Pensacola News Journal
The city of Pensacola is creating an affordable housing task force to put together a plan for how to build 500 new affordable housing units in five years. The task force was discussed Wednesday at the first joint Pensacola City Council-Escambia County Commission meeting since Mayor Grover Robinson was elected. "While that might seem like a lofty goal, we as the city, and also the county, we think it's definitely doable if we work together," Assistant City Administrator Kerrith Fiddler told the two governmental boards. Details of who will sit on the task force have not been released, but Robinson said he hopes the county will also join the group.
An administrative law judge will hold a hearing this month in a dispute about how to carry out a new law that is expected to lead to more underground power lines in Florida — and higher costs for utility customers. The state Office of Public Counsel, which represents customers, is challenging a Nov. 5 decision by regulators to approve proposed rules stemming from the law, which the Legislature passed this spring. The public counsel does not challenge the underlying law but contends that the rules, approved by the Florida Public Service Commission, are flawed.
Palm Beach Post
The Florida Department of Transportation will make safety improvements to more than 4,000 rail crossings over the next two years, state Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault said Thursday. The $60 million project will include painting stripes on pavement and installing signs and crossing arms, Thibault said. The announcement follows the November deaths of a grandmother and two young boys at an ungated railroad crossing in rural Palm Beach County. While Thibault didn’t specifically mention that incident in unveiling the new safety program, the tragedy brought attention to dangerous rail crossings throughout Florida.
Florida's Department of Transportation announced Thursday an immediate directive for more rail safety measures across the state as well as a new education initiative about rail safety called Operation STRIDE. The announcement comes in light of a recent report that indicated that Brightline high speed trains have the worst per-mile death rate in the country. According to federal data, 41 people have been killed since January 2018, a rate of more than one a month and about one for every 29,000 miles the trains have traveled. That same report indicated that none of the deaths were caused by crew error or faulty equipment but rather were related to suicides or impatient motorists, pedestrians or bicyclists who misjudged the trains’ speed and ignored bells, gates or other warnings.
Foster Folly News
Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved more than $15 million in low-interest Community Disaster Loans for the City of Mexico Beach, City of Panama City, City of Parker, Bay County School District and the Calhoun-Liberty Hospital Association. The Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) worked alongside FEMA to secure the loans for the impacted communities. “Since day one of my administration, we have used every resource at our disposal to ensure Northwest Florida completely rebuilds from Hurricane Michael,” said Governor DeSantis.
Naples Daily News
A different variety of algae is blooming in parts of the Caloosahatchee River, but unlike other blooms the region has experienced in the past two years, this algae is not toxic to humans. Joining red tide, blue-green and drift algae, Akashiwo sanguinea has reared its head in Southwest Florida. It's found in brackish to salty waters and is now spread from the Beautiful Island area to the Cape Coral bridge, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, and water quality scientists monitoring the bloom say. The good news is it's not toxic.
Sponsors of an amendment to make it harder to change Florida’s constitution pulled in nearly $2.5 million last month, according to campaign finance reports. The political committee Keep Our Constitution Clean‘s total haul now tops $8 million with November being its best month to date. And the group’s proposed amendment, which would require that future amendments face two rounds of voting, now has 416,846 of the 766,200 signatures it needs by February to appear on the 2020 ballot. Increasing the necessary rounds of public approval, from one round, would make Florida’s constitution one of the hardest state constitutions to change.
A key senator Thursday proposed keeping in place a controversial Medicaid change that reduces spending. Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican, filed a bill (SB 52) that would continue a policy that requires many poor, elderly and disabled people to apply for Medicaid the same month they become ill or suffer catastrophic injuries. In the past, Florida had a 90-day retroactive eligibility window for people to apply for Medicaid. But under then-Gov. Rick Scott, the Legislature in 2018 moved to reduce the amount of time people can apply for the program, though pregnant women and children were exempted from the policy change.