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Daily Archives: March 22, 2013

Bills could alter state retirement

The Florida Legislature is poised to pass additional reforms to the Florida Retirement System, a public pension plan benefitting more than 40 percent of Baker County’s workforce.

Three week’s into the 2013 session, bills are making their way through both the house and senate to move the Florida Retirement System away from a “defined-benefit” plan to a more risky “defined-contribution” plan for new hires.

The existing defined-benefit system guarantees pension benefits based on a worker’s top annual earnings and years of service. The defined-contribution plan functions as a 401K-style investment plan that’s subject to the ups and downs of market forces.

The house bill (7011) filed in February by Rep. Jason T. Brodeur (R-Sanford) and pushed by House Speaker Rep. Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel, FL), would automatically enroll government employees hired after January 1, 2014 into the investment plan.

The senate bill (1392) filed by Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-New Port Richey) takes a more flexible approach.

It would give new hires the option of enrolling into the investment, or defined-contribution, plan or the traditional plan. If they fail to make a choice, they’ll default into the investment plan, not the defined-benefit plan as they do today.

Sen. Simpson’s proposal would require elected officials and senior management employees to enroll in the investment plan, however.

The senate bill also includes incentives to attract workers to the defined-contribution plan.

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Trio was packaging drugs in motel room

Three persons were arrested in the early morning hours of March 17 as county deputies uncovered a drug packaging operation in a Macclenny motel room.

One of the suspects is charged with attempting to run over a county deputy before leading them on a high-speed chase through a nearby residential neighborhood.

Deputy Daryl Mobley responded to a disturbance call at the Econolodge on Woodlawn Rd. shortly after midnight, and about the time he and Deputy Chris Walker reached the area a vehicle left the motel on Woodlawn Rd. at high speed and entered Interstate 10 eastbound.

Deputy Walker and Cpl. Matt Riegel stopped it shortly after and took Shameka Armstrong, 32, of Jacksonville into custody.

She allegedly had kicked out a motel room window, and when officers went to investigate they found the room unoccupied and evidence that it was being used to package marijuana into small baggies for sale.

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The perils of ‘spit tobacco’

Rick Bender, mouth cancer survivor.This week students at the middle and high schools are getting a closeup look at the effects of smoking and chewing tobacco as part of a national campaign that culminates with the 18th annual Kick Butts Day on March 20.

Nationally known anti-tobacco speaker Rick Bender — a survivor of mouth cancer he attributes to using chewing tobacco as a teenager — shared his story with groups of middle schoolers on March 18 and high schoolers the following day.

Mr. Bender, who started using “spit tobacco” at age 12, opened one session at the middle school on Monday by asking the students if they’ve ever tried the product.

Only a few hands went up. But when he asked if they knew anyone who used dip regularly, nearly all the students raised their hands.

Mr. Bender of Sarasota, FL grew up in California and played baseball in high school, which was part of the reason he started using a couple of cans of dip per week. He said his aversion to cigarettes and peer pressure also contributed to his habit, which increased to one can every other day by the end of high school.

By 1988, Mr. Bender, then in his mid-20s, was up to a can a day. That’s also about the time he noticed a little sore on the side of his tongue, which was nothing new. Similar sores, appearing as white bumps or rough patches of white tissue in his mouth, had been coming and going for years.

But this time the sore didn’t go away, and instead grew rapidly to the size of dime on his tongue.

“You want to talk about hurt, this thing hurt. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t eat. It was rubbing across my teeth,” Mr. Bender said.

He consulted a family physician who couldn’t diagnose the sore. He was directed to another doctor, who biopsied the growth that proved to be cancer — an undifferiented squamous cell carcinoma to be exact.

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Wildcats eye No. 1 district seed

Hunter Hanks steals third.The Wildcat varsity baseball team is sizzling hot at 11-1 this season, and went 3-0 this past week with wins over a very good Episcopal squad, Forrest and Palatka.

The win over the Episcopal Eagles on March 11 at the home field was a touch and go affair. The game bounced back and forth as BCHS came from three runs back to defeat the Rams 8-7 in nine innings.

Jacob Milton started on the mound and Justin Guillory picked up the win in relief, throwing two scoreless innings.

“I’m very proud of Justin because he hasn’t pitched in over a year coming off an arm injury,” said Coach Fred Matricardi. “He has stayed positive and continued to work hard.”

The Cats were down 3-0 in the fourth and scored five runs to take the lead. Jacob Milton doubled, Hunter Hanks singled to bring Milton in, and Ethan Wilkerson followed up with a two-run homer to tie the game. The Cats took the lead when Mikal Flores doubled and Dylan Hall got a single that brought Flores across the plate. Hunter Bell scored on a squeeze play to put BCHS up 5-3.

Episcopal regained the lead with a pair of runs in the seventh. The Cats tied the game when Grant Gregory reached on a error. Brandon Miller singled, Jacob Milton grounded out, with two outs and runners on second and third. Hunter Hanks had a great at bat and reached on a error to score Miller and Milton.

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