A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics

A.G. Gancarski

Kim Daniels files ‘Florida Responsible Parent Act’

Florida State Rep. Kim Daniels filed the “Florida Responsible Parent Act” on Friday, which would protect certain people delinquent in child support payments from being subject to contempt of court.

House Bill 313 amends the section of Florida Statute pertaining to suspending driver’s licenses and motor vehicle registrations for people delinquent in child support payments, adding more categories for exclusion from those penalties.

People “unable to pay support through an Act of God,” through “involuntary unemployment,” or a “medical emergency” would not be subject to those suspensions of driving privileges and car registration.

“If the court finds that the obligor has failed to pay child support due to any of such circumstances, the court may order the obligor to be placed in a work-release program or under supervised home confinement without electronic 133 monitoring,” the bill asserts.

Additionally, Daniels’ bill would extend tax credits, via the Department of Economic Opportunity, to businesses who hired child support scofflaws who are in work-release programs or supervised home confinement.

Jacksonville civil rights groups plan to take control of MLK Breakfast

There were rumblings last week that some civil rights leaders in Jacksonville were unhappy with the yearly Martin Luther King Jr. breakfast.

This week, there is written confirmation.

A letter in the mailbox of Mayor Lenny Curry from Jacksonville NAACP President Isaiah Rumlin let it be known that while the NAACP, the SCLC, and the Urban League will not be “pulling out of participation,” they have decided to “take the lead on planning this annual event effective immediately.”

“We believe that by bringing this breakfast back to the civil rights organizations,” Rumlin wrote this week, “it will more accurately reflect the vision and dream of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.”

This year’s program showed cognitive dissonance at times, between an excerpted version of the King legacy and the realities of Jacksonville’s socioeconomic and cultural divides. For more on that, read last week’s recap of the MLK Breakfast in Jacksonville.

There seems to be dispute among the groups as to whether Rumlin’s letter represents consensus.

As Juan Gray of the local SCLC told WJCT Friday, “I don’t know what [Rumlin] wanted to do [with the letter], but that wasn’t the accurate message to send to a mayor who’s already confused.”

The mayor’s office notes that Curry and Rumlin are going to meet, but that they are waiting to hear from Rumlin regarding an acceptable date and time for the meeting.

The city’s office of special events collaborates with these organizations on the planning of the event, with four planning meetings with the principals.

The Curry administration met with the groups in October, 2015. They had complained of not being included in the planning, and the current administration made sure that they were central, with slots to speak, seats on the dais, and complimentary tables.

Finances, meanwhile, may dictate that the city continue running the event.

2016‘s cost to the office of special events: $133,000.

That number increased in 2017, toward the $150,000 range, but final numbers are not yet available.

House bill seeks popular election of president

Timing is everything. And it’s no coincidence that a bill pushing a popular election of the U.S. President was filed by a Florida House Democrat just hours before the runner up in the popular vote was to be inaugurated Friday.

House Bill 311, filed by Broward County Democrat Joe Geller, seeks to enact the Agreement Among the States to Elect President by National Popular Vote.

This agreement has been enacted already by 10 states and the District of Columbia.

The rationale: “shortcomings of the current system of electing the President stem from state winner-take-all statutes (i.e., state laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each separate state).”

Buttressing the argument: the disproportionate amount of attention paid to national campaigns, as we saw in Florida down the stretch in 2016.

Abiding by that agreement, via Geller’s bill, requires a statewide popular election for President & Vice President of United States, and establishes procedure for appointing presidential electors in member states.

The bill would be repealed if the electoral college were abolished.

Geller offered an extended statement, printed in full below.

“Today, Donald J. Trump was inaugurated as our next president.

“For the second time since 2000, the winner of the Popular Vote (or as it is called everywhere else in the world, the Vote), will not be sworn in as President. I think that is a problem. My bill will allow Florida to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The bill, if signed into law, would allow the people of Florida to award Florida’s electoral votes to the candidate who wins the nationwide popular vote. Florida would be joining 11 other states, along with the District of Columbia, in deciding to award our Electoral College Votes in this manner. The compact would not take effect until a sufficient number of states (including the District of Columbia), possessing a majority of the 270 electoral votes necessary to be elected President, have signed onto the compact.

“The current Electoral College system weakens the effect of each citizen’s voting power in Florida. Florida has 447,202 potential votes for each of its 29 electoral votes, while the state of Wyoming has 70,155 potential votes for each of its 3 electoral votes. As you can see, a vote in Wyoming has more weight and influence than one in Florida.

“The results of the 2016 Presidential Election showed that the Electoral College system is outdated and antiquated, and is anti-democratic, being contrary to the rule of one person, one vote. We do not use a similar system for any other election. Joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would assure that all votes are counted and that they all have the same impact in the election of our most important office.”

Northeast Florida reacts to ‘beautiful day’ of Donald Trump inauguration

With the inauguration of President Donald Trump on Friday morning, it was predictable that Northeast Florida pols would post thoughts on the event.

Some thoughts were sanguine, such as those from Mayor Lenny Curry and former State Rep. Lake Ray.

“It’s a beautiful day,” Curry Tweeted Friday morning.

Ray had more to say.

“The peaceful transition of power is unique to countries that value freedom for its people,” Ray wrote Friday on Facebook

“As we celebrate the inauguration of a new President, Donald J. Trump, may we come together as a people that value fair and free elections and may we wish success on the incoming President, his administration and outgoing President Obama.for wisdom as you lead our nation,” Ray added.

Cindy Graves, who succeeded Ray as chair of the Republican Party of Duval County, is in D.C. for the festivities.

She is wowed.

“It is hard to describe the patriotism, the emotion, the pride as we approach our nation’s Capitol among citizens from across America. I am almost overcome with emotion,” Graves opined.

Others were a bit more subdued, such as Rep. Al Lawson, who felt the need to message about his decision to attend the inauguration to two different reporters in the last few days.

That decision, we hear, was grist for internal debate in Lawson’s office.

On Inauguration Day, Lawson’s thoughts were of the end of the Barack Obama era.

“With the last few hours under the Obama administration, I simply want to say thank you Obama for everything you have done for the American people. You will be missed.”

Former House District 14 Democratic candidate Leslie Jean-Bart had a novel idea regarding protest.

“ACTION: TO BOYCOTT INAUGURATION, DONT TURN OFF TV. Instead, turn tv ON (but not to inauguration channel),” Jean-Bart advised.

Why?

Jean-Bart’s take: “if we turn off the TV entirely, it looks like the vast majority of all people watched Trump. But, if our TVs are tuned to other shows, it takes away from the ‘market share’ and makes the relative inauguration viewing percentage appear much lower.”

UNF Professor Parvez Ahmed, a member of Jacksonville’s Human Rights Commission, issued his own pointed criticism.

“Trump has assembled the Wealthiest, Whitest, and least educated cabinet in modern American history. They are not the only problems. As [a Washington Post article he linked to] makes it clear, “never before has one president assembled such a remarkable collection of individuals who are either unqualified for their jobs, devoted to subverting their agencies, or both, not to mention the ethical questions that will continue to swirl around this administration.” No wonder Kremlin is rejoicing while most Americans are scared,” Ahmed wrote.

This post will be updated as more politicians post their thoughts.

Travis Hutson talks ‘The Process’ and Regulated Industries

In St. Augustine Wednesday for the St. Johns County Delegation meeting, Sen. Travis Hutson discussed a variety of topics with FloridaPolitics.com.

Hutson expects an interesting year.

Among the topics: The Process and his chairmanship of the Senate’s Regulated Industries committee.

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The ongoing Cold War between Senate and House leadership looms over the session at large.

Hutson isn’t as pessimistic as some media covering it, however.

“Who knows what’s going to happen? There’s no guarantees in Tallahassee,” Hutson said.

“The process has always been, the initial offer’s made from either side and we go through conferencing to kind of balance out those budgets through subcommittees,” Hutson added.

“All I see that the speaker’s really doing is to ask his House members to start that process a little sooner. The House will put up their bills. The Senate, when we go into conferencing, will put up our stuff. And we’ll negotiate the budget. That’s how I anticipate it [working],” Hutson observed.

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Hutson amplified a Tweet he made earlier this year about an expected active year in his Regulated Industries committee also.

“In Regulated Industries, it’s going to be a really fun year. Stuff’s going to move, and it will move quickly. Stuff that usually dies – if you look at the agenda, some of it’s up there already.”

Already in play: issues like casino gaming, an issue on which consensus has proven elusive in previous sessions.

“A perfect year for Regulated Industries would be those dogfights that usually happen, where bills go to die, it doesn’t turn into that anymore. If I put a bill on the agenda, I expect it to move and get out.

“I’m going to challenge that committee. I think we have a good committee, but I’m going to challenge them with some stuff they may like to vote for and they may not like to vote for. It’s going to be interesting, and hopefully those who are pro or con those bills work those members really hard,” Hutson said.

“I don’t even know what I’m going to put up yet on certain situations, depending on the scenario of what I deem good or bad policy,” Hutson adds.

Kim Daniels files ‘religious liberties’ bill for public schools

The first bill in the Florida House filed by Jacksonville Democrat and charismatic evangelist Kim Daniels turned out to be on a subject close to her heart: “religious expression.”

House Bill 303, the “Florida Student and School Personnel Religious Liberties Act,” would ban school districts “from discriminating against students, parents, & school personnel on basis of religious viewpoints or expression,” and would require a school district “to adopt limited public forum policy & deliver a disclaimer at school events.”

The bill would mandate that a school district not “discriminate” against a student, teacher, or employee “on the basis of a religious viewpoint or religious expression.”

The bill also equates “religious” and “secular” viewpoints in the academic space.

“A school district shall treat a student’s voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint on an otherwise permissible subject in the same manner that the school district treats a student’s voluntary expression of a secular viewpoint,” reads the Daniels bill.

Students may include religious content and themes in their coursework, the bill continues, and the student may not be penalized or rewarded for such content.

Students may also wear “clothing, accessories, and jewelry” that “displays a religious message,” potentially leaving the door open for all sorts of traditions outside the Judeo-Christian matrix.

Prayer groups and “religious gatherings” can be organized at any time a commensurate (and undefined) secular activity is permitted, including during the school day.

The bill also allows for a “limited public forum” at school events, at which religious expressions are to be allowed, and “vulgar” and other offensive speech is to be disallowed.

Amendment 2 implementation bill filed in Florida Senate

A bill filed Thursday in the Florida Senate, if passed, would expand the medical marijuana system in the Sunshine State, complying with 2016’s Amendment 2.

However, some critics — inside the Senate and outside as well — have raised concerns, suggesting the bill will not have the smoothest glide path.

Senate Bill 406, filed by Orange Park Republican Rob Bradley, would codify Amendment 2, establishing parameters for prescribing physicians, the treatment of minors, mandated yearly examinations for medical marijuana patients, and a requirement of a caregiver registry.

“In 2014, the Florida Legislature legalized low-THC medical marijuana, and in 2016 expanded the medical marijuana system to provide legal access to marijuana for terminally ill Floridians,” said Bradley in a press release Thursday.

“Floridians want even more options, speaking loud and clear at the polls in November by passing Amendment Two. This bill significantly expands the current medical marijuana system to give Floridians the relief they have demanded, and it does so safely and quickly,” Bradley added.

Sen. Dana Young, chair of the Senate Health Policy committee, is a co-introducer of the legislation. She also worked closely with Bradley on the bill.

“This bill faithfully honors our solemn obligation to the people of Florida to implement Amendment Two,” Young said. “Suffering Floridians will have now real options with no unreasonable delays.” The Health Policy Committee heard testimony from numerous Floridians at a recent committee meeting in Tallahassee.

The bill would amend language in Section 381.986 of Florida statute, changing the title to “Compassionate use of low-THC cannabis and marijuana.”

A definition of “medical cannabis” is stricken from the bill, replaced instead with a statement that “marijuana” means what it says in the Florida Constitution.”

“Medical use” of marijuana, in the language of the bill, does not include “possession, use, or administration of marijuana that was not purchased or acquired from an MMTC registered with the Department of Health.”

Qualifying doctors are allowed to prescribe medical cannabis and “a delivery device,” if they ascertain that a patient has a qualifying condition, and that the health benefits of cannabis use outweigh the risks.

To qualify, they will have to take a four hour course from the Florida Medical Association, or the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association.

Patients will be allowed a 90 day supply of marijuana, up from 45 in the previous statutory language.

Prescribing cannabis to non-qualified patients will be a misdemeanor of the first degree for prescribing doctors. That same penalty would be imposed on anyone who “fraudulently” claims the kind of debilitating condition that qualifies.

As well, qualified patients who smoke in public, on school grounds, in school buses or other vehicles also will be found guilty of that first degree misdemeanor.

The bill also has provisions for caregivers, who may help administer the cannabis to patients. Caregivers must be over 21 years of age, and must pass a level 2 screening unless related to the caregiver.

Additionally, a patient may have one caregiver at a time, outside of a hospice or nursing home setting.

The department, meanwhile, will register caregivers, physicians, and patients, and have rules set up by July 3, and a system up and running by Oct. 3. By that date, patient and caregiver identification cards will have been issued.

The bill also has provisions for expanding the industry.

Six months after the threshold of 250,000 patients is hit, five more Medical Marijuan Treatment Centers will be brought on line. The same will happen after 350,000 patients, 400,000 patients, and for every 100,000 patients thereafter.

Rules for processing and dispensing cannabis are also established in this bill.

Among them, that dosage info should be labeled with the recommended dose, and that no recreational-style delivery devices, such as bongs and rolling papers and the like, will be made available by the dispensing organization.

All transactions are to be cataloged and recorded, and MMTCs will have 24 hour video recording with archives kept for 45 days in controlled areas, ranging from grow and storage rooms to point of sale locations.

While the Bradley/Young nexus will be formidable, Sen. Jeff Brandes — an advocate of opening up the MMTC market to more providers — doesn’t think this bill goes far enough.

“I am encouraged that Senator Bradley’s proposal expands access to medical marijuana for more patients, and I am further encouraged that his proposal begins to chip away at the unnecessary regulatory hurdles burdening Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers. However, I believe the voters of Florida voiced their overwhelming support for a new approach to the regulation of medical marijuana in this state, not a revision to the existing framework,” Brandes said in a statement Thursday.

“I am continuing to work on what I believe is the most free-market option to address the implementation of Amendment 2. I look forward to releasing my proposal in the coming weeks and working with Senator Bradley as well as my fellow colleagues to implement the will of the Florida voters,” Brandes added.

Ben Pollara of United for Care also had some thoughts on the legislation.

“Senator Bradley’s bill is an encouraging start to the legislative process of implementing the medical marijuana amendment. His approach certainly stands in stark contrast to the proposed rule issued earlier this week by DOH by respecting the basic elements and language of the constitution,” Pollara noted.

“The two most important elements of implementation are respecting the sanctity and primacy of the doctor-patient relationship under the law,” Pollara added, “and diversifying and expanding the marketplace to best serve patient access.”

The caveats were inevitable, of course.

“Bradley’s bill does a mostly excellent job respecting the doctor-patient relationship. However, the bill doesn’t sufficiently expand the licensing of medical marijuana treatment centers to serve the estimated patient population, nor does the proposed expansion occur quickly enough to keep up with a patient population that will quickly boom across the state. It also leaves in place the current requirement of vertical integration that stifles innovation, diversity and ultimately patient access,” Pollara added.

Long story short? The future of medical marijuana in Florida is going to be robustly contested at least through this session.

Jacksonville council finance committee clears a series of bills

On Thursday, the Jacksonville City Council Finance Committee pushed through a series of bills ahead of approval next Tuesday by the full council.

All of these bills were approved unanimously.

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Lien Scene: A bill adding “code enforcement liens” to the list of claims, bills and judgments that may be settled by the Finance Director, Office of General Counsel or Mayor (Resolution 2016-766) was the first of these measures to go through.

Nuisance abatement liens with a principal amount of $1,000 up to $4,999 would be settled by the Director of Finance; liens below $10,000, by the general counsel; and liens up to $99,999 would be settled by the Mayor with the concurrence of the General Counsel and the Finance Director.

Liens can add up; code enforcement fines often can be as high as $250 a day.

“This doesn’t necessarily solve all our problems with respect to the size of these liens,” Councilman Bill Gulliford said, urging a cap on liens.

Charges of hundreds of thousands of dollars often are settled for a couple of thousand dollars by the city.

“If it was 20 percent of the property value,” Gulliford said, the next owner may settle the lien at face value.

Currently, when liens reach a certain point of arrears, third-party collection efforts are employed.

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Give ShotSpotter a Shot: Ordinance 2016-795, authorizing moving money from closed capital project accounts to ShotSpotter and other city priorities, was another key bill to meet with committee approval.

Ordinance 2016-795 will, among other things, “appropriate $435,001 already allocated in a ShotSpotter reserve account to an equipment purchase account for installation of the test site … acoustic gunshot detection and surveillance technology in a 5 square mile area of Health Zone 1.”

The $435,000 allocation was part of a larger package of $1.356 million of unused capital improvement funds that will be funneled into a variety of projects.

The program, which identifies the source of gunshots, will be rolled out in a 5 square mile area in Health Zone 1, the part of the city that has the most gun violence.

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Home Sweet Home: Ordinance 2016-797, authorizing the disposition of 101 pieces of surplus property in Council Districts 7 through 10 and 14, also met with committee approval.

The total value of these properties: just over $783,000, ranging from a vacant lot valued at $140 (a great gift idea) to a single family home valued at just under $60,000.

Community housing development organizations get the first crack at developing these properties for single-family, owner-occupied homes as long as the CHDOs don’t have liens; CHDOs are allowed to handle five at a time.

Previous committees noted that the bulk of these properties come from Districts 7 through 9.

Movement of these properties on the list already has been slow, so the city plans to add some dollars to the RFP to incentivize development.

The cap of dollars offered to community housing and development corporations, and other developers, would be $55,000 of city funds.

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Help for the export market: Finance also approved an ordinance (2016-800) authorizing a memorandum of understanding with JAXUSA, an arm of the local Chamber of Commerce, to implement an export plan and develop a foreign direct investment strategy.

The export plan is part of a process that began in 2013, when Jacksonville was one of just eight cities in the Brookings Institution’s global cities initiative, and comes after years of study.

“The MOU calls for JAXUSA to establish a ‘one-stop shop’ to provide interested businesses with information, research and assistance in developing export activities; to create a Global Cities Advocacy Team to lead the implementation effort; to conduct outreach activities to at least 25 potential export businesses,” reads the bill summary.

It is a $60,000 city obligation for one year, with provisions for renewal. The total budget would be $125,000, with JAXUSA pouring in $55,000.

The Chamber will provide quarterly progress reports on this work, which would start Feb. 1, and would therefore see the first quarterly report Apr. 30.

Councilman Aaron Bowman noted that Jacksonville is “very low in the export world compared to surrounding cities that have ports,” and that the Chamber — his primary employer — is “excited” about this.

Councilman Bill Gulliford pushed back.

“Our primary competitors, Charleston and Savannah, have world trade centers. It is to our detriment that we don’t have one,” Gulliford added, saying Jacksonville is “working at a disadvantage” compared to regional competitors.

“It’s something that if we’re serious about this, we really need to pursue it,” Gulliford added.

This initiative would be regional, rather than strictly delineated for Duval County.

Defeated politicians poised for new life on Jacksonville boards

A trio of politicians who suffered recent high-profile losses will be considered by the Jacksonville City Council for board appointments in the coming weeks.

The Ethics Commission will potentially be the landing spot for two pols beloved by liberal Democrats.

Leslie Jean-Bart, who lost a contentious Democratic primary in August to current HD 14 Rep. Kim Daniels, is up for a spot.

“I’m returning to the Ethics Commission. Previously, I was appointed by the chief judge and served in 2014. My current appointment is by Public Defender Charlie Cofer,” Jean-Bart noted.

Jean-Bart is poised to be joined by Maria Mark, who is best known for her efforts to push an anti-discrimination ordinance in Atlantic Beach in 2015.

Mark lost her election later that year to John Stinson. She followed that up by visiting the home of and attempting to confront a supporter of her opponent, at which time Atlantic Beach police warned her to stay away from that person

Also headed to a commission: defeated Jacksonville City Council candidate Mike Anania.

Anania lost his race for council to Joyce Morgan in 2015.

Final votes on these candidates would be at the Feb. 28 council meeting

St. Johns Legislative Delegation hears county wish list

On Wednesday, the St. Johns County Commission presented its ambitious legislative action plan to the county’s legislative delegation in what is destined to be, in the words of Rep. Cyndi Stevenson, a “tough budget year.”

The ambitious 73 page plan covers “transportation funding, water quality, beach renourishment, open space and land conservation grants, and unfunded state and federal mandates.”

Transportation asks for the fast-growing Northeast Florida county are significant, including $95 million for the proposed State Road 313 (SR 313) Extension/Bypass from State Road 207 (SR 207) to State Road 16 (SR 16) (and $30 million more for right of way acquisition and design.

As well. St. Johns County seeks another $90 million for the proposed County Road 2209 (CR 2209) from County Road 210 to SR 16.

These have been priority projects for a while.

There also are the pressures of a small-county government dealing with the Sunshine Law: one ask is for public record and open meeting exceptions for economic development agendas.

Additionally, the county commission seeks the reinstatement of the state’s quick action closing fund; while that may be music to Rick Scott‘s ears, Richard Corcoran is a different matter.

And the county commission wants a total of $31 million for septic tank removal in West Augustine, stormwater remediation in Davis Shores, and the elimination of sanitary sewer overflows in St. Augustine.

St. Johns County Commissioner Jimmy Johns called their document a “blueprint” to bridge the gap between core services and what the state can do.

Johns noted that the county had success in previous sessions, and this year needs sand replacement after Hurricane Matthew at its beaches.

The county is still recovering from the storm, and various asks were delineated, including an increase of the state disaster recovery fund share to 75 percent of a $60 million ask.

Numerous speakers addressed these issues throughout the afternoon, painting nightmare scenarios of beach erosion leading to threats to property and the very viability of local towns.

Sen. Hutson expressed urgency and the hope to get money sooner than later to save the homes most imperiled by the storm, “homes that hang literally off cliffs.”

The county also wants access improvements to the beaches, especially toward the South Ponte Vedra Beach area, along State Road A1A.

The school district needs resources also.

Superintendent Tim Forson noted that the district’s “operating budget” has suffered from issues like the most recent millage rollback, which has led to service and program cuts, and the looming specter of salary increase freezes.

Beyond those significant asks, a couple of dozen speakers discussed matters ranging from mosquito control and coastal armoring to fracking and sea level rise.

“Severe weather coastal storms are occurring with increasing frequency and intensity,” noted Veronica Valentinon the subject of installation of coastal armoring.

“Time is not on our side,” Valentine said, advocating for letting owners build a seawall and maintain it. “We just want permission to protect our property.”

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