Governor appoints 3 to water management board

Governor Ron DeSantis appointed James Holton, Dustin Rowland and Robert Stern to the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Governing Board.

Holton, of St. Petersburg, is the president and owner of JWH Properties, Inc., MHH Enterprises, Inc. and James W. Holton, P.A. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and his master’s degree and juris doctor from Boston University. Holton represents Pinellas County.

Rowland, of Dade City, is the president and owner of Rowland Truck Lines. He graduated from Zephyrhills High School in 1994. Rowland represents Pasco County.

Stern, of Tampa, is a partner and attorney for Trenam Law. Stern earned his bachelor’s degree in business administration and his juris doctor from the University of Florida. Stern represents Hillsborough County.

The appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Governing Board members are unpaid, citizen volunteers who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate. The Governing Board sets policy for the District, whose mission is to manage the water and related resources of west central Florida to meet the needs of current and future water users while protecting the environment.

Key Training Center: Choice, Independence

As the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased by 20% over the last five years, an increase for non-wage operational costs for iBudget providers has not been addressed in even longer.

For the 2023 Legislative Session, we are seeking $44.6 million in General Revenue ($67.7 million in Federal Match) equating to $112,286,417 critical dollars to address this funding gap.

Thank you! On behalf of the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities we serve, we are grateful to Governor DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for taking the time to listen and understand our direct care worker crisis in the 2022 Legislative session, a vital first step in ensuring that we continue to provide programs that promote CHOICE AND INDEPENDENCE.

  • We still need your help as we are experiencing unprecedented increases in gasoline, health insurance, business insurance, and other non-wage operational costs which threatens our service delivery. While this initial step was instrumental in ensuring program delivery, unfortunately it did not address non-direct care worker support staff and veteran direct care workers already making $15 per hour.
  • Operational costs need to be addressed when funds are added to the Home and Community-based Waiver Program. The iBudget gives individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities the CONTROL AND FLEXIBILITY TO CHOOSE SERVICES that are important to them, providing resources for them to live as independently as possible in their own home or in the community and achieve productive lives.
  • Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) provide essential, hands-on care accounting for approximately 70% of the total cost of providing services.
  • Providers using the iBudget waiver have been covering operational cost deficiencies at a loss.
  • A joint survey conducted by Florida ARF and The Arc of Florida showed that 85% of providers said the new rates do not cover their costs. If not addressed, the providers committed to providing services that supports client choice may have to reduce their services, impacting our neighbors, friends and family member with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Let’s Continue.

DeSantis seeks tax relief in proposed $114B budget

By Andrew Powell | The Center Square contributor

(The Center Square) — Florida Governor Ron DeSantis held a news conference in Tallahassee Wednesday to discuss his “Framework for Freedom” budget.

DeSantis’ proposed $114.8 billion budget contains some tax relief measures as the economy in the Sunshine State has performed far better than other states. Last year the state surplus was over $20 billion, and DeSantis stated that this money needs to go back to the people.

“Where you have a growing state where there’s infrastructure needs, you don’t want to just have all this money just sitting there because that’s telling me that you’re not doing as good a job as you need to be doing, returning money back to the people with tax relief.” DeSantis said.

Several tax relief initiatives have already started as of Jan. 1 after a December special session gave $500 million to Floridians in toll relief, saving some hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in a year.

“We’re going to continue to lead on fiscal responsibility and make sure that our state is not drowning in debt,” DeSantis said.

DeSantis unveiled a long list of other essential items that will become permanently tax free including diapers and baby products like wipes, food, clothing, cribs and strollers.

Pet owners will no longer pay tax for over the counter pet medications, as DeSantis pointed out, “they’re parts of our family too, and these are things that you need to do.”

This also includes no taxes for pet food.

Household items under $25 will be getting a one-year tax-free holiday, from everything from trash bags to detergents.

All dental hygiene products are tax free, and this also includes toiletries.

Parents of school children will also benefit from the massive $1.5 billion relief package as children’s books, toys and equipment will now be tax free and when it comes time to purchase new school stationary, there will be a continuation of the already existing 14-day tax holiday to purchase these items.

Disaster preparation will continue with a two-week sales tax holiday for all approved merchandise and DeSantis added that the budget will also cover funds specifically set aside for any future disasters.

Teachers will be offered pay increases to retain and recruit more staff, with $1 billion allocated for that purpose.

Law enforcement agencies such as the Highway Patrol and Fish and Wildlife are likewise going to get pay increases to help recruit and retain staff. There are bonuses of up to $5,000 for new hires included in the governor’s budget.

Over $330 million will be allocated to health services for women and children, including enhanced services for pregnant women and postpartum.

Around $9 million has been allocated for Alzheimer’s research and services and DeSantis also added that $20 million will be for fighting the fentanyl crisis.

Rural communities are also getting a boost with increased infrastructure such as high speed internet access.

Last call for Florida Fish Art Contest entries

The deadline is fast approaching for this year’s Art of Conservation Florida Fish Art Contest, hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). This contest is open to youths in grades kindergarten through 12th grade from across the state. The deadline to enter is Feb. 28 – start your entry today!

Students from Florida can win top honors, international recognition and prizes while learning about fish, fishing and aquatic conservation. The Art of Conservation inspires young people to get involved in the great outdoors and ignites a passion to become lifelong activists for the natural world.

Two first-place winners will be selected for each grade bracket (kindergarten through third grade, fourth through sixth grade, seventh through ninth grade, and 10th through 12th grade), one for illustrating the best freshwater fish species and one for the best saltwater fish species. All first-place winners will advance to the national competition to be judged for top prizes, including Best of Show. The deadline to enter is Feb. 28, so start designing today!

To enter, students from Florida should submit their entry at Wildlife Forever – Florida Art, consisting of the following:

  • An original piece of artwork featuring any fish including one or more of the following Florida native species from the same category:
  • Category 1 – Freshwater: largemouth bass, striped bass, black crappie, bluegill, redear sunfish, spotted sunfish, channel catfish, Forida gar, chain pickerel, bowfin
  • Category 2 – Saltwater: snook, redfish, spotted seatrout, flounder, tarpon, mahi-mahi, Spanish mackerel, hogfish, queen snapper, black grouper
  • A piece of creative writing, no longer than one page, about the chosen species (required for grades 4-12).
  • A Florida State-Fish Art Contest entry form.

( Contest ends Feb. 28, 2023 )

CF invites students to a preview day

OCALA, Fla. (Jan. 30, 2023) — The College of Central Florida invites anyone thinking about college to attend an upcoming Preview Day event: Ocala Campus on Tuesday, Feb. 28, 5-7 p.m.; Jack Wilkinson Levy Campus on Thursday, March 2, 10 a.m-1 p.m.; or Wilton Simpson Citrus Campus on Thursday, March 9, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.

Preview Day is a chance for anyone considering college to find out everything CF has to offer – for high school students to retirees and everyone in between. At CF’s largest event of the year, representatives from admissions, financial aid, student services, clubs and organizations will help attendees plan their successful college experience.

“Preview Day is an opportunity for students and their families to get answers to all their questions about college,” said Dr. Raphel Robinson, director of Admissions and Student Recruitment. “CF is a college for everyone, and we’re committed to providing a supportive, high-quality learning environment where all individuals can excel.”

The $30 application fee is waived for anyone who applies at Preview Day. Attendees who complete a survey will get a CF T-shirt and will be entered to win free tuition for one 3-credit undergraduate class at the in-state tuition rate.

Report: Children under 14 dying from fentanyl poisoning at faster rate than any other age group

(The Center Square) – Children under age 14 are dying from fentanyl poisoning at a faster rate than any other age group in the U.S., according to a new analysis from Families Against Fentanyl.

In the past two years, synthetic opioid (fentanyl) deaths among children surged.

Fentanyl-related deaths among infants (children under age one) quadrupled from 2019 to 2021; more than tripled among children between the ages of 1 and 4 and nearly quadrupled among children between the ages of 5 and 14.

Since 2015, fentanyl-related deaths among infants increased nearly 10-fold; among children ages 1 to 14, deaths increased 15-fold, an increase of over 1,400%, FAF said.

Nationally, fentanyl deaths also doubled over the same time period.

The majority of deaths were poisonings, meaning they resulted from fentanyl being ingested without the person’s knowledge. In 2021, less than 1% of  fentanyl-related fatalities were suicides.

FAF reported its findings in a newly published brief, “The Changing Faces of Fentanyl Deaths,” which evaluated Center for Disease Control data of fentanyl poisoning fatalities.

“These disturbing new findings should serve as a wake-up call to our nation’s leaders,’” Jim Rauh, founder of Families Against Fentanyl, said. He again called on President Joe Biden to classify fentanyl as a weapon of mass destruction “and immediately establish a White House task force dedicated to the fentanyl crisis.”

“Americans deserve to know what is being done to save lives, and what is being done to uncover and stop the international manufacturers and traffickers of illicit fentanyl,” Rauh added. “This is the number one killer of our nation’s young adults. It is killing more and more children each year. It’s time to treat this threat with the urgency it deserves.”

It announced its findings after the DEA issued several public safety alerts last year about fentanyl and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody warned of Mexican cartels targeting young Americans with rainbow fentanyl pills, fake prescription pills that look like candy but are laced with fentanyl.

The DEA last month announced that in 2022, it seized enough fentanyl to kill more than everyone in the U.S. Texas law enforcement officers, as of Jan. 13 and since March 2021, have seized over 356 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill more than everyone in the United States. Last year, in a few months’ time, Florida law enforcement officers seized enough fentanyl to kill everyone in Florida.

Two milligrams of fentanyl, the size of a mosquito, is lethal enough to kill a grown adult and is 100 times more potent than morphine.

In early January, Moody called on Biden to demand that Mexico take action to prevent fentanyl from pouring across the border. She said she was “deeply concerned” because in his meetings with the Mexican president they didn’t appear “to discuss the deluge of illicit fentanyl flooding across our border from Mexico or the record number of Americans dying because of your failure to take action and stop the unmitigated flow of this deadly poison.”

Biden has also “failed to demand accountability and cooperation during previous meetings with both Obrador and Chinese President Xi Jinping,” Moody said.

Both countries have been identified by U.S. federal and state law enforcement agencies for creating the illicit fentanyl crisis. Chinese mafia and gangs ship fentanyl precursors to Mexican ports, where cartels and their operatives manufacture fake prescription pills and lace other drugs with fentanyl, fueling the fentanyl crisis, the DEA and other agencies say.

Traffickers then bring deadly drugs across the border using migrant warfare as a way to distract and avoid law enforcement, experts say.

The DEA has published several public safety alerts about the dangers of fentanyl. Florida has also published resources through its Dose of Reality, One Pill Can Kill website. It’s Fast Facts on Fentanyl toolkit includes a DEA Emoji Drug Code to educate parents about how dealers are selling illicit drugs targeting minors through social media apps.

FAF points out that synthetic opioid (fentanyl) poisoning is still the leading cause of death among Americans between ages 18 and 45.

Americans are encouraged to have Naloxone on hand, a drug that’s proven to reverse opioid overdoses and fentanyl poisoning if administered quickly enough. It’s available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It’s accessible for free and low cost online, through a range of community organizations, and through pharmacies with and without a prescription and with or without insurance.