Florida Senate

She’s baaaack! Hugs for Hukill

HukillSen. Dorothy Hukill received a round of applause yesterday from her colleagues during roll call in the Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

The Port Orange Republican, who missed the entire 2017 legislative session due to cancer treatments, even seemed delighted to hear the input of Brian Pitts, the ubiquitous Capitol gadfly.

Pitts, a.k.a. Justice to Jesus, was commenting provided on a bill that would designate $50 million a year for beach renourishment.

“I missed it,” Hukill said, to the disbelief of Clearwater Republican Jack Latvala.

“At the first committee meeting of the final year of my 16 years up here, and I listen to the speaker,” Latvala, the bill’s sponsor, said, “and I think about the things that I’m going to miss in the process, and the things that I’m not going to miss, that’s definitely going to be on one of those lists.”

Hukill, a 71-year-old attorney who admittedly can be “pretty insistent,” spent the 2017 session watching the session on a pair of screens — a home computer and an iPad — at her Port Orange home while recovering from surgery for cervical cancer.

“It’s very exciting to be in the (committee) room,” Hukill said after Monday’s meeting. “It’s lovely to watch it on the wonderful Florida Channel, which I was very, very happy to have. But I’d rather be here.”

Hukill noted she often got “verbal” at the screens while watching the 2017 session and that a number of people “got tired of me calling them.”

She expects the welcome-backs and hugs to quickly give way to legislative normalcy.

“It’s exciting to be back. People are giving give me a breather for a day or two,” she noted. “It’s tough not being here.”

Hukill, the chair of the Education Committee, had been diagnosed as she was running for re-election in 2016.

Radiation treatments ended just as the 2017 regular session was coming to a close.

Hukill, who represents parts of Brevard and Volusia counties, has been in the state Legislature since 2004, the Senate since 2012.

By Jim Turner.

Dems ask Scott for relief centers to aid in expected Puerto Rican migration

As conditions continue to deteriorate in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, Florida Democratic legislators are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to set up relief centers for Puerto Rican evacuees.

Friday’s ask comes as Scott, who traveled to the island yesterday, meets with President Donald Trump in Washington to give him an update of what’s going on in Puerto Rico and the Sunshine State, still recovering from Hurricane Irma.

The situation in Puerto Rico is growing dire, the Democrats wrote in a letter to Scott.

“Now more than a week removed from Maria’s landfall, nearly 3.4 million Puerto Ricans remain without power, the telecommunications grid for the island is in tatters, citizens are running low on cash due to the lack of functioning ATMs necessary to purchase supplies and are faced with an inability to process debit transactions, and large areas outside urban centers remain inaccessible as roads continue to be blocked by fallen debris or are washed away completely,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, and a handful of House and Senate members wrote to Scott.

The disaster could result in “hundreds of thousands” of evacuees fleeing to Florida, home to more than 1 million Puerto Ricans already, the Democrats wrote.

“To prepare for this influx of hundreds of thousands new Floridians, we believe it is vital that the state respond proactively to ease their transition and reduce the mental and financial strain this process is sure to inflict on many families,” they wrote.

The “relief centers” could provide”one-stop access to local, state, and federal officials who could offer guidance on housing aid and availability and other services, the Democrats suggested.

The request for the relief centers comes a day after Florida U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio called for the “cavalry” — in the form of the U.S. military — to come to the rescue in Puerto Rico.


Biden backs Taddeo in Miami-Dade special election

-zpwMHaG_400x400Former Vice President Joe Biden, a darling of the working-class crowd, has thrown his support behind Annette Taddeo, a Democrat vying for an open Miami-Dade County state Senate seat against Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.

Biden’s backing comes days before Tuesday’s special election, where early voting is underway. More than 24,000 ballots already have been cast through the mail, according to the Miami-Dade County elections office website.

“We have a real shot to elect a strong Democrat and proven leader, Annette Taddeo to the state senate. If you believe we need stronger schools, protect access to affordable healthcare and stronger communities then you need to make your plans to vote for Annette Taddeo,” Biden said in a press release issued by Taddeo’s campaign Thursday.
Taddeo, who was Congressman Charlie Crist‘s running-mate in Crist’s unsuccessful bid for governor three years ago, said she is “thrilled” to have Biden’s support for her “people-powered campaign.”
Scott set the special election date in the Senate District 40 race earlier this year after former state Sen. Frank Artiles was forced to resign from his seat following a profanity-laced and racially tinged outburst at a private club near the Capitol.

Latvala defends Dreamers: “We must lead with a compassionate heart”

State Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who is running for governor, weighed in today on President Donald Trump’s decision regarding “dreamers,” the children of undocumented immigrants whose parents brought them into the country.

Trump is reportedly going to announce tomorrow that he intends to put an end to DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy established by former President Barack Obama.

Latvala, a moderate, is in a GOP primary match-up against Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who’s been leaning more and more to the right after he jumped into the governor’s race.

Latvala has long been an advocate for children of undocumented immigrants. In 2014, he sponsored legislation that approved giving in-state tuition to Dreamers. Gov. Rick Scott, who last week said he does “not favor signed punishing children for the actions of their parents,” signed the measure into law.

In a Facebook post today, Latvala said lawmakers “must lead with a compassionate heart.” The statement comes in a state where Hispanic voters play a critical role not only in primaries, but in the general election.

“We must lead with a compassionate heart, not by punishing children. Florida is a diverse state and our economic success depends on a strong diverse workforce. If DACA ends in 6 months it will have a disastrous impact not only on hundreds of thousands of bright, promising young people but also on our business climate.

Congress has dropped the ball on this issue like so many others. It’s time for Congress to pass a law protecting Dreamers. I call on other leaders of the Republican Party in Florida to join me in supporting these children so they can come out of the shadows and legally secure jobs.”


Miss Marion’s tribute to Greg Evers: “He worked harder, gave more and took less than most people”

Marion Hammer, the longtime Florida lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, delivered a heartfelt remembrance of her friend, Greg Evers, yesterday at a packed church in Milton.

“He worked harder, gave more and took less than most people,” Hammer, a close friend of the former lawmaker, said.

Evers, who served in the state House and Senate, died in a single-vehicle crash not far from his Baker home on Aug. 21. He was 62.

Here’s Hammer’s eulogy: 

Greg Evers was a southern gentleman. By occupation he was a down-to-earth, God-fearing farmer.

This plain spoken man with a southern drawl was equally at home in work clothes rolling around in the dirt trying to repair a broken tractor or in a suit and highly polished cowboy boots debating on the floor of Florida House or the Senate trying to do the right thing for Florida citizens.

 His roots ran deep in northwest Florida. He was born into farming and it’s what he learned, what he knew and what he did.

 He worked harder, gave more and took less than most people.

 Sixteen years ago he decided to run for the legislature. Winning a hard fought Special Election, he took a seat in Florida House of Representatives.

Greg Evers wanted to help people. And helping people is why he decided to run for public office. He believed he could better represent the people of northwest Florida in Tallahassee because he was truly one of them and understood their needs. He wanted to be a champion for the people of northwest Florida.

Greg Evers became known for being an unwavering Second Amendment advocate, and a legislative champion for law enforcement, first responders and veterans.

He was blessed with remarkable common sense and if you asked him to take on a project, he was thorough. He would go anywhere and talk to anybody to get to the truth. He was fearless in his pursuit of the truth and justice.

He made many, many sacrifices because he loved people. And it was his love for people and dedication to public service that drove him.

Greg didn’t run for office to take the easy route and he wasn’t really concerned about being popular with his colleagues. Greg Evers could not be cajoled or coerced into doing something he didn’t believe in. He was determined to do what he thought was right and he was never afraid to take the road less traveled.

His farming mind-set wouldn’t let him quit or slack-off until the work was done. I asked him one time how many hours a day he worked. And he replied, “Oh, from sometime before sun-up to sometime after “O-dark-30.” And then he laughed. He said, “You work until the job is done or until you just fall down and can’t do any more. I never doubted him for a minute.

After serving in the Florida House he moved up to the Florida Senate and his last venture into politics was to run for Congress. And while Greg lost the election, I think the people of northwest Florida were the big winners because Greg stayed home. He came back to his roots – farming and agriculture. And to plan and strategize for another day.

The first conversation Greg Evers and I ever had was most unexpected. It was sixteen years ago.

He was a candidate running in the Special Election for the Florida House. He called my office the day before election day and he said “Miss Hammer, this is Greg Evers and I’m running for the House of Representatives over here in northwest Florida.” He then said, “you can call me Greg, can I call you by your first name?”

When I said yes, he said “Miss Marion, I know you have endorsed my opponent in this primary run-off. And I know he has worked as a volunteer for NRA over here in this area and I understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. So I wanted to tell you there’s no hard feelings. But I’m going to win this election and when I get to Tallahassee, I’m going to be the strongest Second Amendment supporter you could ever ask for and when I run for re-election I hope you’ll be working just as hard for me.”

That was pure class. That is one of the most amazing things to happen to me in my career in politics.

In time, I learned several things about Greg Evers that came from that phone call.  

One, to Greg, my first name was “Miss Marion.” He simply would not say my name without showing respect to me.  

Two, if he said it, he meant it. When that election was over, it was over. He never mentioned it again, didn’t try to get even, didn’t hold a grudge, didn’t taunt me with it. He didn’t even joke about it. He meant what he said,” No hard feelings.”

Three, he was so strong on the Constitution and the Second Amendment, he was probably a little to the right of me. He didn’t just say it, he believed it and he lived it. It was truly a part of who he was.  

Greg Evers always tried to see your side. He earned your respect by the way he respected you. He never made an enemy when he could make a friend.

He would rather talk to people than blind side them. He believed he should try to win people over to his side and he’d try to do that. He even talked to people he knew would never agree with him but he had to try. He worked hard and went the extra mile.

Many a time I’d say, “Greg, you don’t have to do all that.” And he’d smile and say, “Yes Ma’am, I know, but it’s the right thing to do.”

Greg was a kind and generous man with more patience than anyone had a right to expect. And he was loyal to fault. He stood by people who didn’t even deserve his friendship.

Greg Evers would do a favor for you without YOU even asking. And he wouldn’t come running to you to take credit for what he’d done. And later when you found out and asked him about it, he’d just grin and say “I thought you’d like that.”

He took great joy in doing random acts of kindness and enjoyed meeting people and making friends.  

To know Greg Evers and to be his friend was a gift from God.

It might sound like a cliché, but it is absolutely true: If everybody treated people the way Greg Evers treated people, our county and our communities would be a much better place to live and raise our children.

You simply can’t describe Greg Evers without everything sounding like an overused cliché. But that’s who he really was and who we all should hope to be.   His honesty and profoundly respectful way of treating people and doing things were partnered with integrity, class and a down-to-earth philosophy that people should always do the right thing.

Greg Evers was my friend. The last words he said to me were, “Holler, if you need me.” And he meant it. For many years, that’s how we ended phone calls. If I said it first, he’d say “Yes Ma’am.” If he said it first I’d say “Yes, Sir.”

Some folks might call that too formal for friends. But most of us know that friends respect each other. And you show that respect by how you treat them and how you talk to them.

I wanted to be able to share with you the way some of Greg’s family see him, so I asked Greg’s brother Eric and his children Stephanie, Jennifer and Rob if there was anything they would like for us to know about Greg.

And these are some of the things they wanted you to know.

Growing up, Greg’s father always told him that he wasn’t better than anybody, but that he was just as good as everybody. He taught Greg to always treat those around him as equals.   And his children believe, that is what gave their daddy his confidence and his presence.

They think it’s important to know that everyone might not have always agreed with him, but they respected him.

They told me people are driven by different things in life. For some its recognition, for some its wealth, but for daddy it was service. His life was centered on service to others.

They said he was happiest when he was doing something to make someone else’s life better.

And they said their daddy he made people feel like they were the most important person in the room when he talking to them.   He was never fake, but always genuine and you always knew where he stood.

His brother Eric thought it was important for you to know that Greg Evers had a tender heart and couldn’t stand to see other people suffer.

His children agreed that Greg was kind and generous. He taught them that “your word is your bond,” and to always work hard. They said he set great examples for them.

They summed it by saying their Daddy loved his children and grandchildren more than words can say and he made sure they knew it. He was the strongest man, they knew. And they believed he could fix anything and any problem. They said his heart was bigger than the world.

No parent could ever HOPE to held in a better light by his children.

Greg’s parents have lost a son, their child. Parents never expect to lose a child. That’s not the way it’s supposed to be. Losing a child is some of the worst pain a parent will ever feel. Their son was loved by many and set an example others to follow. They raised their child to be a genuinely remarkable man.

Deep down inside, Greg’s children probably knew and expected that someday they would lose their father, but not this soon. And it is something they were not prepared for. The shock and grief is a lot to deal with. And while it doesn’t ease their pain right now, they should know that he left them an amazing legacy of strength, honesty and respect.

I hope they will try to look for the good in this tragic loss.   And take comfort that he left this earth full of life and that their memories, and our memories are of him doing what he wanted & loved to do.

Greg and his wife Lori shared many good days and some very tough days. But they truly loved each other. Loving and being loved by another is a blessing. They both sacrificed much for each other and in the service of others. She should never forget his patience, his trust and his love.

When God reached down to take another good guy home, he picked one of the very best among us and we are all diminished by this loss. A dear, dear friend has moved on. But his disarming smile will remain in our memories.

Even in our loss, we must recognize that we are all better for having had Greg Evers in our lives and on this earth.

The legacy he leaves should be a challenge to us all – a challenge to be more like him. To be honest, to work with integrity, to help others, to show respect and to be a friend.

Greg Evers was indeed special. He was one of a kind and we will miss him.


God bless his family and God bless you all.

Flags lowered for “kind, hardworking farmer” Greg Evers

299958_10151213649372529_1293199107_nGov. Rick Scott ordered flags to be flown at half-staff at the Santa Rosa County courthouse, Milton City Hall and the state Capitol tomorrow to honor former Sen. Greg Evers.

Scott ordered the flags to be lowered on the same day as Evers’s funeral, scheduled for 1 p.m. CT at the First Baptist Church of Milton Tuesday.

Evers, 62, died after his pickup truck ran off the road not far from his Baker home last week.

Here’s what Scott had to say in response to the passing of Evers:

“My wife Ann and I are heartbroken after learning of the passing of Senator Greg Evers. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lori, and their entire family during this terribly difficult time. A dedicated public servant, Senator Evers truly loved Florida and devoted his life to serving his community – not only on his family farm, but during 15 years representing the people of North Florida in the state House and Senate. He will be remembered and missed by all who knew him as the kind, hardworking farmer from Milton who tirelessly fought for Florida families.”

The late Greg Evers: ‘He led with heart’

299958_10151213649372529_1293199107_nA close friend of Greg Evers, a former state senator who died after his pickup truck ran off the road Monday night, summed it up in a conversation this morning: “He led with heart.”

For those who knew him well, Evers was the real deal, a strawberry farmer-legislator who was as at home behind the wheel of a tractor as he was with a microphone on the Senate floor.

“Let’s go burn one,” he’d say with his signature smile, inviting fellow cigarette smokers to join him on a picnic bench on the side of the Senate Office Building.

I remember the thrill in Evers’s voice when I spoke with him during his first visit to the nation’s Capitol, shortly before he announced his 2016 bid for Congress.

Evers didn’t win that race, but it didn’t dampen his enthusiasm for his country, or his desire to help others, even if that meant an early morning drive across town — in his pajamas — to help out a stranded pal.

He’s been called folksy, a “down-home” gentleman, and dozens of other adulatory adjectives in the short time since his sudden death, which, for those left behind, came far too soon.

It is with a heavy heart that we bid adieu to Greg, a man I was honored to call “friend.”

The Evers family issued the following statement late this afternoon:

“We are devastated by the sudden and shocking loss of our beloved Greg. To many, he will be remembered as an advocate, representing Northwest Florida for 15 years and championing causes, such as criminal justice reform and higher pay for state employees. Greg was a tireless force for his constituents and ‘working folks’ across Florida. His personality was larger than life, with a signature wit and a toothy grin.

“Greg was also well known as a farmer and owner of Akers of Strawberries in Baker, Fla., spending countless hours in the field greeting customers with an infectious smile. Every customer was treated like family; and to Greg, they were.

“Above all, we will remember Greg as a father, grandfather, son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend. His presence always brightened a room. Words cannot describe the loss we feel, but we have been blessed at the outpouring of support from our friends and neighbors.

“We would like to thank the Florida Highway Patrol and local law enforcement for their compassion at this difficult time, as well as their constant service to our community – Greg was always their biggest fan.”