The juice is safe: Florida Department of Citrus will pick up tab for juice at welcome centers


Gov. Rick Scott vetoed money to pay for the free cup of orange and grapefruit juice at Welcome Centers, but the state's Citrus department says it will foot the bill. Photo from Florida Department of Citrus.
Gov. Rick Scott vetoed money to pay for the free cup of orange and grapefruit juice at Welcome Centers, but the state’s Citrus department says it will foot the bill. Photo from Florida Department of Citrus.

James L. Rosica, (@jlrosicaTBO)

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Limits on drone use among new Florida laws taking effect

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, (@Jenna_Buzzacco)

A law aimed at protecting Floridians from unwanted surveillance is one of more than 100 that take effect Wednesday.

While the law — dubbed the Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act — spells out that unmanned aerial drones can’t be used for surveillance, it does spell out when devices can be used.

“From my standpoint, I think it’s a good start,” said Stephen Myers, owner of Angel Eyes UAV in Naples. “It’s a good beginning.”

Drones can be used to assess property taxes, for aerial mapping, and to conduct environmental monitoring. The law also says that drones can be used by a person licensed by the state to perform “reasonable tasks within the scope” of the person’s job. Myers said that could mean insurance companies can use drones for roof inspections or to inspect large properties, like golf courses, for damage following a storm.

Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, said he supported the law because it protected Floridians’ privacy, while still allowing some commercial uses.

“We’ve seen the technology for drones evolve rather rapidly and the technology has exceeded the statutory privacy protections,” said Rodrigues, who co-sponsored the measure in the House. “I saw a strong effort to ensure our right to privacy. It addressed the concerns I had.”

The drone law is one of dozens — including the state’s $78 billion spending plan and a nearly $400 million tax cut package — that went into effect Wednesday, the first day of the state’s fiscal year.

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Richter appointed as Florida Defense Support Task Force

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, (@Jenna_Buzzacco)

Sen. Garrett Richter
Sen. Garrett Richter

A Naples Republican has been tapped to head up the Florida Defense Support Task Force.

Senate President Andy Gardiner on Tuesday announced Sen. Garrett Richter has been appointed to the Florida Defense Support Task Force. Gardiner, R-Orlando, also designated Richter to serve as the chairman of the task force.

“A highly decorated veteran of the Vietnam War, Garrett Richter is a steadfast champion of our men and women in uniform,” said Gardiner in a statement. “He understands the impact Florida’s military installations have on our economy and the role military families play in communities across our state.”

The task force aims to preserve, protect and enhance the state’s military missions and installments.

Richter is an Army veteran and was awarded the Bronze Star in 1971 while serving with the 75th Ranger Company in Vietnam. First elected to the Senate in 2008, he has served as the president pro tempore since 2012.

Richter will serve on the board through Nov. 8, 2016.

Gardiner also appointed former Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, to the task force. Bennett served in the state Senate from 2002 through 2012, and is a Navy veteran.

“Having served with former Senator Bennett in both the Florida House and Senate, I witnessed his dedication to members of our military and their families firsthand,” said Gardiner. “I am confident Senator Richter and Senator Bennett will be staunch advocates for Florida’s military bases in these critical leadership positions.”


State House candidate wants to ban most abortions in Florida

Isadora Rangel, (@IsadoraRangel2)

A Vero Beach candidate is courting the religious right in a state House race, first going after gay marriage and now pledging to introduce legislation to ban most abortions in Florida, even though similar proposals in other states were deemed unconstitutional.

Republican Dale Glading, an ordained Baptist minister running for Rep. Debbie Mayfield’s open seat next year, announced one of his main priorities if elected will be to introduce a “Human Heartbeat Act.”

The legislation would ban abortions after 18 days of conception “to coincide with the time at which an embryo’s heart starts beating,” according to the announcement his campaign released this month.

The proposed bill would be unconstitutional as the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision prohibited states from outlawing or regulating abortion before viability, when a fetus can live outside the mother’s body, said Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. The abortion rights group filed a lawsuit challenging a law Gov. Rick Scott signed this month to require women wait 24 hours after visiting a doctor to get an abortion.

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Got beer? Local brewers ready to celebrate with 64-ounce growlers

Employees work behind the bar at Point Ybel Brewing Company in Fort Myers on June 26, 2015. (Carolina Hidalgo/Staff)
Employees work behind the bar at Point Ybel Brewing Company in Fort Myers on June 26, 2015. (Carolina Hidalgo/Staff)

Ryan Mills, (@NDN_RMills)

Walt Costello has the beer. Now he’s ready to party.

To celebrate what local brewers acknowledge is a mostly symbolic victory — a new Florida law allowing the sale of 64-ounce beer growlers — Costello’s Point Ybel Brewing Company in Fort Myers is opening for an hour at midnight on Wednesday to start selling 64-ounce jugs to his suds-loving clientele.

The law allowing the growlers, signed by Gov. Rick Scott in May, goes into effect Wednesday, and Wednesday starts at midnight. It is the first real legal victory for Florida’s nascent craft brewing industry, Costello said. Florida will be the 48th state allowing the 64-ounce jugs, the industry standard.

“We were able to get 64-ounce growlers against a distributorship — Budweiser basically — that has unlimited amounts of money, just by grass roots and people that drink craft beer all around the country coming to Florida with their 64-ounce growlers from their breweries, and we’re like, ‘We can’t fill them. Sorry,’” Costello said. “They’re like, ‘I can buy 100 32-ounce growlers from you if I wanted to. But you can’t fill one 64?’

“It was a stupid, stupid law.”

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We focus on all things politics in the Sunshine State. We are the joint bureau of Naples Daily News / Tampa Tribune / Treasure Coast in Tallahassee.