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Takeaways from Tallahassee — All treats, no tricks

Halloween PLANs

With spooky dangers around the corner this Halloween, Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and her organization, Lauren’s Kids, are out with a list of safety tips for parents to ward off evil spirits.

Parents should have a “P.L.A.N.” for their kids, according to the sexual abuse prevention group. P.L.A.N. stands for permission, location, activity, and names and numbers.

“As a mom of two children, I know how exciting Halloween can be as you prepare your little ones for a fun night of trick-or-treating,” said Book, the founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids. “But unfortunately, we know that where children go, so do people who wish to do them harm. Whether it’s your child’s first-time trick-or-treating, treating solo, or planning a night out with friends, developing a P.L.A.N. will ensure your family’s Halloween is safe, successful, and fun!”

Lauren Book might not believe in ghosts, but some ghouls are real. Image via Colin Hackley.

As much as 95% of childhood sexual abuse is preventable through awareness and education, according to Lauren’s Kids.

For “permission,” parents should require their children to ask for permission before leaving the house for trick-or-treating. For “location,” parents should know their kids’ route and any friends’ addresses they plan to stop at.

Under “activity,” have your child outline their plans, like whether they plan to go out or stay in, who is joining them and how and when they’ll get home. And as for “names and numbers,” get the deets on the adults in charge or the friends they’ll hang with.

“Remember, conversations about child sexual abuse prevention don’t have to be scary,” Book said. “By making a Halloween P.L.A.N and teaching kids to find their ‘I Mean Business Voice’ when they feel unsafe, you can rest assured your family will have a safe and fun Halloween holiday!”

Children should also know to keep themselves safe, like teaching them to be unafraid to say “stop!” or “I don’t like that!” Taking action like that can help keep a child safe when someone tries to whisk them away or get them to change their plans without telling a parent.


Coming up, the usual assortment of news, intel and observations from the week that was in Florida’s capital city by Peter Schorsch, Drew Wilson, Renzo Downey, Christine Jordan Sexton and the staff of Florida Politics.

But first …

Take 5

The “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Ron DeSantis, Charlie Crist debate night — In a night filled with insults, a jeering crowd, and two candidates who found little common ground, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democratic challenger Charlie Crist shared the stage for the first and only time of the 2022 gubernatorial campaign Monday. In the opening third of the debate, Crist directly asked DeSantis whether he would commit to four years as Governor. The Governor did not answer the question — which violated debate rules — but DeSantis hung a pregnant pause before delivering a scripted answer in his own way. “The only worn out, old donkey I’m looking to put out to pasture is Charlie Crist,” DeSantis said.

Cat Fund estimates $10B Ian loss — Estimates from the Hurricane Catastrophe Fund approved by its board of directors Wednesday show it could pay out $10 billion to companies due to the damage from Hurricane Ian, leaving it with $2.3 billion at the end of the year. Although it would be able to pay all obligations stemming from this year, it would be a significant hit to the Cat Fund, greatly reducing its ability to pay claims next year without heading to the bond markets and increasing the risk of emergency assessments on policyholders. Meanwhile, DeSantis and FEMA have struck a deal to reimburse contractors for hurricane debris removal, speeding up the cleanup process. And FEMA is also making temporary housing available in Charlotte, Collier, DeSoto and Lee counties.

DeSantis, aide can be deposed in redistricting case — A Leon Circuit judge says plaintiffs in a redistricting lawsuit may depose DeSantis and Deputy Chief of Staff Alex Kelly. Circuit Judge Lee Marsh issued an order Thursday quashing efforts to protect DeSantis and Kelly from being forced to testify, possibly in videotaped depositions. Kelly drew Florida’s new congressional map, one approved by the Legislature after DeSantis vetoed the first map the Legislature passed. Notably, the Legislature’s map had been crafted by House redistricting committee staff led by staff director Leda Kelly, Alex Kelly’s wife. Marsh cited a Florida Supreme Court decision regarding Florida’s redistricting process last decade. Then, Justices determined legislative privilege did not protect elected lawmakers from testifying because the state constitution outlaws “improper legislative ‘intent’ in the congressional reapportionment process.”

Florida student test scores vault national ranking — Florida students have scored the highest nationwide ranking in state history on the nation’s first post-COVID-19 school report card, state education officials announced Monday. But considering that Florida fourth- and eighth-grade students’ scores declined in three out of four achievement measures, that’s definitely grading on a lower curve. Not one state increased student scores coming out of the pandemic, and overall, the results showed the “largest ever” drop in national math scores, according to the National Assessment of Education Progress. “We knew there would be widespread harm to our students if students were locked out,” DeSantis said. “Today’s results once again prove that we made the right decision.”

Protest ban at UF after anti-Ben Sasse rally — After students interrupted U.S. Sen. Sasse’s tour of the University of Florida, the school will begin enforcing a decades-old prohibition against indoor protests. Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, is the only finalist for the job of University President and has drawn criticism from some at the school for his opposition to same-sex marriage. While the university supports the First Amendment right to free speech, outgoing University President Kent Fuchs said, “with this commitment comes an obligation to protect the rights of everyone in our community to speak and to hear.” The policy will be enforced next week when the school’s board of trustees meets to consider Sasse’s candidacy, and students who violate it may be subject to discipline.

Welcome news

DeSantis on Friday announced that he’s awarding $1.3 million from the state’s Job Growth Grant Fund to help make improvements in the city of Marathon in the Florida Keys.

The money will be used to widen U.S. 1, including adding a turn lane as well as paying to install nearly a mile’s worth of sewer lines as well as other improvements to help with the Marathon wastewater system. During a press conference held in Marathon, the CEO of Bass Pro Shops plans to build a “first of its kind” fishing resort in the city.

Another week in Florida, another week for infrastructure. Image via AP.

“This investment in Marathon will improve infrastructure, create jobs, and drive the state’s economy forward,” DeSantis said. “Florida is the fishing capital of the world and we are proud to be chosen by Bass Pro for their first-of-its-kind resort that will be a world-class attraction. Bass Pro’s mission of promoting sport fishing along with conservation of our natural resources makes them a natural fit for the Florida Keys.”

DEO estimates that the latest grant to Marathon could generate 500 jobs.

The state’s job growth fund is an economic development program where projects are ultimately chosen for funding by the governor after being reviewed by the Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida. The projects are designed to meet infrastructure or workforce needs in various communities around the state, although DEO says it expects remaining money in the fund will be used to assist short-term and long-term needs in areas hit by Hurricane Ian.

DeSantis has awarded $111 million in projects from the fund since August 2021.

Pill party

Attorney General Ashley Moody wants your leftover cross tops, vics, buttons and anything else that’s languishing in your medicine cabinet.

Don’t worry, she isn’t planning to pop them. She put out the call as part of the 23rd National Drug Take Back Day, a biannual event that allows people to properly dispose of unwanted or expired prescription drugs to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands.

Drugs are the one area you aren’t allowed to call “no take-backsies.” Image via Scott Powers.

Drug Take Back Day will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at free drop-off locations across Florida. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration has a list of drop-off points, searchable by distance from your location.

Moody’s office said the event has taken on more importance in recent years as overdose deaths continue rising. Many overdose deaths are attributed to opioids and other prescription medications.

“National Drug Take Back Day is a great opportunity for Floridians to help us save lives. Expired and unused medications can have devastating effects if they fall into the wrong hands — fueling addictions or even causing overdose deaths,” Moody said. “I encourage all Floridians with unused medications to please participate in Drug Take Back Day and dispose of these potentially deadly substances. This small action could save a life.”

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