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Friday Morning Headlines – Mark Jacobs

PEDESTRIAN KILLED The Florida Highway Patrol is asking for the public’s help to find a pickup involved in a fatal pedestrian crash last night.  FHP says a white Dodge pickup truck was headed west on Fairfield Drive approaching Pace Boulevard as a pedestrian was crossing Fairfield. Witnesses say the pickup did not have its headlights on and was driving in two lanes when the pedestrian was hit. The man was pronounced dead at the scene and has not been identified. Troopers are looking for a white Dodge pickup, possibly a dually, with white hub caps. It may have front and left side damage and a black color front grill protector.
MORE SIDEWALKS COMING More than half of city-owned streets in Pensacola do not have sidewalks or the existing sidewalks are in dire need of repair. A five year project that will repair more than three hundred miles of city sidewalks. Derrick Owens, Director of Public Works City Engineering, says the plan is to make it easier on the elderly and disabled population with new sidewalks along the handicap accessible intersections. Owens estimates the price tag could be between two and three million dollars after the repairs. The money is coming from the Community Redevelopment Agency and Local Option Sales Taxes. Santa Rosa County is working on six sidewalk expansion projects with grants from the Department of Transportation.
ARBOR DAY An Arbor Day tree giveaway will be held tomorrow at the Escambia County Extension Office on Stefani Road in Cantonment. Each person will receive two free native one gallon trees from red maple, chickasaw plum, swamp chestnut oak or fringe tree. The event begins at 9 a.m. at 3740 Stefani Road.
FILE OF IMPREGNATED WOMAN SUES The family of a woman described as non-verbal and immobile claims she was raped and impregnated.  The family of the 23-year-old woman filed a lawsuit this week in Escambia County against a health care center in Ferry Pass.  The alleged rape happened last year at Pensacola Cluster, and the woman has since miscarried.  As for finding a suspect, the Escambia County Sheriff’s office tells Channel 3 DNA testing came back negative, and they believe all investigative leads have been exhausted.
WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER ARRESTED A Washington High School teacher is arrested for allegedly convincing a student to send him inappropriate videos of herself. PPD’s Mike Wood says 30 year-old Mark Lua was arrested Thursday afternoon.  Escambia County School Superintendent Malcolm Thomas confirms Lua is an English reading teacher at Washington and has been suspended while the investigation is completed. Thomas says Lua will not be allowed back into a classroom until the matter is resolved and will be fired if the charges are true.
FARM SHARE COLD WEATHER DONATION With cold weather coming to our area this week, the homeless are in need of refuge from the dangerously low temperatures. Waterfront Rescue Mission works to ensure that the homeless and needy get a hand up and not a hand out every day. During extreme cold weather, Waterfront sees a rise in numbers of those seeking overnight shelter, and their greatest need during this time are blankets. This morning , an organization called Farm Share will be delivering a truck load of over 4-thousand blankets to Waterfront Mission and 16 other local agencies in town. The truck is scheduled to arrive at 8 AM.
LAWMAKERS COULD ADD $25 MILLION TO BRIGHT FUTURES Florida lawmakers next week will consider pumping an additional $25.3 million into the Bright Futures scholarship program amid higher-than-expected student participation this year. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which is made up of House and Senate leaders and can make mid-year budget changes, is scheduled to take up the issue January 24th, according to an agenda posted online Thursday. Lawmakers provided nearly $520 million for the Bright Futures program in this budget year. But the latest estimate from state analysts showed an increase in qualifying students could push the cost to about $545 million. The Department of Education is requesting that lawmakers approve an additional $25.3 million for the program, which is funded through what is known as the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund. That trust fund receives money from the Florida Lottery.
HEARING SET ON ABORTION WAITING PERIOD A state appeals court will hear arguments in March about the constitutionality of a 2015 law that would require women to wait 24 hours before having abortions. The 1st District Court of Appeal last week scheduled arguments March 26th in the case, according to an online docket. The state appealed last year after Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis blocked the law. Lewis ruled that the state failed to show there was a quote -compelling state interest- end quote for the 24-hour waiting period and didn’t show that it was enacted in the “least restrictive” manner. Lewis’ ruling made permanent a temporary injunction granted by the Florida Supreme Court in 2017 after a Gainesville abortion clinic challenged the law as a violation of privacy rights under the state Constitution. Supporters of the law have contended a waiting period would give women more time to make informed decisions before having abortions.
DESANTIS SMOKABLE MEDICAL MARIJUANA ISSUES Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis wants the ban on smokable medical marijuana ended.  DeSantis criticized the Legislature’s implementation of a medical marijuana law and said Thursday that if they don’t fix it quickly, he’ll take matters into his own hands. DeSantis wants a new law by mid-March that will end a ban on smokable medical marijuana and loosen limits on treatment center licenses, saying voters spoke clearly when they approved medical marijuana in 2016.  If the Legislature fails to act, DeSantis will drop challenges to lawsuits on both those issues, effectively letting the courts resolve them instead of lawmakers. He said he would prefer not to do that because he wants elected representatives to write the law in a way the people intended. DeSantis also said he wants the amended law to address licensing limits that are also subjects of lawsuits.  The annual legislative session begins March 5.

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