Pensacola, Florida
Wednesday November 22nd 2017

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The Buzz 1/8/15


City Lobbyist Registry On Oct. 10, 2014, Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward announced in his digital newsletter that he wanted the city to adopt a lobbyist registry that would require those paid to lobby the city staff and council to disclose the clients they represent, as well as the subject matters they seek to influence.

He said that registry would be another step in his effort to ensure greater transparency in city government, pointing out his other “Restoring Trust” initiatives—city financial reports posted monthly on its website, new public record tracking system and adoption of a code of ethics.

“I believe that citizens have the right to know who’s lobbying City officials,” Hayward said. “It’s time for Pensacola to create a lobbyist registry, as many other cities have already done. Anyone who is paid to speak at City Council meetings or who seeks a meeting with a City official to lobby on behalf of another individual, organization or interest group should be required to register as a lobbyist.”

Nearly three months later, Mayor Hayward and his staff are ready to submit the lobbyist ordinance to the Pensacola City Council for approval. The proposed registry is modeled after programs established by other Florida cities, according to Hayward’s Chief Operations Officer Tamara Fountain.

In a memorandum to the city council, Fountain pointed the key points of the proposed lobbyist registration program:

-Lobbyists would be required annually to register with the city clerk and pay $25 for each client represented;
-Lobbyists must disclose any direct business associations or partnerships with any council member, board member or the mayor;
-Prior to addressing the city council or other decision-making body, lobbyists must verbally disclose they are registered lobbyists and identify the principal on behalf of whom they are lobbying; and
-Lobbyists are prohibiting from knowingly making false statements when lobbying.

Elected officials and government employees are not considered lobbyists if they are communicating with the mayor, council or board members in their official capacity. Neither are attorneys or others under contract with the city regarding issues within the scope of their contract. Also designated representatives from neighborhood or homeowner associations and individuals representing themselves are not considered lobbyists.

The penalties for violating the proposed ordinance are severe—a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 60 days, or by both the fine and imprisonment. Each day any violation shall continue shall constitute a separate offense.

Two Champions Named Andrea Krieger, president and CEO of United Way of Escambia County, and Dede Flounlacker, Manna Food Pantries’ executive director, are recipients of the Volunteer Florida’s Champion of Service Award.

The Champion of Service Award was established in 2013 by Volunteer Florida to honor individuals and groups for their outstanding efforts in volunteerism and service.

Krieger and Flounlacker will be presented with their awards by Volunteer Florida CEO Chester Spellman at a reception hosted by Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward on Wednesday, Jan. 14 at 3:30 p.m. in the Hagler-Mason Conference Room in Pensacola City Hall.

Last year, Volunteer Florida recognized several Champions of Service, including Peacemakers Family Center in Miami; AmeriCorps members Debra Trent and Stefon Gavin, mentors of 50 Large in Leon County; the College of Central Florida’s Dental Assisting Program Outreach Dental Clinic; Michael D. Hicks, volunteer chaplain at Charlotte Correctional Institution; Charles “Skip” Cramer, a longtime volunteer with the American Red Cross of Northeast Florida; Michael “Mikey” Attardi, Jr., who volunteered to serve families and individuals impacted by Super Storm Sandy; and Victoria Bell, a Ronald McDonald House Northwest Florida volunteer.

New Pit Rules County staff has developed several amendments to the ordinances that regulate borrow pits and construction and debris landfills. Since August, the county has had a moratorium on issuing permits for pits and landfills when it was revealed the vast majority of the pits in Escambia County were operating illegally (Inweekly, “Pitiful Pressure: Above the Law,” Aug. 21, 2014).

Borrow pits are areas mined for their sand and dirt to be used for construction projects. The proposed ordinance requires owners to submit a written reclamation plan for their pits. The permit will be valid for five years. The owners must consent to random and periodic inspections of the site, such inspections by county staff must occur at least twice a year.

The draft ordinances were presented to the pit and landfill owners on Monday, Jan. 5 and to the residents of the Wedgewood, Rolling Hills and Olive Heights neighborhoods on Wednesday, Jan. 7. The meetings happened after Inweekly’s editorial deadline, but more can be found on ricksblog.biz.

Obamacare Enrollment Starts Strong According to a report released by the Department of Health and Human Services on December 30, 673,255 Floridians selected plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace leading up to the December 15 deadline for coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2015.  About 94 percent of Floridians who selected health insurance plans in the first month of open enrollment were determined eligible for financial assistance to lower their monthly premiums, compared to 83 percent who selected plans over a similar period last year.  Of the 673,255 Floridians who selected a plan, 51 percent reenrolled in a Marketplace plan in 2015 and 49 percent signed up for the first time.

“We’re pleased that in Florida 673,255 people signed up for Marketplace coverage during the first month of open enrollment. The vast majority were able to lower their costs even further by getting tax credits, making a difference in the bottom lines of so many families,” HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell said. “Interest in the Marketplace has been strong during the first month of open enrollment. We still have a ways to go and a lot of work to do before February 15, but this is an encouraging start.”

Nationwide, more than 4 million people signed up for the first time or reenrolled in coverage for 2015 during the first month of open enrollment.  That includes more than 3.4 million people who selected a plan in the 37 states that are using the HealthCare.gov platform for 2015 (including Florida), and more than 600,000 consumers who selected plans in the 14 states that are operating their own Marketplace platform for 2015.

Open Enrollment in the Marketplace runs from Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015.  Consumers should visit HealthCare.gov to review and compare health plan options.  Consumers shopping for health insurance coverage should sign up by Jan. 15, 2015, in order to have coverage effective on Feb. 1, 2015.  If consumers who were automatically reenrolled decide in the coming weeks that a better plan exists for their families, they can make that change at any time before the end of open enrollment on February 15.