Joe Henderson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 24

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. I covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also including hard news. The two intertwined in the decade-long search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. I also was the City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. I served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. I have numerous local, state and national writing awards. I have been married to my wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and have two grown sons – Ben and Patrick.

Joe Henderson: Florida joins battle on opioid crisis

Give Gov. Rick Scott credit for making a real effort to address Florida’s opioid crisis.

Last month, he proposed spending $50 million to combat opioid abuse. Included was a plan to limit physicians in most cases from prescribing more than three days of powerful and addictive pain-killers like OxyContin and oxycodone to their patients. The latter idea has now been formalized in HB 21, a bill filed by state Rep Jim Boyd.

The bill ups the stakes in Florida’s battle against drug abuse and is a prudent step toward keeping a new user who is legitimately prescribed the medicine from becoming hooked on powerful narcotics. Together, the twin proposals of legislation coupled with treatment are more than a whack-a-mole approach.

That’s the good news. The real problem comes in making sure that even this doesn’t make a bad problem worse.

Addicts already have proven time again that when one door is bolted shut, they will relentlessly search for another source to feed their drug need. They aren’t deterred by the threat of jail, and decades of trying to choke off the supply of illegal drugs on the street hasn’t worked.

That’s the awful reality lawmakers face as they try to fight a crisis that so far has been beyond their ability to adequately address with legislation. Someone with severe long-term pain will ignore the warnings and prohibitions. If they can’t get the prescribed drugs over the counter, they’ll start looking on the street.

There is a ready supply of black-market painkillers, and if that’s too much trouble many addicts turn to heroin. The legal narcotics are basically synthesized heroin in many cases, and street heroin is cheap and easy to find.

It also kills people.

Florida found that out when it shut down the so-called “pill mills” in 2010. The crackdown closed the storefront clinics that illegally dispensed opioids to basically anyone who walked through the door. By 2014, though, medical examiners reported that people were dying of heroin overdoses in record levels and problem continues today.

The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale reported there were 580 drug-related deaths last year in Broward County alone, including 10 on one day.

The addicted cross all social and economic lines, but they are united by a common theme: the addiction is more powerful than the penalty, even when that penalty is potential death by overdose. That’s where treatment comes in, and I think it likely that much more than the $50 million proposed by Scott will be needed.

I reported a series a few years ago for the Tampa Tribune about former National Football League players who used painkillers in sometimes staggering amounts to deal with long-term effects from their injuries.

One former player told me, “Am I an addict? Yes,” he said. “All my medications are pretty much illegal.”

Others talked of swallowing medication like Vicodin by the handfuls.

Of course, most people aren’t facing daily battles with overwhelming long-term pain from a career spent in athletic combat with 300-pound men, but all things are relative. People self-treat bad backs, sore shoulders, and wrenched necks. Before they know it, they have a problem that can’t be solved with legislation.

If Boyd’s proposal becomes law, which seems likely, Tallahassee will call it a victory. Maybe lawmakers will even do a little celebrating, which will be fine  – at least until the sun comes up and it’s time to face the next battle in a war that never seems to end.

Joe Henderson: Dennis Baxley’s misdirection play

State Sen. Dennis Baxley just couldn’t resist.

At a Senate subcommittee hearing Wednesday to investigate the 14 deaths of elderly patients at a Hollywood Hills nursing home, Baxley made the reasonable point that the tragedy was “outrageous.”

But then, as Scott Powers reported for Florida Politics, Baxley ventured into what-is-he-talking-about land.

“We keep getting new deaths attributed to the storm, because they came from the nursing home, when in fact, look at the population you’re dealing with: they’re 90-somethings,” Baxley said.

“Some of these deaths would have naturally occurred, storm or no storm. So, to automatically pushing these over to the medical examiner as part of this case that they’re are studying, I think could be a bit unfair on the other side of the equation.”

This would be a good time to note that Baxley received a $3,000 donation from the Florida Heath Care Association to his 2016 Senate campaign. That group describes itself as “Florida’s first and largest advocacy organization for long term care providers and the elderly they serve.”

The group’s president, John C. Simmons, wrote a commentary for Florida Politics earlier this week where he slammed media reports about the tragedy. Maybe it’s just a coincidence (or not) that Baxley took the cue and gave his own swipes on that topic, saying there was “a lot of drama of course with media coverage and dramatization of what did happen.”

If reporting that 14 elderly people are dead and all of them lived in a nursing home where the cooling system failed and temperatures rose to an intolerable level qualifies as drama, well, OK.

Baxley’s backhanded snark at the media wouldn’t be such a big deal normally, but there is context that makes his remarks especially disturbing.

Efforts in 2006 to require backup generators capable of dealing with emergencies like the one in Hollywood Hills died in the Legislature following intense lobbying from the long-term health care industry.

If bringing up that unpleasant reminder qualifies as media drama, so be it. Gov. Rick Scott is pushing for a law similar to the proposal from 2006. Simmons says his organization agrees with Scott about the need, but said it can’t be accomplished as quickly as the governor would like.

But back to Baxley’s remarks.

Yes, everybody is going to die sometime and older folks have a greater risk. No doubt he knows that. He was a founder of the Hiers-Baxley funeral home in Ocala.

But it wastes time and is disingenuous to suggest, paraphrasing here, “Well, they might have died from something else.”

In football, we call that a misdirection play.

Senator, please. Elderly people are particularly vulnerable to conditions like inside that nursing home. A lot of them died. One of them had a body temperature of 109 degrees. What part of this escapes you? If someone died during this of other causes, how would that possibly matter to the bigger issue of protecting our most vulnerable citizens?

We have a situation that needs, as the governor has said, rapid attention. Playing the “media” card as a reason to take it slow is shabby at best. At its worst, it’s disrespectful to the victims and their families.

Stop trying to confuse the issue.

Joe Henderson: Negative campaigning works again

Negative campaigning has long been an accepted tactic. As much as people say they hate it, they seem to respond to that message.

We saw the truth of that again in Tuesday’s special election for the GOP nomination in House District 58.

Mailers that labeled Plant City businesswoman and civic activist Yvonne Fry as a tax-loving liberal who wants to limit gun rights were, in my opinion, a key to the victory by upstart Lawrence McClure. He won in a rout, with about 55 percent of the vote.

Fry is anything but liberal, but reality is rarely a factor in these races. McClure was the beneficiary of a lot of campaign donations from outside the district, along with mailers from supporters that painted Fry as a spawn of Pelosi.

They threw in a few grade-school level insults, too, and then casually whispered to voters that Fry WANTS TO TAX YOU BACK TO THE STONE AGE! The fact that she doesn’t support the loony idea of allowing open-carry for guns on college campuses must mean she WANTS TO TAKE YOUR GUNS!

Voila! It didn’t matter that none of it was true, or that McClure consistently denied any direct connection with that strategy.

That’s not saying there weren’t legitimate reasons to support McClure or oppose Fry.  And it must be acknowledged that Fry’s response to most of the attacks was tepid at best. She didn’t start to counter-punch until it was way too late, and that speaks to the lack of a ground game.

That shortcoming led to this election being more about who Fry isn’t than who McClure is, and Fry’s campaign let that happen. When you get into a mud fight, it’s not good strategy to wear your Sunday best clothes.

Fry, who also had never run for office but is well-known in Plant City after serving on various boards and other civic causes, was expected to clean up in her home town while battling for votes in the rest of the district that stretches to Temple Terrace and the University of South Florida.

However, McClure won in 16 precincts with Plant City addresses compared to 10 for Fry. Nearly one-third of McClure’s total of 3,631 votes came from eight precincts with addresses in Plant City, Seffner and Thonotosassa.

That’s a direct indictment of those who directed Fry’s campaign.

In a statement on her Facebook page, Fry said:

“I will sleep well tonight having earned the respect of those who value it in the first place. I will continue to serve our community that I cherish so much.”

On his Facebook page, McClure responded, “I also want to thank Yvonne Fry for her service to our community and for her gracious words tonight. I look forward to the general election and will see everyone back on the campaign trail tomorrow.”

McClure now only needs to defeat no party candidate Ahmad Saadaldin, Libertarian Bryan Zemina, and Democrat Jose Vasquez in the general election on Dec. 19.

Translation: McClure almost certainly can start checking out spots to eat while in Tallahassee for the Legislative Session.

Given that Fry had many endorsements, including from outgoing (and popular) state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons, it might be easy to label this race just another rebuke by voters fed up with the powerful insiders. I don’t see it that way. I just think McClure’s side did a better job of rallying those supporting him than Fry’s did for her.

A lot of McClure’s financial support came from people closely aligned with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who certainly had issues with Raulerson’s tendency to buck the system. Read into that what you will.

I think that led to another truth of these elections. While Fry was belittled as just another insider, a lot of power in this election came from the Tallahassee political elite that banks on voters paying no attention to the person behind the curtain.

Oh, when in doubt, there’s this: LIBERAL!

Just keep saying it.

Joe Henderson: Giving voice to voiceless in elderly care

One of the media’s highest purposes is to give a voice to the voiceless, like those in the elderly care system. Often that can mean making high-powered people uncomfortable, which brings us to John C. Simmons, president of the Florida Health Care Association.

Simmons says it’s unfair for the media to generalize about how nursing homes care for the elderly in our state. I don’t think that’s what happened, but whatever.

In a commentary for this website, Simmons complained that the horrific situation in Hollywood Hills – where 12 patients died after the temperature rose to what the New York Times described as “an oven” – doesn’t represent the whole.

He wrote, “While I certainly agree that the deaths at this facility are intolerable and need to be properly investigated, the assertion that this somehow represents the entire long-term care profession couldn’t be further from the truth. It also does a great injustice to the thousands of highly skilled professionals who dedicate themselves to caring for some of our state’s most fragile residents.”

In full disclosure, my in-laws are residents at an assisted living facility in the Tampa area. We moved them recently from another facility that has been beset with a long list of financial and maintenance issues.

But to Simmons’ point about the industry’s treatment by the media, I would say this: When something like this happens, don’t expect a pat on the back because there were a lot of places where people didn’t die during Hurricane Irma. That’s not how this works.

People in my business are going to ask questions and dig into the history of nursing homes throughout the state. They’re going to report, as the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale did, that the body temperature of one patient reached 109 degrees. They’re going to put people on the spot. Too bad.

Journalists like Carl Hiaasen going to write about how lobbyists for Florida’s long-term health care system helped kill legislation 11 years ago that would have required emergency generators in all the nursing homes.

Gov. Rick Scott has renewed calls for a law to make these generators mandatory at all nursing facilities, and it’s absolutely the right thing to do. Of course, it was right 11 years ago too, but the industry complained about the price tag and helped scuttle the bill.

The media’s tone during this time has been to focus on how Tallahassee politics set in motion the chain of events that led to the Hollywood Hills tragedy.  Sorry, Mr. Simmons, but this is not a time to focus on those you called “highly skilled professionals” – not when 12 people are dead. This issue, and everything relating to elder care, demands our highest scrutiny and skepticism.

People who move into these extended care facilities – whether they are assisted living or nursing homes – aren’t always the easiest to deal with.

Most of them have multiple medical issues that require great attention from the staff. They might need help walking to the lobby. They need rides to meet with doctors, and if they miss that ride it can take weeks to get another appointment. They have complicated schedules for when to take medicines, and how much.

Many of them arrive at these facilities because they tried to self-medicate with bad results. A lot of them don’t eat well, and deteriorating taste buds at advancing ages can cause food to taste lousy.

Some of them are alone because a spouse died and immediate family isn’t close by. Now, multiply that by the number of residents at some of these facilities – large ones can have a few hundred or more – and it’s a logistic and sometimes depressing challenge.

It’s also expensive. Seniorhomes.com estimates the average cost of a nursing home in Florida is $240 a day.

In the case of my in-laws, we checked many places before choosing where they would receive the best care. Even then, common sense requires that we stay on top of the situation – and we do. Older folks can be very demanding, but they’ve earned that.

Simmons is frustrated at what he considers “coverage that appears quick to tarnish the reputation of the long-term care industry without considering all the good things it has done.”

He says the industry wants to work with officials to make sure this doesn’t happen again. I hope that’s true.

Like the story said though, the best time to have done that for the people in Hollywood Hills would have been 11 years ago. If pointing that out makes industry leaders and politicians uncomfortable, good. What happened in Hollywood Hills can’t be changed. The idea is to make sure it never happens again.

Joe Henderson: Yvonne Fry in tough HD 58 fight

In a different reality, Yvonne Fry would enter Tuesday’s special HD 58 election without concern.

Her neighbors in Plant City know her as smart, personable, connected and dedicated. She is one of them, having been born and raised there. In addition to being well-liked and respected, she is a successful businesswoman and making her first run for public office.

She has the support of former state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons in August. Raulerson was easily elected twice in the district Fry now wants to represent.

Her opponent, Lawrence McClure, was embarrassed when Mitch Perry reported voting records show he has never cast a ballot in a non-presidential primary — and yet he is asking for support in the same type of race in which he has never voted.

Slam dunk, right?

Not exactly. And the support she has received from Raulerson could be one reason why.

Connect the dots.

William March of the Tampa Bay Times reported Monday that campaign finance records show House leaders close to Speaker Richard Corcoran are donating heavily to McClure’s campaign. That has helped give McClure $135,485 for his campaign compared to $112,790 for Fry.

Raulerson was increasingly at odds with Corcoran before leaving the House. One interesting tidbit is that Raulerson received an “A” grade and a 100 percent score in a legislative report card by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Corcoran scored a “C” in the same survey, with the notation that the “grade was decreased because Speaker Corcoran presided over a regular Session that saw Legislature unable to finish on time, operate in the sunshine or meaningfully address certain important business issues.”

Corcoran also bucked the Chamber position on economic and marketing efforts, which could explain why political committees tied to that group have poured $785,000 this year into Adam Putnam’s campaign for governor.

Corcoran, of course, is contemplating a run for governor as well. He has also been known to administer a little payback for anyone who steps out of line with his agenda, and Raulerson certainly did that.

Raulerson also has been highly critical of the process which gives the House Speaker vast power during the Legislative Session.

“I wouldn’t discount that entirely,” he told me. “I don’t think it’s the only reason for the support though. I think the overriding reason is that (Corcoran) wants control of everything. The fact I didn’t always go along with leadership and went rogue possibly contributed to this.

“I voted the way I felt the way my vote needed to be. Obviously, I did not play the puppet role. What’s interesting is that (House) leadership never got involved in primaries before. I see that culture has changed.”

Fry has been the target of a slew of attack mailers in recent weeks that have played loose with the facts. She has been labeled a “Lie’n liberal” in some of the fliers and, in one particularly scary appeal to the Republican base, was said to have “joined the ranks of Obama, Clinton and Pelosi in declaring war on the Second Amendment” because she opposes open-carry and campus carry.

Will it work?

Maybe.

Mailers tend to target so-called super voters — those who cast ballots in every election. As of Monday morning, there were 5,050 ballots cast either by mail or early voters so far. That is likely about half of the turnout that might reasonably be expected in an off-peak race like this, and the Republican base tends to get nervous when the subject is the Second Amendment.

And while Fry will likely enjoy strong support from Plant City, that may not be enough to carry the day. Only about 35 percent of the voters in this election are expected to come from Plant City. The remainder will likely come from the Temple Terrace and USF area, where Fry isn’t as well known.

“I will say this — Yvonne is a tough cookie,” Raulerson said.

Given Corcoran’s apparent influence and interest in this race, it’s worth pondering what awaits the winner.

Would McClure become a rubber stamp for the Speaker’s agenda? Would Fry find herself relegated to insignificant committees and given little to no voice in trying to accomplish things for her district?

Good questions in a race increasingly rife with palace intrigue.

Joe Henderson: Politicians shouldn’t politicize tragedy? Oh please

Don’t politicize tragedy. That’s on page 1 in the standard response manual for how gun rights supporters respond to a mass murder like the one Sunday morning in Las Vegas.

That’s where U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell turned when reporters asked if he might consider tougher controls on weapons now that 59 more people were dead.

Look, the investigation has not even been completed, and I think it’s premature to be discussing legislative solutions, if there are any,” McConnell said.

Key words there: “if there are any.”

So, um … senator? When, exactly, would be it not be “premature” to discuss this on the Senate floor?

Oh, piffle. We already know how this will go. McConnell will use the full force of his role as Majority Leader to make sure that no tougher laws get public airing, let alone passage.

If that’s not politicizing a tragedy, I’m not sure what is. That’s making decisions by indecision.

Politicians like McConnell are banking on the public’s increasing numbness to these tragedies, and they generally have been right. If nothing changed after the Sandy Hook massacre of school children, why would we think anything will happen now?

Think it through. McConnell is one of the most powerful politicians in the country. He makes his living in politics. It’s his job to find political solutions to complex problems.

His words suggest he already has done that, using his political might to effectively stop any real momentum on gun control before it gets a chance to start. To say politics shouldn’t be part of the conversation now is disingenuous. These things are always totally political.

After the murders last year at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Republicans almost trampled each other trying to inject politics into a tragedy. That’s because the guy who pulled the trigger, Omar Mateen, was a convert to radical Islam. The Washington Post broke it down: 80 Republican lawmakers invoked some variation of “radical Islam.”

Sen. Ted Cruz jumped in with a swipe at “vicious Islamist theology.” Rep. David Joyce, an Ohio Republican, chimed in with, “I believe this is truly a world war: radical Islam versus mankind.”

The difference now?

That’s easy to see. The Las Vegas killer might have come unhinged by some secret demon that led him to commit an unspeakable crime with an astonishingly large arsenal, but he wasn’t a Muslim and so we shouldn’t politicize it.

“There’s a time and place for a political debate, but now is the time to unite as a country,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

When, exactly, is the proper time and place for that political debate?

Well, it wasn’t after 12 people died and 70 were hurt inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. – at least in the opinion of gun rights advocate Dudley Brown.

He was quoted in the New York Daily News saying the city’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was “using this tragedy and walking all over graves to get to the microphone.”

And on Fox News, contributor Mercedes Colwin blasted any thought to have that national conversation about tougher controls following the Sandy Hook massacre, before adding, “make no mistake about it, we have to do everything in our power to prevent a tragedy like this one from occurring again.”

Well, make no mistake, it occurred again.

And again.

And again.

And it will occur again, even as the spineless people who could help look the other way and offer only thoughts and prayers instead of passing commonsense laws. They hope this will all go away.

How’s that working out so far?

We elect these people for times like this, because politicizing tragedy might the only way to stop the next one.

Joe Henderson: HD 58 campaign takes negative turn

There is a game plan, oft-repeated in politics, that says going negative beats a reasoned argument almost every time. We are seeing that play out again in the HD 58 campaign for the Republican nomination, where mailboxes are being filled with fliers calling Yvonne Fry a closet liberal in Republican clothes.

The primary election to succeed former state Rep. Dan Raulerson is Oct. 10, although early voting has begun. Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons, supports Fry and has donated to her campaign. The primary winner will be favored in December’s general election.

Raulerson had said he would remain neutral, but wryly noted he made that statement when he was still a member of the House.

“I’m a private citizen now,” he said.

The attacks don’t have to be accurate; they just to be attacks, and that appears to be the script here.

Take this for instance: Although she has never been elected to public office, Fry is still mocked in the mailers as a “political insider” because she served on many boards and civic groups in the Plant City area and racked up multiple endorsements. She also is a small business owner, but targeted on that by leaked smears that don’t pass the smell test.

Because she supported a plan that would have put a transportation referendum on the ballot, she is said to be pushing for the largest tax increase in Hillsborough County history. Except, well, that referendum plan never made it to the ballot, and it would be up to the voters anyway.

“I never imagined it would be like this, no,” she told me during a chat last week. “I feel like they’re in a place of desperation. I have heard from so many people who are disgusted by what they are doing.”

The “they” Fry refers to apparently are supporters of her opponent, Lawrence McClure. One mailer says Fry has “joined the ranks of Obama, Clinton and Pelosi in declaring war on the Second Amendment.”

Seriously?

One mailer was self-financed by Doug Guetzloe, an Orlando-based political consultant and anti-tax crusader. He told William March of the Tampa Bay Times that “I’m a good Republican.

Fry says she has been meeting with groups and knocking on doors throughout the district, which covers Plant City and runs into Temple Terrace and the University of South Florida area.

She called the attacks “insulting.”

“I didn’t expect this,” she said. “I met McClure before the race and he assured me he would not go negative.”

The mailers have not come directly from McClure.

The mailers could be a major factor because turnouts traditionally are small in these types of elections. A few votes either way could swing this. While Fry is popular and well-known in Plant City, it’s a bit of a mystery how the USF and Temple Terrace area sees her.

I guess we’ll find out.

“I’m not deterred by this,” Fry said. “I’m not discouraged. I’m resolved.”

Joe Henderson: Vegas killer ‘just a guy’ except he wasn’t

There was no reason to know the name Stephen Paddock before we awoke to the news Monday morning that he had gone on a murderous rampage. The man we’ll now remember as the Las Vegas killer had apparently committed nothing worse than a minor traffic violation.

He owned guns but didn’t appear to be overly fascinated with them. He didn’t have military training. If he was mentally ill – and, really, how could he not be — apparently it didn’t show. There didn’t seem to be any reason to put him on a watch list. He was, his brother Eric Paddock told reporters, “just a guy.”

Except, he wasn’t.

We’ll know more by the time investigators comb through every inch of his life in the coming days and weeks.

Here’s what we do know, though. If Stephen Paddock, who used to live in Melbourne before moving to Las Vegas, had tried to buy a gun last week, he likely would have passed a background check and his purchase would have been legal.

The real question is how he acquired the arsenal, including what sounded like a machine gun, he used to murder at least 58 people outside a Las Vegas concert and injure more than 500 others. I’m willing to bet he didn’t get those at a mom ‘n pop gun store. If they were legally purchased though, then the system needs to be seriously re-examined

There has been the suggestion that he had heavy gambling debts and that might have set him off, but lots of people do. Even if it’s true I can’t imagine it will be much use in future mass-murder investigations.

Future mass murders?

It’s clear by now that a motivated killer is almost impossible to stop. The only answer is to keep guns out of their hands, and there aren’t enough leaders with the will to try and do that.

I think we could at least make a dent in the problem, but it would require devoting twenty, forty or maybe a thousand times more resources at shutting down the illegal gun pipeline.

There are many ways for someone with criminal intent to illegally purchase a gun. They could have a friend buy it for them. So-called street dealers can acquire weapons from a licensed dealer, then sell them on the black market in cash transactions with no questions asked.

It’s inevitable that a horror like the one in Vegas will bring loud cries for stricter gun control laws. It’s also inevitable that the National Rifle Association will swat that that challenge like it has all the others, including the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But why? Proponents argue that the vast majority of gun-related crimes are estimated to be committed by people who acquired the weapon illegally. If the percentage of crimes committed by legal gun owners is low, why not enlist them and the NRA into a serious crackdown on underground sales?

Well, logical as that might seem, this is the mindset it would be up against.

In an op-ed earlier this year for The Hill, Chris W. Cox, the executive director for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action declared, “there has not been a demonstrated correlation between mental illness and violence.”

Sigh.

There has, however, been a demonstrated correlation between a high-velocity bullet entering a human body and a shortened life expectancy for that person. Maybe this time leaders will offer more than shallow condolences.

This was “just a guy” who did this – except this guy had an armory and no one knew about it. None of the normal warning systems in place likely would have stopped this.

If this doesn’t show that it’s just too damn easy to acquire instruments of death, I don’t know what will.

Joe Henderson: 3 words for O.J. Simpson: don’t screw up

If convicted creep O.J. Simpson eventually moves to Florida and becomes our most infamous parolee, I have three words: don’t screw up.

For now, he is sending mixed signals about his intentions.

He told parole officials that he is planning to stay in Nevada for the foreseeable future, but USA Today reported that he eventually will wind up in Naples. No surprise. We know Florida will always be in play because, well, it’s Florida and that type of stuff happens here.

If the Juice decides to come here, he could become acquainted with Attorney General Pam Bondi. She knows how to get her name in the news, and the lady does have a refined sense of theatrics.

It was predictable – or should have been, anyway – that she took a pre-emptive strike to block Simpson from moving to our fair state following his release from a Nevada prison after serving nine years of a maximum 33-year hitch for armed robbery.

She sent a letter to the Florida Department of Corrections, requesting the agency “immediately notify all appropriate authorities of the State of Nevada that the State of Florida objects” that Simpson isn’t wanted here.

Bondi’s gambit was well-played in one respect – she got her headline. Her name went out on the national news, again, and that can’t hurt someone whose time as the state’s top lawyer is nearing its end and could be eyeing a new gig.

There also is little chance her ploy will work, and she knows that. Florida is part of a nationwide system that essentially requires it to accept Simpson if he ever decides to move here, provided he meets certain conditions.

He does.

Before his arrest and subsequent conviction in Nevada in 2007, he had established residency in Florida. He has family in Florida. He has friends here who have offered to help in his transition back to freedom.

Under the rules we live by, Bondi would need more than the “yeah, but he’s a scumbag” to successfully block Simpson’s path back here.

However, if Bondi’s goal was a warning to let the Juice know that being here isn’t the same as being welcome here, I’m actually OK with that.

If Simpson does slither back to Florida, he should consider living the hermit’s life. As a parolee, the slightest hiccup could send back to Nevada to complete his sentence. Bondi’s threat is that he better not even get a parking ticket here.

Think about it.

We have a state attorney general who lives for the spotlight. No light would be brighter than the one shining on someone catches O.J. doing something that sends him back to prison.

How much do you think Bondi would love to be that person?

That is the real message she sent with the letter.

The Juice better be listening. He’d be happier somewhere else.

Joe Henderson: Basketball cesspool overdue for draining

Forget about draining the swamp. The story of Rick Pitino being in essence fired as head men’s basketball coach at Louisville following a bombshell investigation by the FBI is the first step in the draining the cesspool known as NCAA college basketball.

Those who love the sport, and I am among them, should be celebrating today. This story goes way, way, way beyond the fun, games and boolah-boolah we normally associate with trips back to campus. College basketball needs a radical change, and the first steps toward that have been taken.

In addition to being extraordinarily popular, college basketball is an easy target for those who skirt the rules and laws of this land. For decades, shadowy figures known loosely as “street agents” have existed on the periphery and exert considerable, and sometimes illegal, influence over recruiting.

Look at recruiting as the foundation of any major athletic program. Then consider that millions and maybe billions of dollars can hinge on where a high school athlete chooses to spend his college career – short as it often is.

These “street agents” can include relatives of the athlete, long-time buddies, girlfriends, or coaches of the elite travel squads that identify talented players when they’re in middle school, or even earlier. Shoe companies exert enormous influence as well, since they can outfit a player (or travel team) with exclusive, glittery swag in hopes of gaining the best athletes as future clients.

For basketball and other sports, especially soccer, colleges concentrate recruiting on athletes on these traveling teams. In many ways, high schools sports have become irrelevant for basketball.

These travel teams traverse the country to high-profile tournaments against the best competition, giving young players tremendous exposure at an early age. For the best of the best, college is just a way station en route to the NBA.

Money is at the core of all this, course. Everyone has their hand out along the way.

And so it is that four assistant men’s basketball coaches from Arizona, Oklahoma State, USC and Auburn were arrested along with a high-ranking employee of Adidas, charged with crimes that include fraud, bribery and corruption.

Simplified, the way it works is that these third-party “agents” will steer the best players to specific programs in exchange for cash. It goes all the way to the top. The best description I saw of this came when an ESPN commentator said to think of the assistant coaches who now face charges as the Watergate burglars.

Trust me, the FBI didn’t spend three years investigating this in order to nail four assistant coaches. By the time the FBI is finished, you could see states getting involved if need be. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi should be paying close attention, for instance.

Pitino, the highest-paid men’s basketball coach in the country at more than $7 million per year, ironically had the best take I have seen on how this system works.

In an interview shown on ESPN from several years ago, Pitino noted that a college coach from a school outfitted with Nike gear, for instance, can’t bother recruiting a player from a travel team sponsored by Adidas.

Brand loyalty, you know.

This story is only going to get deeper and darker as it goes along. My guess is this will touch most, if not all, of the college basketball powerhouses.

It could, and should, spark a change in the rules about how players can declare themselves professional and simply skip college to try their luck in the NBA.

At stake is the future of the NCAA’s coveted March Madness basketball tournament, along perhaps with the reputations of who knows how many high-profile coaches the country. It may even force fundamental changes at the NCAA in the way it governs college sports.

As a long-time college basketball fan, I knew this day was coming, and now it’s here – along with a case of the cold sweats on many campuses around the country. College basketball has survived many things, most notably a point-shaving scandal in the 1950s. It will survive this, but change is on the way.

It’s long overdue.

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