VOTING If you have not done so already, do not forget to register to vote! The eligibility deadline for the general election is October 9th. Early voting will be underway in the weeks leading up to the election. We suggest you check with your local Supervisor of Election to find out when and where early voting occurs in your county. Go here for all of your election questions.
FLORIDA SUPREME COURT JUSTICES Florida Supreme Court Justices Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy Quince all will be turning 70, an age when they are required to retire from the Court. Governor Scott has instructed the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC) to submit names for each vacancy. Meanwhile, the League of Women Voters and Common Cause of Florida have asked the state Supreme Court to stop the JNC nominating process. A previously filed lawwas struck down because the Governor had not begun the process to pick new justices. Now that he has directed the JNC to begin seeking nominees, they feel he is overreaching. The justices retire the day the governor-elect is sworn into office on January 7th.
The debate centers around whether Governor Scott or the governor-elect appoints their replacement. Further confusing matters is Governor Scott’s campaign for U.S. Senate. Should he win in November, he will need to resign his post as Governor in order to be sworn in as a Senator, possibly before the justice’s terms expire.
RED TIDE UPDATE Florida Gulf Coast communities continue to experience high incidences of red tide and blue-green algae. Under these conditions, thousands of fish, manatees, sea turtles, dolphins and birds have died over the last ten months in Pinellas, Manatee, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee, Collier and Monroe counties. While red tide blooms naturally-occur offshore, nutrients in nearshore waters from leaky septic tanks and lawn fertilizer can increase levels. Additionally, smaller blooms have been detected in Santa Rosa, Gulf, Bay and Pasco counties. Toxic blue-green algae are a separate occurrence tied to the release of polluted water from Lake Okeechobee into waterways on the east and west coasts.
In August, Governor Scott issued an Executive Order declaring a state of emergency to address the issue. To date, he has directed grant funding totaling $13 million for affected communities; this is in addition to $1.2 million for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) redfish hatchery; $100,000 for Mote Marine Laboratory’s red tide response; and $500,000 for VISIT FLORIDA to create an emergency grant program to assist affected local tourism development boards.
The FWC, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Florida Department of Health and Mote Marine Laboratory have formed a new partnership initiative to address red tide. Governor Scott has directed over $2 million in added funding to test innovative, red tide mitigation technologies, including specialized clay field experiments and expansion of Mote’s novel mitigation technologies, such as its ozone treatment system. For a complete breakdown of the state’s red tide initiatives, go here.
SMALL BUSINESS LOANS The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering disaster assistance to small businesses and non-profits in Florida affected by red tide and algal blooms. Economic injury disaster loans are available through the SBA for up to $2 million with interest rates from 2.5 percent to 3.61 percent. Information may be found by going here. The application for filing is June 4, 2019.
OPIOIDS The Florida Department of Children and Families received a $50 million grant from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to increase access to medication-assisted treatment, reduce opioid-related deaths and equip professionals with the necessary tools to combat the opioid epidemic in Florida. The grant will be used to expand medication-assisted treatment across the state, distribute more than 40,000 naloxone kits per year, and provide resources and training to advocates and professionals across the state. Funding will also allow local substance abuse treatment providers to distribute free, take-home naloxone kits directly to individuals at risk of experiencing an opioid overdose.