Don Gaetz

Florida lawmakers are kicking off the 2016 session Tuesday hoping to avoid the chaos of 2015, when the House and Senate had a tough time agreeing on anything. State Sen. Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) is term limited and serving in his final session.

Ethics Reform at the Grassroots:

Photo via Flickr// Alberto G. / https://flic.kr/p/9UnRWS

On a 6-1 vote this week, the Florida Board of Education approved Education Commissioner Pam Stewart’s test score and school grade proposals. But other proposals are expected to be introduced in the upcoming legislative session.

Board members considered where to set two critical benchmarks of the state's education accountability system: "cut scores" that determine the levels of achievement students get based on their performances on standardized tests, and the school grades tied to how well students do on those tests. Stewart calls it the “right approach and right balance.”

Daniel Mota

Triumph Gulf Coast Inc., the nonprofit corporation charged with distributing $1.5 billion in economic damages from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, held its inaugural meeting Tuesday. At Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, where the event was held, the conversation could be summed up with two words: “diversify” and “collaborate.”

"My hope is that these funds will be used to diversify and deepen our economy so that we can be more and more the masters of our own economic fate," Florida state Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said at the meeting’s start.  

In this week’s Economic Report, Dr. Rick Harper discusses Triumph Gulf Coast Inc., which will be holding its inaugural meeting Tuesday, Aug. 18 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort at 9300 Emerald Coast Parkway West in Destin.

Air Force Enlisted Village

The Air Force Enlisted Village in Okaloosa County is expanding. The latest addition to the military retirement community is Bob Hope Village 5. Residents will start moving in mid-August.

The Air Force Enlisted Village is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in Shalimar right outside Eglin Air Force Base. It’s comprised of Theresa Village and Bob Hope Village, two independent living communities for widows of retired airmen, retired military couples, and mothers of active duty service members. In addition, an assisted living facility, Hawthorn House, is located on the property.

Before signing the new state budget into law, Governor Rick Scott vetoed about $8.2 million in spending for northwest Florida projects. And there’s talk about how some of the cuts may have been made, which is drawing fire from some lawmakers.

Scott signed the nearly $79 billion budget, which takes effect July 1, in his office on Tuesday. But prior to that, he unlimbered his line-item veto pen to the tune of $461 million; believed to be a record for budget vetoes.

Danielle Freeman

The Bud and Dorie Day Patriots’ Trail is officially open in Ft. Walton Beach.

The trail is named in honor of Vietnam War hero Col. Bud Day, who died in July of 2013 at the age of 88, and his wife Dorie. It winds down Staff Drive, Nebraska Avenue, and California Drive and features 16 historical markers comprised of information highlighting their life together.

There’s a marker detailing Bud’s childhood, another on how he met the woman who would become the love of his life.

sacred-heart.org

Uncle Sam is offering a one billion dollar compromise to Florida, regarding the Low Income Pool – which is provided to hospitals to help pay for uninsured and under-insured patients and is scheduled to expire on June 30 if not renewed.

State Senator Don Gaetz made the announcement on Thursday, adding that there are a number of conditions. One is that the LIP money must follow the patient. That’s a catch he says the state has known about for some time.

ricksblog.biz

Gov. Rick Scott's newly created Commission on Healthcare and Hospital Funding met for the first time on Wednesday. But hospitals have met his request for information by essentially telling him to look it up himself. That includes at least one Pensacola-area facility.

Many of the dozens of surveys returned by hospitals have five or fewer of the roughly 100 lines filled out with new information. Many referred Scott to data already on file with the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

The Florida House provided a surprising twist in the Legislature’s fight over expanding Medicaid on Tuesday, by suddenly adjourning its 2015 session, that action ensures that a special session will be called to complete the budget.

In his remarks, House Speaker Steve Crisafulli blamed the shutdown on the Senate's unwillingness to drop its resolve to bring up a Medicaid expansion alternative before agreeing to a budget.

photo via Flickr//Usually Melancholy / https://flic.kr/p/pCMmPH

  Marco Rubio’s decision to vacate his U.S. Senate seat in favor of a run for president in 2016 is leading speculation about the slate of candidates wanting to succeed him. Two of the possibilities are in northwest Florida.

Cong. Jeff Miller had been listed as among those who may seek the Republican nomination. After a tour of the mold-infested federal courthouse in Pensacola last week, he came through with a “definite maybe.”

arc-gateway.org

Pensacola State College and Arc Gateway are beginning PALS – Program for Adult Learning and Support – a two-year post-secondary program for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

About 40 students will make up the inaugural PALS class, including Cameron Northup, who was born with Down syndrome.

“I do not want to go into detail about my disability,” said Northup. “I want to talk about my abilities.”

Photo via Flickr//debra32514

International Paper plans to spend more $90 million to upgrade its Cantonment plant’s energy efficiency along with its production of containerboard and fluff pulp that’s used for packing materials.

According to a news release from IP, the five-year commitment will be supported by roughly $5 million in grants and infrastructure improvements. Currently, the plant,which opened in 1941 and was acquired by IP in 2000, has a workforce of about 400 and pumped about $330 million into the local economy last year.

Photo via Flickr//Jason Mitchell

Fourteen Florida counties will share $2.45 million from the state’s Defense Infrastructure and Reinvestment Grant Programs. The funding will provide support for community projects at 19 military installations.

Florida’s military and defense sector is responsible for almost 9.5% of the state’s economy. That translates to 758,000 direct and indirect jobs that represent $73 billion in spending.

FLSenate.gov

Florida lawmakers are gearing up for a little overtime. The Legislature kicks off a special session on Thursday, to redraw congressional districts.

The memo was issued Sunday by Senate President Don Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford. It came two days after Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis ordered lawmakers to redraw the districts of Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown of Jacksonville and Republican Congressman Dan Webster of Orlando, and submit a map to him by Aug. 15.  Gaetz – a Republican from Niceville -- says that’s not an unreasonable deadline.

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