Pensacola, Florida
Monday April 23rd 2018

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The Buzz 1/4/18

New Children’s Hospital on Track Construction of the new Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart is on schedule, with the new four-story facility expected to open in the spring of 2019 on Sacred Heart’s Pensacola campus.

More than $20.7 million has been awarded to Escambia County sub-contractors. Currently, 100 construction workers are onsite, and this will peak between 250 and 275 as the project progresses.

Upon opening, the new children’s hospital is expected to add 100 Sacred Heart jobs for the local community. This growth of healthcare services will also enable recruitment of new pediatric specialists.

“We are tremendously pleased with the progress being made on our new children’s hospital,” said Henry Stovall, president of Sacred Heart Hospital Pensacola and The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart. “While we did experience several brief pauses in construction to prepare for incoming hurricanes, our overall beautiful weather this past fall has enabled our crews to keep to the project timeline. We look forward to sharing this work with patients and community members in 2019.”

The Children’s Hospital’s basement walls and slab are complete, and the east side of the basement wall is being backfilled with dirt. Structural steel has been installed on the first floor, and parts of the first- and second-floor slabs have been poured. Work has also begun on elevators and stairwells.

Construction of the new four-story children’s hospital began on Sacred Heart’s Pensacola campus in March. The new children’s hospital will increase access to specialized pediatric and maternity care and consolidate inpatient pediatric services in one convenient location.

The new children’s hospital will include a pediatric emergency department and trauma center, pediatric procedure rooms, 72-bed neonatal intensive care unit, medical/surgical beds, pediatric imaging department, pediatric satellite pharmacy, pediatric inpatient rehabilitation gym, child life playrooms, outdoor gardens and a new family-friendly dining venue.

In addition to the Ronald McDonald House adjacent to Sacred Heart’s Pensacola campus, the Ronald McDonald Family Room inside the new children’s hospital will offer a playroom specifically for patients’ siblings, as well as space for families to cook, do laundry and relax.

“This new children’s hospital will be a game-changer for the Gulf Coast’s sick and injured children,” said Stovall.

Sacred Heart Health System and Ascension have committed $55 million towards the construction of the new children’s hospital, and Sacred Heart has raised $21 million of the $30 million needed from community supporters to complete all phases of the expansion. To donate the new Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart, visit sacred-heart.org/foundation.

The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart is a 117-bed facility that serves as the only children’s hospital in Northwest Florida. The Children’s Hospital provides quality, compassionate care to children, regardless of their parents’ ability to pay. For more information about the services available at The Studer Family Children’s Hospital at Sacred Heart, visit sacred-heart.org/childrenshospital.

Welcoming Tone Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward outlined his goals for the last year of his second term in a message posted on the city’s website.

“We are fortunate to live in a city where so many people are engaged in improving the quality of life for everyone in our community,” he wrote. “Our goal in 2018 is to make sure we send that message to the businesses and individuals who are interested in coming here.”

He challenged the city’s residents to set a welcoming tone for everyone who is interested in investing in Pensacola.

Hayward said he would continue to focus on the city’s infrastructure and to go after state and federal funds to make more improvements without raising taxes or fees. The mayor did comment on the delays of some of his stormwater projects without naming them specifically. The Corinne Jones-Government Stormwater Pond project is three years behind schedule.

“Sure, some of the projects ran into difficulties, but anytime you start a complex project you know there will be unanticipated problems,” said Hayward. “If you can’t accept some risk, if you don’t have a vision for what could be, you’ll never get anything done.”

He also touted the city’s overall financial status.

“We are living within our means, we’ve consolidated our gains from pension reform, and we rapidly negotiated new agreements with our employee unions,” wrote Hayward. “For over 35 years our Finance Department has been recognized for excellence in budgeting and financial reporting.  Where would you rather pay your taxes?”

There was no mention of his plans for the Port of Pensacola.

Airbnb Grows in Florida Airbnb Florida announced last week that its Florida vacation rental hosts earned a combined $450 million in supplemental income while welcoming approximately 2.7 million guests to the state in 2017—a 75-percent growth over 2016.

According to its press release, nearly 40,000 Floridians shared their homes or vacation rentals through Airbnb, with each host typically earning about $6,700 annually. In Escambia County, Airbnb booked 31,700 guest arrivals in 2017, at an average earning of $145 each.

Miami-Dade County had the most guest arrivals in Florida, 667,200, and the most host income, $134.6 million.

“Vacation rentals provide a tremendous impact for the local tourism industry and Florida’s overall economy,” said Sen. Greg Steube (R-Sarasota) in the press release. “We must protect private property rights so that Florida homeowners can continue to participate in the sharing economy and provide additional options for travelers to our state.”

Airbnb said that Florida hotels also experienced strong growth in occupancy rates, prices and revenue during 2017, which it argued suggested “vacation rentals on Airbnb and other platforms are opening up the state to a new demographic of tourists by catering to travelers who are less able to afford hotels, those who desire to stay in neighborhoods or cities that lack hotels, and families who prefer to vacation together under one roof.”

“We are proud to contribute to Florida’s record-setting tourism by opening up the state to new segments of visitors,” said Jennifer Frankenstein-Harris, president of the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association (FVRMA). “We are committed to partnering with the Governor and lawmakers to further infuse Florida’s economy with additional revenue and elevate Florida’s status as a global hub for family-friendly tourism.”

Airbnb is currently authorized to collect and pay the state sales tax on all bookings in Florida, in addition to collecting and paying local bed taxes in 39 counties. In 2017 alone, Airbnb secured new tax agreements with six counties: Miami-Dade, Broward, Sarasota, Polk, Hillsborough and Leon. The company will release a 2017 county-by-county tax report once the December taxes are remitted.

Fight for Higher Wage Miami Beach Mayor Phillip Levine, a Democratic candidate for governor, and his city have asked the Florida Supreme Court to take up the issue whether the city can move forward with a local minimum wage. The city last week filed a notice that it is appealing a Dec. 13 decision by the 3rd District Court of Appeal that rejected the local minimum wage.

In 2016, the Miami Beach City Commission approved an ordinance that set a minimum wage of $10.31 an hour to take effect in 2018, with the wage going up $1 a year to $13.31 on Jan. 1, 2021.

Opponents, including the Florida Retail Federation, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, filed a lawsuit against the city, contending that local governments do not have the legal authority to set their own minimum wages. The case, in part, focused on a 2004 constitutional amendment that created a higher minimum wage in Florida than the federal minimum wage.

Miami Beach argued that the constitutional amendment also allowed it to set a different minimum wage. But the Third District Court of Appeal said an earlier state law prevented local governments from setting minimum wages and that the constitutional amendment did not change that “preemption” law.

The notice filed this week in the Supreme Court does not detail the city’s legal positions. The statewide minimum wage went up to $8.25 on Jan. 1.

Legislative Day The Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce held its Legislative Luncheon before the Christmas holidays.  Congressman Matt Gaetz (R-Niceville) provided keynote remarks, updating the 250 attendees on the latest developments from our nation’s capital.

“Today’s legislative luncheon provided the opportunity for the business community to learn what impact tax reform will have on their businesses and families,” said Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Steve Moorhead.  “We appreciate Congressman Gaetz for giving us his perspective.”

Moorhead provided an overview of the Chamber’s advocacy efforts highlighting the Chamber’s vetting and support of Triumph Gulf Coast projects for potential funding.

Congressman Gaetz’ keynote remarks ranged from the ongoing tax reform negotiations to the need to renew the Gulf oil drilling moratorium set to expire in 2022.  Gaetz also lamented the lack of camaraderie between the political parties in Washington compared to the more collegial Florida Legislature.

Gulf Power President, and Triumph Gulf Coast board member, Stan Connally offered an update on Triumph Gulf Coast’s progress and their outlook heading into 2018.  Connally stated that he wants to see projects that will benefit the public at large and supplement, not supplant other projects in the region.

The luncheon also featured a question and answer session with Congressman Gaetz and the Northwest Florida legislative delegation, State Senator Doug Broxson and State Representatives Mel Ponder, Jayer Williamson and Clay Ingram.

Two Tiger Bay Speakers The Panhandle Tiger Bay Club will have two speakers in January—Dr. Sue Mi Terry and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

Dr. Sue Mi Terry will speak on Friday, Jan. 12. She joined the Center for Strategic and International Studies in 2017 as a senior fellow from Korea after a long and distinguished career in intelligence, policymaking, and academia following Korean issues.  Terry was the director for Korea, Japan, and Oceanic affairs at the National Security Council under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama from 2008-2008. She also served as a senior analyst on Korean issues at the CIA from 2001-2008, where she produced hundreds of intelligence assessments, including a record number of contributions to the President’s Daily Brief.

Adam Putnam is a fifth-generation Floridian, the son of a citrus and cattle farmer, and a Republican running for Governor of Florida. For the past seven years, Putnam has served as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture. As Commissioner, Putnam fought for the betterment of all Floridians’s while staying grounded in his conservative principles, Florida values and vision to make Florida’s reality live up to Florida’s promise.  He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2001-2011. He will speak on Wednesday, Jan. 31.

The Panhandle Tiger Bay Club meets at 11:30 a.m. at Skopelos at New World Landing, 600 S. Palafox St. The program starts at noon. The charge for guests is $35, while military and students are $25. To RSVP, go to panhandletigerbay.com.

Referendums Gather Signatures The News Service of Florida reports that backers of proposed constitutional amendments that would make it harder to expand gambling in Florida and restore felons’ rights have topped 600,000 valid petition signatures, according to numbers posted on the state Division of Elections website.

The political committee Voters In Charge, which is spearheading the gambling measure, had submitted 621,763 valid signatures as of Dec. 28, according to the state Division of Elections website. The group needs to present 766,200 to get the measure on the November 2018 ballot. The proposal would change the state Constitution and give voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state. It would require voter approval of casino-style games in the future.

Meanwhile, the political committee Floridians for a Fair Democracy had submitted 600,083 valid signatures, according to the Division of Elections. The committee’s proposed constitutional amendment, if approved next year, would automatically restore voting rights for all nonviolent felons who have served their sentences, completed parole or probation and paid restitution. Felons convicted of violent crimes, such as murder, would not be eligible.