Home FloridaPolitics.com "Takeaways" Takeaways From Tallahassee — Shattering Glass Ceilings

Takeaways From Tallahassee — Shattering Glass Ceilings

Mission accomplished

Salesia V. Smith-Gordon is giving back to her alma mater. And in return, her alma mater — Florida State University — is thanking her publicly.

The Florida State University College of Law is hanging a portrait of Smith-Gordon in its rotunda on Thursday, marking the first Black alumna to be recognized in this fashion.

A West Palm Beach personal injury trial attorney, Smith-Gordon made a $200,000 gift to the law school to help seed an endowment that will provide scholarships for Black law students and support greater cultural diversity in the college. It is the largest gift a Black alumna has ever given FSU’s law school.

The mother-daughter duo of Jeraldine Williams and Salesia Smith-Gordon have already made school history. Image via FSU.

“As an African American female lawyer, I felt it was of the utmost importance to find a way to help ensure that Black students, especially women, had the support and resources needed for academic success,” she said in a prepared statement.

While Smith-Gordon is the first Black alumna to be recognized with a portrait in the rotunda, she’s already made school history. Her mother, Jeraldine Williams, graduated from FSU Law in 1981. And when Smith-Gordon graduated in 1992 she became a part of school history being one half of the first mother-daughter pair to graduate from the College of Law.

Smith-Gordon helped launch the Black Alumni Network (BAN) in 2021 with the goal of creating increased opportunities for Black students to attend law school and to increase diversity on the College of Law’s campus.

FSU College of Law opened in 1966 and the Honorable Zebedee Wright was the first Black person to graduate in 1971. In a promotional video for BAN last year Smith-Gordon said 591 Black students had graduated since.

“That’s not a small number,” she said at the time. “But it’s not a large number either in comparison.”

Her goals for BNA in the first year included highlighting the success both in and out of the courtroom that FSU College of Law Black alumni have enjoyed. She also wanted the members of BAN to work to encourage Black students to attend the law school and to provide the support they need to retain them.

And her last goal?

“We will have an endowed scholarship to show that we didn’t just walk through these halls but we thrived in spite of them,” she said.

Mission accomplished.


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

But first …

Take 5

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

Backlash continues over migrant flights — Resistance against Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to send flights of immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard continued mounting this week. Venezuelan migrants flown to the Massachusetts island sued DeSantis and the Transportation Secretary on Tuesday for engaging in a “fraudulent and discriminatory scheme” to relocate them. Charlie Crist continued condemning the “political stunt.” Sen. Jason Pizzo filed a lawsuit to block DeSantis from continuing the program. There was also a flare-up over a flight scheduled to land near President Joe Biden’s Delaware home, which DeSantis reportedly canceled to “punk” the media. Although former President Donald Trump dodged a question about the flights, Jared Kushner criticized the move during a Fox News sitdown: “Seeing them being used as political pawns one way or the other is very troubling to me.”

Judge denies motion to reinstate Andrew Warren — Federal Judge Robert Hinkle on Monday rejected a request from Warren to reinstate him as Hillsborough State Attorney and overturn DeSantis’ move to suspend him from office over a pledge he made not to prosecute abortion-related crimes. While Hinkle rejected the injunction, he scrutinized the state’s argument and opted instead to hold a trial on the matter. Hinkle expressed concern about “yo-yo-ing” the office if he were to reinstate Warren, then DeSantis appeals and the Governor’s chosen replacement, Susan Lopez, is put back in.

DeSantis wants further crackdown on Chinese influence — DeSantis signed an executive order Thursday prohibiting state agencies from contracting with Chinese-based companies for projects that could allow them to access Floridians’ personal data. It’s part of a broader crackdown on the Chinese government’s attempts to “infiltrate” institutions throughout the country. DeSantis also said he’ll push the Legislature next year to ban gifts from certain “malign” foreign countries, such as China, Russia, Cuba and Iran, to higher education institutions. The proposal follows a law DeSantis promoted for last year’s Legislative Session, which requires universities and colleges to disclose any gifts worth more than $50,000.

DeSantis floats $1.1B tax cut aimed at kids’ items — Flush with a $20 billion surplus, padded with the federal COVID-19 stimulus, DeSantis wants lawmakers next year to pass another large tax cut plan, which he says will save families $1.1 billion. The proposal largely targets eliminating the sales tax on items for babies and small children, including diapers, toys, cribs, strollers and children’s books. Lawmakers passed a one-year exemption on sales taxes on diapers and clothes for babies this year, but DeSantis wants to make it permanent. That provision is estimated to save consumers $133 million.

Florida asks SCOTUS to visit social media ruling — Florida is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to protect Florida’s social media “deplatforming” law after appeals courts issued conflicting rulings. Attorney General Ashley Moody filed an appeal on Wednesday asking the Court to overturn a ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which in May displaced the law on First Amendment grounds. However, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a conflicting ruling just last week over a similar Texas law, putting the issue on a path destined for the nation’s high court. The internet groups that brought the cases in both states are on board with taking the matter to the high court.


Young entrepreneurs

DeSantis awarded $1.9 million to benefit entrepreneurship and training programs at eight state colleges and 17 school districts in the Sunshine State.

The funding, announced Thursday, will help students learn about how to run a small business and connect them with available opportunities in their area. The awards will create and support programs at colleges, high schools and middle schools.

“Becoming a business owner is one of the best ways to achieve economic mobility,” DeSantis said in a recorded video, “and in Florida, we have created a climate that allows small businesses to thrive.”

On top of a booming small business industry, which DeSantis credited to the state’s economic policies since 2020, the Governor touted Florida’s education system as the best in the world for entrepreneurship education and training.

More than 20,000 Florida students have earned an industry certification in Entrepreneurship and Small Business (ESB), mostly since 2020. Florida represents about half of all ESB certificates earned in the United States since the certificate was first launched in 2017.

“Under Governor DeSantis’ leadership, Florida has led the way in ensuring our students have adequate skills-based training through Career and Technical Education programs,” Commissioner of Education Manny Díaz said in a prepared statement. “These programs are rigorous, in-demand and allow students the opportunity to dive into a career quickly and without debt.”

Force quit

Attorney General Ashley Moody continued her push to silence the annoying robots bugging Floridians around the clock.

Though not as pesky as the top-of-the-line models from Hyperdyne or Cyberdyne, robocallers have hijacked the U.S. telephone, and the dissolute companies behind them are raking in billions from Americans through fraudulent schemes. They’re costing law enforcement and telecom companies a bundle, too.

Ashley Moody is as fed up as you are with robocalls. Image via AP.

Moody is hoping to stop the bots by advocating for more rigorous enforcement by the Federal Communications Commission. So, she joined 50 other Attorneys General this week to support a proposed rule change regarding “gateway providers,” which are essentially the switchboard operators giving bots bogus numbers and an all-access pass to the phone network.

The new rule would expand a recent FCC change to get the few holdout phone companies that, although largely invisible to the public, are exclusively responsible for routing fraudulent and illegal calls across the U.S. phone network, regardless of where the calls originate.

The rule would also force companies to respond to law enforcement traceback requests within 24 hours and block illegal traffic as soon as possible.

“I am joining attorneys general from across the nation urging the FCC to strengthen federal rules to ensure gateway providers are doing everything they can to protect Americans from unlawful robocalls,” Moody said.


Safe Fiona relief

Following the devastating effects of Hurricane Fiona on Puerto Rico, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is providing tips on how Floridians can safely help support those affected.

Most charities soliciting within Florida are required to register and file financial information with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). While it is up to donors to determine if their contribution will be spent the way they intend, the department makes it easier for donors to access that information by making registration and financial documentation available online at FloridaConsumerHelp.com.

U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico need help after Hurricane Fiona. Image via AP.

Fried and FDACS “encourage Floridians looking to support recovery efforts to review our list of best practices to avoid scams and sham charities so that your generosity can make the most impact possible for our neighbors in need,” she said in a statement.

FDACS lists a few tips to help donors stay safe, including using its Check-a-Charity tool, googling the organization’s name to check for complaints, scams and reviews, asking how much of the donation goes to administrative costs, paying with a credit card or check and not giving in to pressure to donate immediately — a possible sign of an illegitimate charity.

“We are praying for the strength and safety of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Fiona,” Fried said. “This most recent storm has caused widespread devastation to the island’s infrastructure and residents that are still recovering five years after being struck by Hurricane Maria, a deadly category 5 storm.”

FloridaPolitics, excerpt posted on  SouthFloridaReporter.com

Republished with permission 


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