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Takeaways from Tallahassee — Giving thanks and generosity

Hope Heroes

As the state enters the Thanksgiving season, First Lady Casey DeSantis is showing her appreciation for those boosting community service and assistance for Florida’s seniors.

DeSantis launched the Hope Florida Hero Program in August. DeSantis announced this week that the initiative, implemented by the Department of Elder Affairs in August prior to Hurricane Ian’s landfall, received a $400,000 check from the WellMed Charitable Foundation.

Casey DeSantis has had no problem raising money for the people of Florida. Image via Colin Hackley.

“We’ve seen the power of our Hope Hero volunteers in full force following Hurricane Ian’s devastation in counties where seniors made up more than half of the population,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Our vision is to have a network of businesses, nonprofits and caring individuals who can help support vulnerable seniors. I’m so appreciative of the WellMed Charitable Foundation for helping us turn that vision into a reality.”

With Hope Hero, DeSantis wants to unite the private sector with faith-based institutions, nonprofits and government entities to increase assistance for seniors in need while providing opportunities for seniors looking to serve their communities.

The donation from the WellMed Charitable Foundation was given to Advantage Aging Solutions, the Area Agency on Aging of North Florida. A portion of the funds will be used to enhance a communication system to disseminate requests from seniors in need in real time to volunteers ready to assist.

“Hope Heroes is a wonderful demonstration of how public/private partnerships help us do more than we could individually,” WellMed Executive Director Carol Zernial said in a statement. “We’re so proud to support an initiative that addresses the needs of older Floridians struggling with the damage from Hurricane Ian, and that also builds a strong foundation of volunteerism and service for years to come.”

The Hope Hero Volunteer Program provides support for Florida’s elders by working to unite normally disparate silos, such as government, business, and faith and community-based organizations, with the goal of creating opportunities that can offer assistance to seniors in need as well as provide volunteer opportunities to seniors who want to lend their talents to a cause.

Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Michelle Branham said more than 200 people signed up to help seniors in Southwest Florida following the First Lady’s call for volunteers when Ian made landfall.

“The feedback from those on the ground has been inspiring and emotional,” Branham said.

The Hope Florida Hero Program was modeled after the Hope Florida – A Pathway to Purpose initiative launched in 2021. That program, spearheaded by the Department of Children and Families, worked to unite the same normally disparate silos to work together to provide opportunities for economic stability and independence. Since its inception in 2021 more than 50,000 people have been helped.

To become a Hope Hero volunteer or to learn about additional volunteer opportunities, call 800-96-ELDER or visit helpcreatehope.com.


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:

Donald Trump makes it official. Will Ron DeSantis? — Former President Trump announced his long-expected third run for the White House Tuesday. The hourlong announcement offered a blast from the past amid questions as to whether Republicans should shop around for a 2024 nominee. “America’s comeback starts right now,” Trump said in a speech at his home Mar-a-Lago punctuated with familiar lines and bursts of applause. The early declaration seemed timed to clear the field, as Gov. DeSantis emerges as more of a favorite with each passing news cycle. About 125 miles due west from Mar-a-Lago the following day, DeSantis could escape questions about the run. “We just finished this election,” DeSantis said. “People just need to chill out a little bit on some of this stuff.”

Federal judge halts “Stop WOKE” Act — A federal judge handed the state a defeat in its efforts to stop “woke ideology” at the state’s universities, calling the state’s arguments for the law that restricts instruction on race and history “positively dystopian.” The legislation gave students and employees a reason to sue if instruction or training made them feel uncomfortable or guilty because of their race, gender or national origin. Plaintiffs — including professors, students and civil liberties groups — argue the law violates their First Amendment rights and the equal protection clause in the 14th Amendment. The suit is one of a number of challenges the legislation has spawned.

Paul Renner legislative vision takes shape — With the Legislature’s Organization Session coming Tuesday, House Speaker-designate Renner has been rolling out his structural vision for the House this week. He named Rep. Chuck Clemons as Speaker Pro Tempore and Rep. Michael Grant as Majority Leader for a second two-year term. Plus, House members will no longer need to file individual bills for appropriation projects to ensure they’re placed in the budget process, according to the incoming Speaker’s new proposed rules. The Palm Coast Republican is also out with the committee structure for the new Legislative Term. Gone is the Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee, and say hello to the Infrastructure Strategies Committee.

DeSantis sticks with Ladapo — DeSantis will keep Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo around for a second term, the first major announcement from the “transition” effort. Ladapo has been a key partner with DeSantis since coming on board more than a year ago but has also been a lightning rod. He has been skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines and recently led the charge to convince state medical regulators to draft rules preventing doctors from prescribing gender-affirming care for minors. In a tweet Monday, DeSantis said Ladapo “has done a great job” in his role leading the Department of Health. “His evidence-based principles serve as a counterweight to the increasingly political positions of the entrenched medical establishment, especially on schools, masks and mRNA shots,” DeSantis wrote.

Citizens hikes Ian loss estimate by $1.2B — Citizens Property Insurance pushed up its estimate of losses from Hurricane Ian by more than $1 billion, up to $3.8 billion in total, a result of costs of litigation and other claims-related expenses added to the forecast. The new projection takes into account claims made so far, as well as litigation cost projections and national inflation, which has stood at 40-year highs for most of the year. A press release from Citizens says the estimate projects $1.4 billion of the losses could come from the Cat Fund, meaning the hit to Citizens’ surplus would be $2.4 billion. Citizens’ surplus before Ian hit was $6.7 billion.

Sunrise to Sunshine

DeSantis is making a pitch for more Japanese visitors and a boost to international tourism.

In remarks to the Southeastern United States — Japan Conference in Orlando, the Governor made the case for nonstop flights between the Land of the Rising Sun and the Sunshine State as part of a larger pitch for visitation.

Click the image to watch Ron DeSantis’ remarks.

“We would like to see an expansion of flights direct from Florida to Japan, and vice versa,” DeSantis said. “This is a great place. I think a lot of Japanese people would really love to come and visit Florida.”

DeSantis has made these targeted plays before for more direct travel between Florida and friendly countries with some success. Israel’s El Al, which had Miami nonstop flights already, expanded nonstop flights to Orlando during his first term. Japanese travelers would enjoy much of the state, DeSantis suggested.

“Of course this part of Florida you know has a lot of attractions,” DeSantis told the crowd. “But I think what people have found out, particularly over the last couple of years, is, man, there are so many other great spots you can be in the state of Florida.”

The Governor spoke for over 10 minutes, extolling Japan and its cultural products throughout. He spoke with particular relish about sushi chefs who made their way to Florida because of pandemic restrictions elsewhere.

“You have these unbelievable Japanese sushi chefs who are now in Florida, doing really, really great things! They bring in this Kobe beef,” DeSantis said. “It’s unbelievable what’s going on.”


Attorney General Ashley Moody is playing a leading role in corralling most of the nation’s attorneys general in asking the federal government to permanently preserve a pandemic-era tool to fight opioids.

The bipartisan coalition of 45 officials called on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to permanently extend telehealth flexibilities for prescribing buprenorphine. While opioid abuse is still at record levels, the rule is set to expire when the COVID-19 public health emergency ends and could potentially cut off an estimated 2.5 million adults from the opioid use disorder treatment.

Ashley Moody is getting Republicans and Democrats nationwide to work together. Image via Scott Powers.

“As we continue to fight the deadly opioid crisis claiming tens of thousands of lives across our nation, it is important that people struggling with addiction have access to medication that can help them stop using,” Moody said in a statement. “Keeping the telehealth rules for prescribing buprenorphine in place will go far in helping us fight this crisis and save lives — and I am proud to lead a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general in this important effort.”

Buprenorphine is one of three medications that is FDA-approved to treat patients suffering from addiction. The DEA opened the treatment for prescription through telemedicine in March 2020, along with all other Schedule II-V controlled substances.

The only states whose attorneys general did not accede to the letter were Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Indiana, Missouri, Montana and Tennessee. The attorneys general of the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico also signed on.

Together with North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein, who is the president-elect of the National Association of Attorneys General, Moody’s name appears at the top of the list.

“The number of patients receiving buprenorphine as treatment … increased significantly when telehealth flexibilities were allowed,” the attorneys general wrote in their letter to the feds. “It also improved retention in care and reduced the odds of overdose for individuals prescribed buprenorphine via telehealth for opioid use disorder treatment.”

Weed appeal

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is advancing her lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s administration over federal policy prohibiting medical cannabis patients from purchasing firearms.

Fried, a Democrat who will be out of a job in January, announced that she has filed an appeal in her lawsuit against the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives over the policies. A U.S. District judge dismissed the lawsuit earlier this month.

Nikki Fried isn’t afraid to go after the Biden administration. Image via AP.

The lawsuit alleges the policy violates medical cannabis cardholders’ Second Amendment rights. The feds argue the federal government has a history of policies preventing felons, people with mental illnesses and intoxicated people from guns. And, of course, weed isn’t legal at the federal level.

Fried’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is tasked with overseeing firearm licensing. Whether Commissioner-elect Wilton Simpson will continue the lawsuit is yet to be seen.

“As I said when I filed this lawsuit, no patient should have to choose between their medicine and employment, or a roof over their head, or access to capital — or any of their constitutional rights,” Fried said in a statement.

“I will never stop being an advocate for full cannabis legalization. Full legalization will resolve many of the issues caused by irrational, inconsistent, and incoherent federal cannabis policies. Medical cannabis patients have the same Second Amendment rights as every American. Federal law cannot deem it illegal for a medical cannabis cardholder to purchase a firearm.”

The post Takeaways from Tallahassee — Giving thanks and generosity appeared first on Florida Politics – Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..

FloridaPolitics, excerpt posted on  SouthFloridaReporter.com

Republished with permission 

This article originally appeared here and was republished with permission.


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