant Gen. Michael Calhoun to temporarily move National Guard members from six “storefront” recruitment centers to armories and to work with local law-enforcement agencies to arrange regular security checks of armories.

Putnam expanded the license fast-tracking to include all military members.

Active members of the military are advised to include copies of their Common Access Cards or other forms of official military identification with their applications. Veterans have to file copies of their DD 214 long forms with their applications to get fast-tracked.

The state agency hasn’t estimated how many members of the military and veterans will take advantage of the expedited process, said Putnam spokeswoman Jennifer Meale.

Currently, there are more than 1.41 million concealed-weapon licenses issued in Florida, according to the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which administers the program.

The state went over the 1 million mark in December 2012, becoming the first state in the nation to surpass that figure.

Pennsylvania, which does not post its concealed-weapon numbers, has reportedly joined Florida in surpassing the 1 million mark.

According to a 2014 study from the Pennsylvania-based Crime Prevention Research Center, Texas has issued the third most concealed-carry permits among the states.

There were 825,957 concealed-carry permits in Texas as of Dec. 31, 2014, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Meanwhile, Florida lawmakers in 2014 made it more convenient to apply for a concealed-carry licenses by allowing county tax collectors’ offices to accept applications.

So far, 13 offices — Brevard, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lee, Marion, Martin, Nassau, Okaloosa, Pasco, Pinellas, St. Johns and Walton — accept the applications.

by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

Molino Man Charged With DUI After Crash With Deputy

July 27, 2015

A Molino man was jailed for DUI  after causing a traffic accident with an Escambia County Sheriff’s sergeant Monday morning in Cantonment.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 24-year old Douglas Joseph Hadley was traveling east on Muscogee Road in a 1996 Ford Windstar van when he made a wide right turn onto Highway 29 and into the path of a marked Escambia County Sheriff’s Office 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe.

Sgt. Marc Dewees received minor injuries in the crash. Hadley was not injured. Both were wearing their seat belts.

Hadley was charged with DUI and possession of a controlled substance by the Florida Highway Patrol and booked into the Escambia County Jail with bond set at $4,000.

A spokesperson for the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office said Dewees was “doing fine” and that his injuries were not severe. photos by Kristi Price, click to enlarge.

Early Morning Fire Destroys Century Home

July 27, 2015

A fire that destroyed a home on Jefferson Avenue in Century this morning is under investigation by the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office.

The small wood-frame home was a total loss following the fire, which was reported about 5:35 a.m.

The home’s resident had previously passed away, and most furniture had reportedly been removed from the structure. The house was fully involved in flames when first responders arrived on scene. There were no injuries reported.

The Century, McDavid and Walnut Hill stations of Escambia Fire Rescue, the Flomaton Fire Department, Escambia County EMS and the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office responded to the blaze.

The fire is under investigation by the Florida State Fire Marshal’s Office. photos, click to enlarge.

Northview, West Florida High Schools Ranked Among Best In Country

July 27, 2015

Northview and West Florida high schools were ranked among the best in the nation in a report released by U.S. News and World Report. Both received a national bronze medal from the publication.

The U.S. News rankings include data on more than 21,000 public high schools in 50 states and the District of Columbia. Schools were awarded based on their performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college. The awards were based upon student-teacher ratios, college readiness, mathematics proficiencies and reading proficiencies.

In Florida, there were 31 high schools with gold medals, 105 with silver medals and 69 with bronze medals.

No other Escambia County high school was awarded a national medal by U.S. News. In Santa Rosa County, Milton High School and the Santa Rosa Virtual Franchise received bronze medals. In Escambia County, AL, both Flomaton and W.S. Neal High School received bronze medals.

Recovered: Atmore Stolen Vehicle Recovered In Century

July 27, 2015

UPDATE: This stolen vehicle was recovered just after 5 a.m. in Century was reported to be “intact”.

Local authorities are searching for a unique truck stolen sometime early Sunday morning from a driveway in Atmore

The pickup truck is a silver 2013 Ford DRW super duty, according to Atmore police. It also has a large tool box and welding rig in the custom-made back.

Family members say the truck was the owner’s source of income.

Anyone with information on the truck is asked to call the Atmore Police Department at (251) 368-9141 or their local law enforcement agency.

Submitted photos for, click to enlarge.

Health Department Urges Protection Against West Nile Virus

July 27, 2015

The Florida Department of Health is urging Floridians and visitors to protect themselves against West Nile Virus. The Department of Health today confirmed the first case of West Nile virus illness in Florida for 2015 in an adult female resident of Walton County. West Nile virus is a mosquito-borne virus that causes mild to severe illness, and there have been 38 other states with confirmed cases in 2015.

“I encourage Floridians and visitors to take steps to prevent mosquito bites that can lead to illness,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “Stay safe by draining any standing water near or in your home, making sure that screens are intact, and keeping your skin covered with clothing and mosquito repellent.”

Most people with West Nile virus infections, approximately 80 percent, have no symptoms. In those people who develop them, most experience a mild illness with conditions like headache, fever, pain and fatigue. These typically appear between two and 14 days after the bite of an infected mosquito.

People over the age of 50 and individuals with weakened immune systems, especially transplant recipients and HIV-infected individuals, seem to be at increased risk for severe disease. There is no specific treatment for West Nile virus, and most mild infections are typically overcome with little or no medical intervention within a matter of weeks. Those experiencing severe side effects should seek medical attention immediately.

The department continues to conduct statewide surveillance for mosquito-borne illnesses, including West Nile virus infections, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, Malaria and Dengue.

Local National Guard Unit Deploys

July 27, 2015

A deployment ceremony was held Sunday morning in Pensacola for the Florida Army National Guard’s 1st Squadron, 153rd Cavalry Regiment. Almost 100 members of the squadron are deploying to the Horn of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Gov. Rick Scott was on hand to wish the troops well, along with families, friends, dignitaries and military leaders from the Florida National Guard.

After leaving Pensacola Sunday, the soldier traveled to Ft. Bliss TX, for additional training prior to the overseas deployment for the estimated year-long mission.

Photos for, click to enlarge.

One Injured In County Road 97 Crash

July 27, 2015

One person was injured in a single vehicle crash Sunday night on County Road 97, just south of West Kingsfield Road, when they left the roadway and struck a tree. Further details have not been released by the Florida Highway Patrol. photo by Kristi Price, click to enlarge.

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