WUFT News

Saving Grace: One Woman’s Story Of Overcoming Adversity

By on May 1st, 2015 | Last updated: May 4, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Lisa Lee Savage wakes up in the morning looking forward to work, where she spends her day helping people in need. After work, she goes home to sleep in a bed with a roof over her head.

Lisa Lee Savage has experienced substance abuse and served time in prison. With help from local homeless shelter GRACE Marketplace, though, she overcame those challenges to make a new life for herself. Photo courtesy of Lisa Lee Savage

Lisa Lee Savage has experienced substance abuse and served time in prison. With help from local homeless shelter GRACE Marketplace, though, she overcame those challenges to make a new life for herself. Photo courtesy of Lisa Lee Savage

On the outside, Savage seems like any other woman — how she got there is what makes her unique. She was a substance abuser, shae broke the rules, and she also overcame tragic adversity before getting a job and an apartment of her own.

“I’ve known Lee for 4 or 5 years now,” said Kim Sabatino, a volunteer and resident at GRACE Marketplace. “She’s been clean for quite a long time now and has totally changed.”

After 13 years in prison, including a two-year-stay in solitary confinement, Savage felt trapped and traumatized for years. After being released, prison became a nightmare she never wanted to revisit.

But to her surprise, without breaking a single law, she was back in prison.

Savage applied to be a volunteer at GRACE, and not long after she was accepted, she became homeless and in need of the shelter’s services on Sept. 5, 2014.

She went from sleeping in the same bed as the person she lived with to an overhang behind the GRACE Welcome Center — a former Gainesville prison now used to provide housing and other services to the homeless.

Savage said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder because of her time in prison, so living in a former prison was scary and strange.

“But I knew there had to be a reason for me to be here. It wasn’t just this is the end of the world, the end of the road,” she said. “Instead of running and getting high, I faced my fears.”

To cope with the haunting environment, Savage reached out for counseling from a GRACE client advocate who taught her how to meditate. She also said she participated in Narcotics Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program.

She was persistent and volunteered between 8 and 14 hours every day. Finally, she found a more comfortable home in the GRACE dormitory on Oct. 1.

A few weeks later, she started taking online classes and working toward earning a degree.

She decided to apply for a scholarship, and she asked Jon Decarmine, executive director of operations at GRACE Marketplace and an old friend, for an accompanying letter of recommendation.

“I told her it would be difficult, but I could not think of anyone who was working as hard as she was with so many obstacles,” Decarmine said. “She didn’t give a damn and kept working, so I was more than happy to recommend her.”

With the help of GRACE administration and a peer specialist at Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Savage received the scholarship a month later to become a recovery support specialist.

“It blew me away,” she chuckled. “I didn’t expect that to happen.”

She was still volunteering and taking classes when a volunteer from Volunteers of America — a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping vulnerable groups, including veterans, elderly and former inmates — came to drop off donations at GRACE. The volunteer was especially interested in Savage.

Savage was contacted later, and after talking about how great her life was — in the dorm, in school and helping people — she was awarded another scholarship, this time from Volunteers of America to become a peer support specialist.

“So, I get to take all the pain I’ve been through in my life and all the struggles that I didn’t think had meaning and use them to help other people, to give them hope and help them heal,” Savage said. “That’s what I think I’ve always wanted to do.”

Life only went uphill for Savage from there.

Because of the work she did every day, Decarmine said she was offered a job at GRACE.

“If she wasn’t sleeping, she was volunteering or cleaning or doing school work and trying to get out as quickly as possible,” he said. “So, we built a relationship around that.”

When Savage was hired at GRACE, she decided her life would forever be devoted to helping others. She now works as an administrative assistant and receptionist at the GRACE Welcome Center.

In February, she moved into an apartment through GRACE housing services. They paid the first month’s rent, but she has taken care of it since.

“Every day it’s just one foot in front of the other,” she said. “If you keep going in the right direction, it’s going to happen. And it did happen for me.”

Sabatino, who met Savage when she was homeless, supports her every step of the way and will soon be able to tell her own happily-ever-after story as well.

Savage hopes her story can not only inspire others to help themselves but can also encourage community involvement at GRACE.

“May it be monetary or time, we graciously accept it,” she said. “(The shelter’s) been my saving grace.”

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Thunder Reach Agreement To Hire Florida’s Donovan

By on April 30th, 2015 | Last updated: April 30, 2015 at 3:11 pm

UPDATE: The University of Florida Athletic Association has confirmed that Billy Donovan is stepping down from his role as head coach of the Gator basketball team to pursue the same position with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“While we are certainly extremely sad to see Billy go, the primary feeling I have is one of gratitude for what he has done here at Florida,” UAA athletic director Jeremy Foley said in a release on Thursday afternoon.

“Billy and Florida basketball have been synonymous for a long time now, and our program would not have reached the heights it has without him. The legacy he leaves here is one of personal and professional excellence and we wish him, Christine and the Donovan family continued success and happiness as they make this move,” Foley said. “There is no better person than Billy Donovan. He will truly be missed.”

Original post: GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — A person familiar with the situation says Florida coach Billy Donovan has agreed to become the Oklahoma City Thunder’s next coach.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because neither side has announced the agreement.

The person says Donovan and Thunder general manager Sam Presti agreed to the major points of a long-term contract and expect it to be finalized later Thursday.

Donovan replaces Scott Brooks, who was fired last week.

The 49-year-old Donovan led Florida to two national championships, four Final Fours, seven Elite Eights and 14 NCAA Tournament berths. He signed a one-year contract extension in December that would have paid him an average salary of $4 million through 2020.

Donovan inherits an NBA team led by stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.

 

The University of Florida’s official release announcing Donovan’s departure:

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RISING ABOVE: UF Alumnus Battling Stage 4 Cancer Helps Other Patients ‘Live for Today’

By on April 30th, 2015 | Last updated: April 30, 2015 at 7:13 am

This story is part three of a three-part profile series titled Rising Above.

Six hundred hours of chemotherapy, 63 nights in the hospital, 30 days of radiation and two bone marrow transplants. It’s not what high school seniors plan for when they think of college life, but for Jacksonville native Todd Blake, it became a stark reality.

Todd was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2009, when he was 18 and a freshman at the University of Florida. A few months into the semester, he began waking up with night sweats and noticed lumps in his neck and armpit. He didn’t realize the severity of his symptoms until he went home and described them to his parents.

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Throughout his treatment, Todd had to do a lot of studying in the hospital. (Courtesy: Todd Blake)

Doctors diagnosed Todd with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the immune system. He dropped his courses, moved out of his dorm and began chemotherapy at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. After eight months of chemo, Todd’s condition began to improve. His family threw him a “done-with-chemo” party, and he began planning his return to UF for the fall 2010 semester.

But about a week before he was scheduled to leave for Gainesville, a scan revealed the cancer in his lung was back and had grown quickly.

“That was the worst day of my life,” Todd, 23, said. “I was very hopeful during the first round of treatment that I’d be cured and go back to normal, and I was hanging on to all the things in my life that I wanted to go back to, but when that happened I really had to let go. … Once you get diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, you never go back.”

***

Some people questioned the decision to get married when he was already so sick, Todd said, but it made perfect sense to those who knew him and his wife-to-be, Maja. The two met as freshmen at Nease High School in Jacksonville, but they went their separate ways in college (Maja went to Florida State University). Despite being at different schools, they were drawn together during their freshman year. Maja’s stepfather was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor right after Todd was diagnosed, bringing them both back home that semester.

“I think we both realized that we were just a lot different than our friends in that situation,” Todd said. “It was this weird bonding moment that you wouldn’t wish upon anybody, but it ended up being a really significant event that brought us together.”

As Todd prepared for his second round of treatment, both he and Maja knew they wanted be on this journey together. He asked her to marry him. Maja said yes, but it was a difficult and conscious decision they made together.

“We talked about everything that could happen, and it really sucked because you had to live out all of those details,” Maja said. “At the time we got engaged, we thought Todd maybe had a year and a half left, and he was about to go into a transplant which had a 50-percent fatality rate, I think. So we were just very realistic that there was a really high chance that he could pass away soon, and if not soon, then in the next few years.”

Maja moved out to Seattle with Todd for that transplant. He describes it as one of his worst seasons health-wise, but said he couldn’t have done it without her.

Despite his cancer, Todd’s attitude is to take one day at a time and make each day the best it can be. He has come to terms with his own health, but he is more afraid of the loved ones he would leave behind should the clinical trials stop working one day.

When he thinks about that potential and the legacy of his life, he asks himself a question: “Did I leave it all in a good situation … [is it] better or worse?” If he starts something, Todd wants to finish it and finish it well. It is part of why the decision to marry was not one he and Maja took for granted.

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Maja and Todd on their wedding day in St. Augustine (Courtesy: Todd Blake)

“I think it’s hard to like always be a little bit afraid of the next commitment, because you don’t know if you can follow through with it,” he said. “So that’s probably the hardest thing of everything — like, I can’t commit to having kids. I could never see it through.”

Todd and Maja married on June 15, 2013, in the garden of an old house in St. Augustine. The ceremony was small, intimate. Their families and close friends who watched them exchange their vows understood the gravity of the moment. They understood what “in sickness and in health” meant. They understood the love that brought this couple together.

“I knew that she was going to be the person that would be there through thick and thin, whatever happened,” Todd said. “And we had to face this horrible thing, but we knew we had to do it together.”

***

For Todd, finishing his degree was a priority. After he relapsed in 2010, he enrolled in UF’s Online Business Program and was able to take classes from a distance while undergoing treatment. For the most part, his professors were understanding, but the road to graduation was not easy: He took exams in hotel rooms and missed assignments because of emergency room visits.

But he did it. Five years after he was first diagnosed, Todd graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 2014 — and he finished with a 4.0 GPA.

“It was definitely symbolic for me to walk at graduation,” he said. “I just had to show people that, yes, I’ve had all this happen to me, but I’m still just as smart as I was. I may have had to switch my major, and I may have had to do all these different things to get through treatment. But I’m still just as good of a student as any student here and I can excel.”

After graduation, Todd knew he wanted to do something different. He didn’t want to “just get a regular job,” as he put it. So he started an organization, along with two friends who also battled cancer, called the Live for Today Foundation. The organization provides a community of support for young adults with cancer, with the goal of encouraging them to get out, and live.

During treatment, Todd felt isolated.

“I was in this hospital with all these older patients, and I was the only young person going through cancer treatment, that I knew of, and I felt like I needed to find other people who had cancer.”

But he did not find any support groups out there that targeted young adults.

Todd’s father reached out to people in the community and they offered unique opportunities for his son, since Todd could not experience the fun other college-age kids could. (He learned to fly an airplane and got his motorcycle license, to name a few.) That’s when Todd realized those opportunities should be available to all young adults battling cancer.

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Todd and a a group of young adults outside Everbank Field for a Live for Today trip to a Jacksonville Jaguars game. (Courtesy: Todd Blake)

The Live for Today Foundation has taken groups of young adults to NFL football games, painting classes, and the zoo. It is an opportunity for them to do something fun so they can feel like average young adults while bonding with other people with cancer, according to Todd.

“I know there’s a need for this,” he said. “There are people going through this that don’t have … hope or support. A lot of people go through this with financial difficulty, they go through this alone, they don’t have the support that I have with Maja. … That’s what we’re providing for these people.”

Live for Today Foundation is an all-volunteer organization and has fundraised about $60,000 to-date, but Todd hopes to expand outside of Jacksonville one day. His goal is to reach every young adult with cancer in the United States. He said it is his legacy.

“I would just feel like I didn’t achieve what I came here to do if I didn’t leave something behind that made the world a better place.”

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UF Ph.D. Students Developing Brain Robot Interaction Technology

By on April 29th, 2015 | Last updated: April 29, 2015 at 11:09 am

A world where mind-controlled robots are helping humans on a daily basis — that’s the goal Marvin Andujar and Chris Crawford are trying to achieve.

The two 25-year-old Ph.D. students at the University of Florida have expertise in different fields of engineering.

They are developing software to control machines to be used as life-enhancers to any operator. Whether it serves as an advancement in the medical field or a helpful hand around the house, the purpose of Brain Computer Interface technology is be an assistant or “third arm” to humans on an everyday basis, especially those with disabilities. Simple chores is where they’d like start, such as loading laundry, washing dishes or picking up around the house. But at the moment, they have achieved controlling a drone by flying it different directions.

“It is like a child project,” Crawford said. “We see it growing up to be something really big in the future”

Andujar and Crawford are supervised by their Ph.D. adviser, Juan Gilbert, Ph.D., who has been with them since the project began.

“It’s a first step,” Gilbert said. “It’s a huge first step, but that’s exactly what it is. To use the drone as a first step to many other directions.”

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Beekeeping Certification Gives Florida Inmates Skills For A Second Chance

By on April 29th, 2015 | Last updated: April 29, 2015 at 10:52 am

A group of 17 inmates at the Reception and Medical Center in Lake Butler will be the latest class of certified beekeepers from the center’s Beekeeping Program.

In 2011, the Florida Department of Corrections and the Florida Department of Agriculture created the re-entry program for inmates who were about to be released.

Every Tuesday, the inmates in the program come out to the RMC work camp from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. to get hands-on experience. Completion of the three-month-long program earns inmates a beekeeping certification from the Florida Department of Agriculture.

This program began with one RMC corrections worker.

Don Hicks, an RMC classification supervisor, is the founder of the Beekeeping Program, which was the first of its kind in Florida.

“All of these guys are going to be released,” Hicks said. “They’re going to be your neighbors, and my goal is to prevent further victimization in the future and give these guys skills and job opportunities.”

Beekeeping is a unique opportunity for released inmates.

“Commercial beekeepers do not care about criminal records,” Hicks said. “All they care about is if a person has skills in that area.”

Hicks said people with a criminal background are often barred from jobs. According to a Department of Corrections press release from 2011, inmates who have gained skills needed to find a job are less likely to return to prison and thus increase public safety.

According to the DOC, one out of every four inmates released from a Florida prison will return to prison within three years. Research by the Department of Justice showed inmates who are involved with a correctional education program are 43 percent less likely to return to prison.

According to the DOC release, commercial beekeeper Dave Mendes said he would offer an interview to every inmate who receives certification through the RMC’s program. Although the DOC does not follow up with inmates from the program after release, Hicks said he knows of at least three former inmates who now work as commercial beekeepers.

The program is in high demand among inmates. Hicks said more inmates sign up than can get in.

“If you watch them and look at them, there is a fever that burns inside of them,” he said. “There is something about bees, and once you get it in your blood, it is there forever.”

In just four years, the vocational training program has been implemented at four more institutions in Florida: Jefferson Correctional Institution, Lancaster Correctional Institution, Lowell Reception Center and Big Pine Key Road Prison.

For the last two years, Cecelia and Kenneth Young have been instructors for the program, teaching the inmates everything they need to know about beekeeping. Kenneth Young said the inmates are the best students he’s ever had.

For the Youngs, though, this experience is more than just volunteer work.

“I have started to think of them as my second sons,” Cecelia Young said.

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UF Professor Develops Fertilizer For Healthier Palms, Soil And Water

By on April 29th, 2015 | Last updated: April 29, 2015 at 10:29 am

After 25 years of work, a University of Florida professor published his study on developing an environmentally friendly fertilizer for the iconic Florida palm tree.

This palm tree has yellow, dying leaves which is a symptom of potassium and magnesium deficiencies that was caused by fertilizing this palm with turf fertilizer. This is a very common problem in Florida landscapes and Broschat’s research has provided a way to prevent it. Photo courtesy of Tim Broschat

This palm tree has yellow, dying leaves which is a symptom of potassium and magnesium deficiencies that was caused by fertilizing this palm with turf fertilizer. This is a very common problem in Florida landscapes and Broschat’s research has provided a way to prevent it. Photo courtesy of Tim Broschat

Tim Broschat, a UF environmental horticulture professor, developed a palm fertilizer suitable for Florida’s soil and aimed to reduce water pollution during the summer.

Typical lawn fertilizers contain chemicals that can wreak havoc on natural aquatic ecosystems. During heavy rains in the summer, excessive nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilizers can run into bodies of water causing large algae blooms that kill fish.

There are county and state regulations that control the use of nitrogen and phosphorus in fertilizers during summer months because of resulting water pollution; Broschat worked to comply with these regulations.

He said plants like palm trees need a balance of certain types of chemicals to survive. Potassium, magnesium, manganese, nitrogen and phosphorus are included in the formula for a healthy plant.

But an imbalance in chemicals, nitrogen and phosphorus in particular, can cause issues for growth.

The standard lawn fertilizers many residential and commercial users apply have too much nitrogen and phosphorus in them. So much so that they can cause plants to suffer from nutrient deficiencies and can cause yellowing leaves or even death of the plant.

“You have to have nitrogen for palms the other times of year, but in the summertime, it’s warm and there’s usually plenty of rainfall, and that encourages the various microbes in the soil to degrade the organic matter,” Broschat said.

Broschat developed a nitrogen- and phosphorus-free fertilizer to use during the summer and a nitrogen supplement to add for the rest of the year.

The new fertilizer uses a slow-release method. It releases its nutrients into the soil over a period of several months and is not as easily washed away by heavy rainfall.

In contrast, normal lawn fertilizers are water-soluble, meaning their main nutrients dissolve in heavy rains. These chemicals can flow into surface waters and groundwater, causing pollution, Broschat said.

After 25 years of research, Broschat worked for three more years doing fieldwork to make sure the new fertilizer worked. He published his findings last month in the scientific journal HortScience.

At this time, Broschat’s fertilizer is only available for commercial landscapers, but he said he hopes his developments will be implemented in residential areas.

“There aren’t a whole lot of options when it comes to homeowners,” he said. “If people are aware of it and there’s a need for it, the fertilizer companies will make it.”

Garden centers are reluctant to carry Broschat’s fertilizer because it’s more expensive, but the environmental benefits and effectiveness toward plant growth should make it worth the extra buck, Broschat said.

He said he hopes his research will reach homeowners so they can see an improvement in their plants’ lives and help address the water pollution issue.

Erich Marzolf, the water resources division director of the Suwannee River Water Management District, said over-fertilization causes a big problem in the springs and lakes in his management area.

The Suwannee River and the Santa Fe River regions in particular have seen the results of the harmful pollutants, he said. Depending on the type of water body, be it estuary, lake, river or spring, the pollution can have different effects based on the chemicals already present.

“Most of the impairments in the Suwannee River and springs is associated with nitrate,” Marzolf said. “Or, if you go over to the St. Johns River, phosphorus is really the key nutrient that is over-enriched.”

“Generally, in springs, it’s nitrogen that you focus on because that’s what’s being over-enriched and causing problems,” he said. “It varies spatially.”

According to county watershed management websites, 70 percent of Pinellas County waters have been polluted by harmful algae blooms that kill fish.

“The impairments have been identified as overgrowth of algae,” Marzolf said. “You can get problems with dissolved oxygen becoming too low.”

Fish and other water animals will die or move out of those areas because they cannot survive with such little oxygen, he said.

The Florida-Friendly Fertilizer Use on Urban Landscapes state ordinance restricts the use of certain chemicals in commercial and residential landscaping. Some counties including Pinellas, Hillsborough, Marion and St. Johns have also regulated nitrogen and phosphorus use for years.

However, the strictness of implementation for commercial and residential uses varies among counties.

“For us in Marion County, our fertilizer restriction is not as strict as some other counties,” said Norma Samuel, a Marion County extension agent for the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Some counties say you’re not supposed to be putting out any fertilizers at all in the summer.”

Samuel said she recommends people use a low-phosphorus fertilizer when gardening.

If Broschat’s new fertilizer becomes more available, homeowners could easily follow the county ordinances while providing their plants a healthy alternative for growth.

“We hope that when people find out that this is a better solution to fertilizing palms and landscape plants that it will create a demand so that more of the fertilizer companies will make this available to homeowners as well,” Broschat said.

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Alachua County Sheriff Candidate Hopes To Get Office Back To Its Roots

By on April 29th, 2015 | Last updated: April 29, 2015 at 9:35 am
Zac Zedalis listens to an Alachua County resident during his campaign announcement on April, 25, 2015. Zedalis will run for Alachua County Sheriff in 2016.

Zac Zedalis listens to an Alachua County resident during his campaign announcement on April, 25, 2015. Zedalis will run for Alachua County Sheriff in 2016. Greenberry Taylor / WUFT News

Born, raised and educated in Alachua County, Zac Zedalis wants the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office to get back to its main mission — to serve and protect the public.

Zedalis is running for Alachua County Sheriff in 2016 because he said there is a need to improve the Alachua County agency.

Growing up in Alachua County, and with his mom, dad and stepmother serving the community for over 100 years combined, Zedalis said he knows better than anyone what the community needs.

“Serving this community runs in my blood,” he said.

His roots in service, he said, are why he joined ACSO and why he is currently a detective.

There are three main issues Zedalis said he wants to tackle if elected: low morale, budget concerns and cultural issues.

Zedalis said he thinks current ACSO employees do not feel appreciated enough.

“The philosophy of the sheriff’s office is that we all serve the sheriff,” he explained. “The reality is the employees of the sheriff’s office serve the public. The sheriff should facilitate the needs of the employees.”

Zedalis said another issue with ACSO is recruiting employees, which he said should be like recruiting for a champion sports team. The department should be recruiting for the “best of the best” and for diversity.

Citing national issues with law enforcement, Zedalis said if ACSO does not get good people to work for the county, and if those people are not appreciated, the department is opening the door for similar incidences in Alachua County.

“We can only really control our backyard,” he said.

Zedalis also wants to address budget concerns. He said ACSO is not only here for protection against crime but also for financial protection. He wants more government transparency and citizen money spent on services to go toward the citizens themselves.

As much as Zedalis said he loves serving the public through his role as a detective, he said his services are needed at a higher position — it’s a sacrifice he’s willing to make.

ACSO spokesman Art Forgey sent an emailed statement to WUFT on behalf of the current sheriff, Sadie Darnell: “Sheriff Darnell has yet to make any public announcement about the 2016 election.”

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Florida House Abruptly Adjourns Early Over Budget Impasse

By on April 28th, 2015 | Last updated: April 28, 2015 at 3:18 pm

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The annual session of the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature crashed to a halt Tuesday as the House adjourned three days early because of a budget impasse with the Senate over Medicaid expansion.

Bills covering everything from tax cuts to gambling and medical marijuana died as a result. The abrupt showdown also raises the possibility of a government shutdown if the House and Senate cannot agree to a new state budget by June 30.

Since the GOP won control of the Legislature two decades ago, the chambers have let their disputes derail the session only a handful of times.

On Tuesday, as House Speaker Steve Crisafulli banged his gavel to end the session, Republican House members cheered, some raising both thumbs in the air.

“He dropped the mic!” Miami Rep. Frank Artiles said.

House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford said that his party was warned that the House would adjourn early about “10 seconds” before it happened.

“Walking away from your responsibilities is questionable,” Pafford said. “This is a blemish on the Legislature.”

Crisafulli blamed the Senate for the awkward session end. The House has been adamantly opposed to expanding Medicaid to more than 800,000 Floridians, even though the Senate has proposed a plan that would allow the state to eventually require recipients to work or attend school.

Crisafulli said the House had made “genuine and legitimate offers” to end the budget stalemate only to have them rebuffed by the Senate.

“It was the right thing for us to do,” Crisafulli said. “We’ve made every effort we can to negotiate with the Senate on the budget. … I don’t think it’s healthy for the process to stay here and continue to talk about something that neither side is changing their view on.”

The fight over Medicaid expansion is linked to a $1 billion pot of federal money that helps hospitals that treat Medicaid and uninsured patients. The Obama administration has signaled they are unlikely to extend the hospitals funds if the state doesn’t expand Medicaid.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott says he will sue the federal government over the issue.

The Senate continued its session even after the House left, discussing a bill on hydraulic fracturing as House members filed out of their chamber.

The move means that the Senate must take any bills the House passed as they are or they will die. Any bills the Senate passes at this point also will die.

Republican House members took to Twitter to boast about the move.

“Maybe the Senate will get off obamacare expansion and get down to balancing a budget during special session,” Republican Rep. Rich Workman tweeted.

“The Florida House just sent a strong message about wasting your tax dollars. Adjourned #SineDie on Day 57. Headed home!” Republican Rep. Dane Eagle tweeted.

Lawmakers will now have to hold a special session to approve the state’s budget before July 1.

 

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UF Chapter Of ZBT To Close Immediately

By and on April 28th, 2015 | Last updated: April 28, 2015 at 2:55 pm

UPDATE: The University of Florida’s chapter of Zeta Beta Tau will be closed immediately, according to a statement from UF spokesperson Janine Sikes on Tuesday.

“I continue to be saddened and disappointed by the reported mistreatment and disrespect of our military veterans,” UF President Kent Fuchs said, according to the statement. “Our university has always honored, and will always honor, the service of veterans. The reported conduct of this fraternity contradicts the values of service and respect that are at the center of this university.”

Both ZBT and the university will continue their investigations into the incident in Panama City Beach that led to allegations of misconduct.

Original Post, April 24: The University of Florida has suspended the Zeta Beta Tau chapter on an interim basis while it investigates allegations of disrespectful behavior over the weekend.

Army veteran Perry Clawson sits in front of the ZBT fraternity house on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Fla. Friday, April 24, 2015.

Army veteran Perry Clawson sits in front of the ZBT fraternity house on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Fla. Friday, April 24, 2015. Jonathan Munoz / WUFT News

UF Vice President of Student Affairs Dave Kratzer wrote in a release: “I am personally offended and disappointed by the behavior that has been described to me. This is not representative of our students or of the university.” The release cited that Kratzer is a retired U.S. Army major general and combat veteran.

Read the full release

Three members were also expelled from the UF chapter due to the incident.

In a statement released on Friday, Laurence Bolotin, the executive director of the fraternity, said the members were expelled for “inappropriate behavior.” The fraternity’s national headquarters has been in contact with Warrior Beach Retreat, Bolotin wrote, and they hope to work with veterans’ organizations in the future.

Retired Army Col. Perry Clawson, who sat outside the UF ZBT house on Friday, said he hopes the fraternity takes ownership of the members’ behavior.

“Three bad apples doesn’t ruin a crop,” he said. “But at the same time, this is a fraternity. It’s a brotherhood, and unfortunately, they pissed off probably the biggest brotherhood of brothers and sisters.”

Clawson said there is a number of ways the fraternity can make amends, including volunteering with the Gainesville Fisher House Foundation.

According to Bolotin’s statement, some members and staff of the fraternity have received threats in response to the incident.

“The threats to our members and staff — including many who were not involved in the incident — cannot be tolerated,” Bolotin wrote, “and we are working with law enforcement to ensure their safety.”

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In The News: Troops in Baltimore, Duval County Public Schools To Curb Mental Health, Two Hospitalized After Stabbing, Supreme Court Hears Gay and Lesbian Marriage Arguments

By on April 28th, 2015 | Last updated: April 28, 2015 at 2:08 pm
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