Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 132

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster

Governor signs landmark ride-sharing legislation into law

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law Tuesday a bill that creates statewide regulations for ride-booking companies, like Uber and Lyft.

“I’m proud to sign this legislation today to make it easier for ridesharing companies to thrive in Florida and help ensure the safety of our families,” said Scott in a statement. “Florida is one of the most business-friendly states in the nation because of our efforts to reduce burdensome regulations and encourage innovation and job creation across all industries, including transportation.”

The legislation, among other things, requires ride-booking companies, like Uber and Lyft, to carry $100,000 of insurance for bodily injury of death and $25,000 for property damage while a driver is logged onto their app, but hasn’t secured a passenger. While with a passenger, drivers would be required to have $1 million in coverage.

“Uber would like to thank Governor Rick Scott for signing House Bill 221 and for his steadfast support of the ridesharing industry. This law now opens the door for more residents and visitors to access innovative transportation options across all of Florida,” said Kasra Moshkani, the South Florida general manager for Uber. “Since Uber first arrived in Florida three years ago, we have worked with local leaders, safety groups and consumer groups to enhance the communities we serve. For Uber Florida, our priority is making safe and reliable rides easy and affordable — whether it’s for a mother needing transportation after a late work shift, or for a senior who needs to get to and from doctor appointments. Today, with Governor Scott’s signature, we see the culmination of hard work and dedication by so many: from Uber driver-partners and riders to our diverse local partners and community leaders.”

Sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes in the Senate and Reps. Chris Sprowls and Jamie Grant, it also requires companies to have third parties conduct local and national criminal background checks on drivers. The law pre-empts local ordinances and rules on transportation network companies.

“This legislation will ensure the innovative ridesharing network across Florida continues to thrive,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in a statement. “Helping Florida businesses grow is critical to our economy, and this bill will also empower workers across the state to work when and where they want to meet the needs of their families.”

The law goes into effect July 1.

“This landmark legislation would have never happened without the Lyft community across the state who stood up for the benefits ridesharing brings to their families, businesses and cities,” said Chelsea Harrison, the senior policy communications manager for Lyft, in a statement. “We look forward to seeing Lyft continue to grow and thrive for years to come in the Sunshine State.”

 

Adam Putnam to proclaim: ‘Florida can be launch pad for American Dream’

Adam Putnam will detail his vision for Florida’s future, laying out a plan to make Florida a “launch pad for the American Dream” when he formally announces his 2018 gubernatorial bid today.

Putnam, the state’s agriculture commissioner, will launch his gubernatorial bid on the steps of the Old Polk County Courthouse in Bartow at 11 a.m. today. Afterward, he’s scheduled to attend a Florida Grown Hometown BBQ hosted by his political committee, Florida Grown, in downtown Bartow.

According to prepared remarks provided ahead of his speech, Putnam is expected to put a focus on how the Sunshine State “isn’t only the place where people come after a life well-lived somewhere else; it’s where they come to launch their own American Dream.”

“Our state can be the launch pad for the American Dream. The state that is the fishing capital of the world can also be the state that builds the boats and trains the craftsmen,” he is expected to say. “The state that trained millions of soldiers and sailors and airmen can retrain our citizens with the skills that allow them to compete in a rapidly changing world – and win. The state that put a man on the moon can build the tools for the next giant leap for mankind.”

Putnam will point to examples of “American exceptionalism” in Florida, according to his speech.

“Look at the grocery clerk in Lakeland who revolutionized the supermarket industry,” he is expected to say. “Or the cashier on I-Drive who now owns the souvenir shop… It’s the truck driver hauling fruit who saved up to buy an orange grove, and then another… It’s the hotel maid who now runs her own bed and breakfast.”

“Hard-working folks like these have been able to achieve their American Dream right here in Florida. I want every single Floridian to be able to tell a similar story. I want people around the country to know this is where it happens,” he is expected to continue. “It’s why we have more work to do. It’s why we’ve got to keep fighting to put Florida first and make our state the launch pad for the American Dream.”

Putnam will be joined on the stage today by retired Army Sgt. Jordan Corbett, who served in the 555th Parachute Infantry, and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. Corbett will deliver the Pledge of Allegiance, while Judd is expected to introduce Putnam. The Bartow High School Marching Band will be on hand to play the National Anthem.

Matt Caldwell to kick-off Ag Commissioner campaign Monday in Fort Myers

Matt Caldwell is ready to kick is campaign for agriculture commissioner into high gear.

The North Fort Myers Republican will officially kick-off his campaign with an event at Sun Harvest Citrus, 14601 Six Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers at 11:15 a.m., Monday.

Caldwell, who had been expected to throw his hat in the race to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, filed to run for the seat earlier this month. Since January, Caldwell has raised $702,825 for his political committee Friends of Matt Caldwell.

State records show his February 2017 fundraising haul of $412,075 was the largest single month haul since August 2016, when the committee was started. The committee ended March with more than $650,000 cash on hand, according to state records.

The chairman of the Government Accountability Committee, Caldwell has spent much of his career in the Legislature focused on environmental and agricultural issues, a background that could serve him well in the position. During the 2017 Legislative Session, he pushed for legislation restructure the funding formula for Florida Forever and guarantee funding to the conservation program.

Caldwell can’t run for re-election in the House because of term limits.

He isn’t the only state legislator vying to replace Putnam, who is running for governor. Sen. Denise Grimsley filed to run for the seat earlier this year. A fifth generation Floridian, Grimsley was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, where she served until 2012, when she was elected to the Senate

Republican Paul Paulson and Democrats Michael Damian Christine and Daniel Sohn have also filed to run for the seat.

Kevin McCarthy says he sees a ‘great opportunity to get the money’ for Everglades restoration projects

A three-hour helicopter tour of the Everglades could prove to be key in helping secure money for restoration projects going forward.

Rep. Francis Rooney took House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on a tour of the Everglades and the Lake Okeechobee Watershed on Tuesday. The tour — similar to one the Naples Republican took Rep. Ken Calvert, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment on back in March — was meant to highlight the importance of funding projects that have already been approved, and in some cases designed, within the watershed.

“He’s been telling me about this since before he was elected and he invited me before even getting sworn in,” said McCarthy, a California Republican. “This is a natural treasure.”

Rooney has been pushing for President Donald Trump and members of Congress to support Everglades restoration projects since taking office. In February, he sent a letter, signed by the entire Florida delegation, calling on the president to include restoration projects, particularly ones within the Central Everglades Restoration Program, in his fiscal 2018 budget.

McCarthy said the need for improvements were clear during the tour, which flew over the the C-43 storage reservoir, the culvert replacements at the Herbert Hoover Dike, and several other state projects.

“I see what we’re going in Congress right now, when we go to tax reform and when we go to infrastructure, I see the funding already coming now,” said McCarthy. “But I see opportunities that we can speed it up to save the taxpayers money, finish some of these projects earlier. And I see a great opportunity to get the money.”

McCarthy commended the state for its efforts over the year, and said that could bode well for Florida in the future.

“When we look to make investments, we look to those places that have a priority, have an investment from the state,” he said. “So I think the state has done their work. The federal government, I know under Francis’ direction, is already making those commitments.”

State lawmakers this year approved a massive bill (SB 10) that aims to reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee. A top priority for Senate President Joe Negron, the bill, among other things, requires the South Florida Water Management District to develop a plan to build 240,000-acre-feet of storage. The total cost of the project is estimated to be about $1.5 billion, half of which could be paid for by the federal government.

Gov. Rick Scott has said he would sign the bill. However, lawmakers declined to include $200 million in the budget to help fix the Herbert Hoover Dike, a request Scott made late in the Session.

Rooney, a friend of Scott’s, said he was “a little surprised” the governor got involved in the dike issue.

“I was a little surprised the governor got into the dike issue, but I’m glad he tried,” he said when asked if the Legislature’s decision not to include funding could impact a proposal to complete repairs by 2022. “It would’ve been nice to give them a could hundred million to add to the pot to get these projects done faster. But it’s the Corps of Engineers project, and they are going to try to … seek more money to get it completed by 2022 as well.”

Rick Scott says he will make veto decision ‘based on what’s best’ for Florida families

Gov. Rick Scott took a swing at state lawmakers, saying the Legislature turned its back on economic incentive deals that have helped Florida “out compete … top competitors for important jobs.”

The Naples Republican released a scathing statement Tuesday, scolding legislative leaders for passing a budget that “was done largely behind closed doors.” Scott said he has begun the process of reviewing the budget, and said he will make a decision about whether he vetoes the entire budget “based on what’s best for our families.”

“I ran for Governor to fight career politicians and it’s backroom deals like this that make families think politics is nothing more than a game,” said Scott in a statement. “I am beginning to review the budget and I have the option of vetoing the entire budget or vetoing the items that circumvented the transparent process and do not have an acceptable return on investment for hardworking taxpayers. Just like I do every year, I will make my decisions based on what’s best for our families because my job is to wake up every day and fight for Floridians.”

The Legislature approved the nearly $83 billion budget Monday night, three days after the 2017 Session was scheduled to end. The budget does not fund several of Scott’s top priorities, including a request for $85 million for economic incentives for Enterprise Florida.

Scott blasted lawmakers for not funding economic incentives, saying the “Florida Legislature has turned their back on Florida’s ability to fund economic incentive deals that help our state outcompete our top competitors for important jobs.”

“This is very concerning to me and is an action that each member will have to defend as their local communities lose out on new manufacturing facilities, headquarter relocations and thousands of high wage jobs for families,” he said.

The budget includes $25 million for Visit Florida, less than Scott requested. It also doesn’t include $200 million to put toward the Herbert Hoover Dike, a move Scott called irresponsible.

“I am also shocked that despite their commitment to protecting the environment, the Florida Legislature failed to jump start the process of fixing the Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee,” he said. “For years, I urged President Obama to fix the dike, and now when President Trump has committed funding for this project, the Legislature irresponsibly ignored it.”

Once lawmakers send Scott the 2017-18 budget, he has 15 days to sign, exercise his line-item veto power, or veto the entire budget.

If he decides to veto the entire budget, the Legislature has the opportunity to head back to the capital city to override the veto. To do that, they’ll need two-thirds of the members present and voting for a veto-override.

 

Annette Taddeo announces bid to replace Frank Artiles in Senate

Annette Taddeo is throwing her hat in the race to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles.

 Taddeo announced Tuesday she was running in the Senate District 40 special election to replace Artiles, the Miami-Dade Republican who resigned last month amid scandal.

“Through our campaign, we can right a wrong and show how this community can come together, regardless of race, gender or religion,” she said in a statement. “I know that in this election, residents from every part of Senate District 40, including those who stood firm in demanding Frank Artiles resign, will send a clear message to Tallahassee that the days of division are behind us.”

The 50-year-old Democrat is no stranger to campaigns. In 2016, she ran in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, where she faced former U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in the Democratic Party. She received 49 percent of the vote to Garcia’s 51 percent.

According to Taddeo’s campaign, she carried 59 of the 91 precincts shared by the congressional and state Senate district.

“Miami-Dade families know that to get real results for our residents we need to take a people first approach to Tallahassee,” she said in a statement. “I am excited for the journey ahead and campaigning hard to earn the support of my neighbors in Senate District 40.”

Taddeo was former Gov. Charlie Crist’s running mate in 2014 when he ran for governor as a Democrat. In 2008, she challenged Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 18th Congressional District, receiving 42 percent of the vote to Ros-Lehtinen’s 58 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Monday the dates for the special election to replace Artiles, who resigned in April after he made national news after he accosted two black colleagues at a private club in Tallahassee. The special primary election is July 25, with a special general election on Sept. 26.

State Rep. Daisy Baez has already filed to run for the Senate District 40 seat, and has already grabbed the endorsements of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, both of whom are running for governor in 2018.

On the Republican side, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz is considering a run. Former state Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla has already filed to run.

Joe Negron open to special session on medical marijuana

Senate President Joe Negron hasn’t closed the door to a special session to tackle medical marijuana.

The Stuart Republican said Monday he thinks the Legislature has a responsibility to be involved in the implementation of the 2016 medical marijuana, and said the Senate would discuss its options with the House and Gov. Rick Scott. His remarks came after the adjournment of the 2017 Legislative Session, during which lawmakers failed to pass an implementing bill.

“I think that’s something that now that session is over and our budget passed that we’ll confer with the House and governor, and then make a decision on whether that’s something we should do,” he told reporters Monday. “I think the Legislature does have a responsibility to be involved in that implementation, so that’s something we’ll look at.”

While lawmakers agreed on most key parts of an implementing bill, negotiations collapsed Friday, the final day the Legislature could take up policy issues, after the chambers couldn’t agree on the number of retail locations medical marijuana treatment centers could operate.

The House voted 99-16 on a bill that put the limit at 100 per treatment center. The Senate, which limited storefronts to five per license holder, did not take it up.

That now means the Department of Health will be charged with coming up with rules for patients, caregivers, doctors and treatment centers by July 3 and have them implemented by October.

Several advocates, including John Morgan, the bombastic Orlando Democrat who poured millions into the medical marijuana campaign, have called for a special session to address the issue. Morgan, who had a very public fall-out with his former ally Ben Pollara over proposed legislation, has said he would urge Scott to call a special session to implement the amendment.

He isn’t the only one calling for a special session. On Monday, Gwen Graham, a former U.S. representative and 2018 gubernatorial candidate, called for a special session, saying “failure to enact Amendment 2 to legalize medical marijuana, which passed with 71.32 percent approval in 2016, is just the latest example of the Legislature ignoring Florida voters.”

“I watched my husband battle cancer and the sickening effects of chemotherapy. So many patients with cancer, AIDS, multiple sclerosis and other debilitating diseases could use medical marijuana as a way to treat their pain,” she said in a statement. “Floridians spent years begging the legislature to take action before taking their case to the voters, but once again, the legislature is ignoring them. If the people of Florida give me the honor of serving as governor, their voices will be heard.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

medical marijuana

Medical marijuana bill dead for 2017 Session

A bill to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment is dead, after the House amended the bill to increases the cap on retail facilities twentyfold.

The decision to send the bill back to the Senate kill the legislation (HB 1397), where senators were unwilling to increase the caps. Earlier in the day, Sen. Bill Galvano told POLITICO Florida the chance of passing was “slim to none, and I just saw slim leave town.”

The House voted 99-16 to send the bill back to Senate with an amendment that, among other things, caps the number of retail facilities per license holder at 100 shortly before 9 p.m.

That cap was 20 times higher than the number of retail facilities a licensed medical marijuana treatment center could have under the amended version of the bill the Senate sent back to the House on Thursday.

That version of the bill capped the number of stores per grower at five, and then allowed growers to add one additional store for every 75,000 patients that register with the medical use registry.

A lower cap, three retail locations per grower, was included in the Senate version of the bill (SB 406), and Sen. Rob Bradley, the sponsor of the Senate bill, said he believed proposal struck the right balance between allowing access and making sure there wasn’t “a dispensary on every corner.” Under the amended bill sent to the House on Thursday, there would have been more than 280 dispensaries in Florida by the time there were 300,000 qualified patients in Florida.

But the House did not include caps in any versions of its proposals, and Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, the House sponsor, said this week that he did not believe limiting storefronts “would provide necessary access.”

Rodrigues told his colleagues that the 100 store cap was a compromise, rationalizing that they started at no caps.

“Considering we started with no limitations and they started with three, moving from infinity to 100 … was a compromise,” he said.

The more conservative House has an ally in John Morgan, the Orlando Democrat who poured millions into the campaign, at least when it comes to caps. Morgan took to Twitter to rail against the decision, saying the caps “limit patient access.”

“I believe in a free market economy,” he tweeted this week. “FL House bill with NO caps is the PEOPLE’s choice!”

The amended version of the bill the Senate sent back Thursday also stripped language making medical marijuana tax exempt, Rodrigues said from the beginning the House wanted to include in its bill.

The amendment the House adopted Friday put the tax exemption back in place, but with a sunset provision. Rodrigues took a shot at the Senate, saying he thought the cost of the tax exemption would be shared across the both chambers, but it “appears the Senate has spent all of the money on member projects.”

Legislative inaction now leaves the fate of implementation in the hands of the Department of Health. Under the constitutional amendment, the department has until July to put rules in places.

Senate President Joe Negron said it would have been preferable for the Legislature to act.

“This is an industry that will grow, based on what we see happening in other states,” he said. “I would expect that you will regularly see that issue addressed. And I would expect that the next legislative session will be no exception.”

Bradley said he expects the issue will “be a hot topic when we return and do our business next year.”

“We’ll get there. If we’ve learned anything about these constitutional amendments, whether the Legislature acts or not is irrelevant,” he said. “There will be court challenges, because people will not like what we did when we act, and they won’t like our inaction either. So I would expect court challenges no matter what we did.”

__ Staff writer Michael Moline contributed to this.

Senate approves amended medical marijuana bill, sends back to House for final vote

The Florida Senate voted 31-7 to approve an amended version of a medical marijuana bill, sending it back to the House for a final vote on Friday.

But with the clock running out on the 2017 Legislative Session, the fate of the proposal remains unclear. The Senate amended the House bill (HB 1397) to limit the number of retail facilities licensed growers can have and remove a provision that would have made medical marijuana exempt from sales tax.

Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who carried the Senate’s implementing bill (SB 406), acknowledged the change marked a difference of opinions between the two chambers.

“I will tell you, this is a disagreement we have at this time,” he said.

The bill approved Thursday initially caps the number of retail facilities a licensed medical marijuana treatment center can have at five. The bill allows growers to add one additional store for every 75,000 patients that registers with the medical marijuana use registry.

Bradley said the Senate believes the new language dealing with caps strikes the right balance of allowing access, but making sure there “won’t be a dispensary on every corner.” Under this scenario, Bradley said once there are 300,000 qualified patients in the state, there will be more than 280 dispensaries across the state.

The House bill did not include caps, and Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, the House sponsor, has spoken out against caps.

The amendment also removes a provision included in the original House bill that would have made medical marijuana and medical marijuana delivery devices tax exempt. Rodrigues has long said the House measure would not include a tax on medical marijuana, saying he wanted to honor advocates requests to treat “medical marijuana like medicine.”

The revised version of the bill also calls on the state to issue 10 additional license this year. The state would then be required to issue five additional licenses within 6 months of 75,000 patients registering with the compassionate use registry.

While the bill passed, some members continued to express concern about the measure. Sen. Jeff Clemens, who voted for the bill, was among those who expressed concern that the bill prohibits patient from smoking, noting that it is the only way some patients can get relief.

“This has been the issue I probably struggled with the most,” said Bradley, who said research has shown inhaling smoke into the lungs is not a healthy act. “We shouldn’t slow walk it, because that’s not the Constitution demands, but we should proceed cautiously. It is a feature of pacing.”

The bill could be taken up by the House on Friday. Although session has been extended, legislative leaders have said the only issue to be discussed on Monday will be the 2017-18 budget.

That means Friday is likely the last chance lawmakers will have to pass implementing language this Legislative Session. The House is scheduled to go into Session at 1 p.m.

“All of this effort is about the patients, and too much time and discussion and focus has been about other things,” said Bradley. “At the end of the day, what this is about is some of our sickest, fellow citizens getting something they are entitled to receive.”

medical marijuana

Rob Bradley files amendment to House medical marijuana bill to add retail caps, 10 new licenses by Oct. 1

With just days left in the 2017 Legislative Session, the Senate appears poised to take up and amend the House version of a bill to implement the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment.

The Senate placed the House bill (HB 1397) on Thursday’s Special Order calendar on Wednesday evening. The Senate proposal (SB 406) was on Wednesday’s calendar, but was temporarily postponed. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Rob Bradley, spent most of the day at the rostrum presiding over the day’s business.

Bradley filed a 70-page, delete everything amendment to the House bill at 11:24 a.m. Thursday. The amendment, among other things, initially limits growers to five retail facilities, but allows for new retail facilities to come online as the patient population grows; calls on the Department of Health to issue 10 new licenses no later than Oct. 1; and issues five new licenses for every 75,000 patients.

“Sen. Bradley’s amendment to HB 1397 moves much closer to the House’s position than I wanted to see, but nevertheless has the full support of Florida for Care. Anyone who would say Bradley’s proposal is anything but a fair reasonable compromise between the two chambers are being unreasonable themselves,” said Ben Pollara, the executive director of Florida for Care in a statement. “This legislation must be headed to Gov. Scott by the end of the day tomorrow. Hundreds of thousands of sick and suffering Floridians are counting on it.”

The House voted 105-9 on Tuesday to approve its version of the bill, sponsored by Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues. As it stands right now, the House bill allows pregnant women to use low-THC cannabis, allows patients to use low-THC cannabis in public, and allows the use of edibles and vaping.

It also quickens the pace by which the state issues licenses, grandfathering in current license holders and calling on the Department of Health to issue a license to any applicants denied a license, if the applicant was awarded “a license pursuant to an administrative or legal challenge.”

It then calls for the DOH to issue more licenses no later than July 1, 2018. Under the bill, one of the applicants in each region must be the “next-highest scoring applicant after the applicant or applicants that were awarded a license for that region; was not a litigant in an administrative challenge on or after March 31; and is not licensed in another region.” It also needs to issue a license to a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalist Association.

The bill currently requires the department to issue four four additional licenses within six months after the registration of 100,000 active, qualified patients in compassionate use registry.

Bradley’s amendment seeks to change that. His amendment calls on the state to issue 10 additional license by Oct. 1, 2017. The state would then be required to issue five additional licenses within 6 months of 75,000 patients registering with the compassionate use registry.

The House bill currently does not include caps. Bradley’s amendment adds language that would initially cap the number of retail facilities a licensed grower can have at five. Under the proposed amendment, however, licensed growers can add one additional store for every 75,000 patients.

The most recent version of the Senate bill caps retail facilities at three facilities per grower, and does not allow for a growth as the patient population grows.

Pollara said he is in favor of the “number of dispensaries per license.”

“The last thing that I want is litigation, and I can assure you that I will not pursue it as a result of these caps,” he said in a statement. “Bradley’s proposal would allow for the marijuana industry to grow alongside the patient population, providing competition and reasonable access.”

Pollara urged the Senate to “adopt this amendment and send this legislation back to the House as soon as possible.”

The Senate could take up the proposal later this afternoon.

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