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Danny McAuliffe

Plaintiffs, defendants request greyhound racing ban case ‘pass through’ to Supreme Court

Citing the imminence of Election Day, attorneys for the state and the Florida Greyhound Association agreed to ask the Supreme Court to directly take an appeal on whether a proposed amendment to end greyhound racing should stay on the November ballot.

The request, submitted Friday, asks the 1st District Court of Appeal (DCA) to grant “pass-through certification.” If approved, the matter would skip that court and head to the Supreme Court, pending that court’s acceptance of the case. The parties also seek “expedited consideration” from the court.

The request follows Tallahassee Circuit Court Judge Karen Gieversruling earlier this week that the proposed ballot title and summary were “clearly and conclusively defective,” and therefore the amendment should not go on the ballot. Edward M. Wenger, the state’s chief deputy solicitor general, appealed the decision on Thursday.

The state’s appeal puts an “automatic stay” on the case to preserve the status quo. That means until a higher court says otherwise, the amendment still is slated for the 2018 general election ballot.

Both parties are aware of the unique time constraints: The legality of the proposed dog-racing ban, known as Amendment 13, would need to be decided well ahead of the Nov. 6 election, partly because of ballot printing.

Florida case law permits certain exceptions for pass-through certification, the parties note in the request, one of them being a ballot question challenge for which the ballots have not yet been printed. The parties also note that mail-in ballots must, by law, be sent to voters by Sept. 22.

“There are only a few companies certified to print these paper ballots in the United States, and every other state in the country is holding elections” on Nov. 6, the filing says. “As a result, counties in Florida submit their ballot orders as early as possible to ensure they meet the mailing deadline.”

It adds: “The parties acknowledge that this Court is perfectly capable of reaching a well-reasoned decision in this appeal,” referring to the 1st DCA.

“However, because all the parties are committed to seeking further review of any adverse ruling, their legal arguments are fully developed, and only the Supreme Court can offer a final answer to the important and time-sensitive question that this case presents, the parties respectfully suggest certification.” 

The state Supreme Court is next scheduled to hear oral arguments during the last week of August.

“Assuming [the 1st DCA] expeditiously grants the parties’ joint suggestion for pass-through certification and the Florida Supreme Court accepts review, then expedited briefing and oral argument could occur in that Court before the early September practical deadline for printing the general election ballots,” the request says. 

The measure had been slated for the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission. Amendments need no less than 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.


Background for this post from Senior Editor Jim Rosica. Featured photo courtesy of Van Abernethy.

Beer wholesalers launch safe driving campaign

As summer nears an end and students across the state get ready to return back to school, the Florida Beer Wholesalers Association (FBWA) is reminding Floridians to be mindful of school zones and other traffic changes that come with each academic year.

It’s the third year FBWA has sought to raise awareness of student safety issues. The group, a legislative advocacy arm for independent beer distributors, says the campaign is tailored to act as an “internal refresher” for professional drivers in the industry, but note their outreach efforts extend to the public as a whole.

“With school’s return, we wanted to make sure our drivers were fully aware of the rules of the road when it comes to school buses, with special attention to pedestrian safety, as well as remind the general public that school is back in session,” said Mark Vroman, Immediate Past President of the FBWA. Vroman also works with Coastal Beverage Ltd. in Naples.

The campaign, dubbed “School’s Back. Drive Safely,” offers drivers on the road a clear and concise message. Bright yellow stickers displaying the campaign name will be placed on trucks in operation under the association “to encourage fellow drivers to pay attention, be alert, and seek to learn more about driving in school zones,” according to FBWA Executive Director Mitch Rubin.

“We wanted the campaign to be simple yet effective,” Rubin said. 

Accompanying the campaign is an informative video that instructs drivers to stop behind school buses when needed and to obey school zone traffic laws.

FBWA asks interested parties to visit this website to learn more.

Watch the video below:

Donald Trump attacks Andrew Gillum over immigration

President Donald Trump didn’t namedrop any Democrats facing primary battles as he touted Congressman Ron Desantis, Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans in Tampa on Tuesday evening.

But, by process of elimination, it’s clear that he did at one point refer to Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful, as DeSantis’ potential opponent.

After encouraging rally attendees to vote for DeSantis in the Aug. 28 primary, Trump told the audience to not forget about the Nov. 6 general election. His following comments detailed a candidate who almost certainly is Gillum.

“You have somebody, one of the group, is going to be running on open borders, anti-ICE, anti-law enforcement,” Trump said. He was then cut-off by a protester.

Gillum, who’s staked claim to a progressive approach in the race for governor, made headlines in early July after calling for the abolishment of ICE “in its current form.” ICE is a widely used acronym for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The Orlando Sentinel reported earlier this month that the other Democratic candidates for governor — Gwen Graham, Jeff Greene, Chris King and Philip Levine — had been “critical but more cautious, all calling for ‘reforms’ but not using the term ‘abolish.’”

In a Democratic primary, where most candidates have sought to criticize Trump on the campaign trail, being singled out by the President during a nationally syndicated appearance could make up the difference. And Gillum already is turning the half-mention into campaign fodder.

Per the Gillum campaign: “Gillum is the first and only Florida Democratic candidate to have the courage to stand up to Trump’s inhumane family separation policy by calling for the abolishment of ICE and replacement of it with a humane, compassionate federal agency.”

Nearing the end of the rally, Trump implored his audience once more to vote in November, and may have referred to Greene, a Palm Beach billionaire and next-door neighbor to Trump’s Florida residence – though the mention is vaguer than Gillum’s.

“I know some of the candidates,” Trump said, before ranting about Democratic candidates’ lax approach to secure borders.

Greene has campaigned off of his adversarial relationship with the President, even going as far as purchasing TV ads depicting him arguing with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. He also held an anti-Trump protest near the rally earlier on Tuesday.

Randy Fine requests Rick Scott’s help to investigate local commissioner

After requesting State Attorney Phil Archer investigate and potentially prosecute a Brevard County Commissioner for campaigning while on duty, state Rep. Randy Fine is following up with Gov. Rick Scott‘s office, requesting Scott appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the matter.

The reason? Fine now understands Archer already had endorsed the commissioner in question, Curt Smith, for his re-election bid.

“I was not aware when I sent my letter to Phil Archer yesterday that he had just days earlier joined Curt Smith’s campaign team,” Fine said in a Tuesday follow-up. “It puts Mr. Archer in an untenable position, which is why the Governor has the ability to appoint Special Prosecutors.

“The public deserves an objective and unbiased investigation into Curt Smith’s potential criminal conduct.”

Fine, a Palm Bay Republican, is accusing Smith, also a Republican, of misusing his position to campaign while on duty as commissioner. That’s a violation of Florida law: “An employee of the state or any political subdivision may not participate in any political campaign for an elective office while on duty.”

In a Monday letter addressed to Archer of the 18th Judicial Circuit, Fine details an incident that occurred during a July 10 board meeting. Fine writes that Smith, from the commission dais, said: “I want to thank all of my supporters for coming out to the Brevard Republican Picnic this past Sunday and voting me as the Brevard Republican District 4 straw poll winner and in fact I [sic] they did such a good job I got more votes than anybody else in the entire room.”

“There can be no question Commissioner Smith was participating in a political campaign through his comments,” Fine wrote in the letter. “He was, literally, talking about winning votes at an event designed for candidates to campaign for an upcoming election. His comments had nothing to do with his official duties.

“Short of showing up to a Board meeting with a sign reading ‘Vote for Curt Smith,’ it is hard to imagine a more obvious case of an employee campaigning while on duty.”

After realizing Archer had endorsed Smith, Fine followed up with a letter Tuesday addressed to Scott requesting a special prosecutor be appointed to look into the described incident.

“It is not fair to Mr. Archer, Commissioner Smith, or the public to be in that position,” Fine wrote to Scott. He supplied the Governor with his original letter to Archer. 

The Florida law cited by Fine is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Smith is challenged in the race for his District 4 seat by Republican Trudie Infantini and Democrat Matthew Fleming.

Smith was recently the subject of an ethics complaint accusing him of failing to fully detail his financial disclosure form. The January 2017 complaint was settled this year, and Smith will pay a $1,750 for the violation that he described as a “clerical error,” according to Florida Today.

Fine, although a member of the Legislature, has made a point of criticizing local governments in or around his district. He told Florida Today in January that there is an “avalanche of corruption” at the county level.

That sentiment is reiterated in a statement provided with Fine’s letter.

“We cannot allow commissioners to campaign from the dais,” Fine said. “This kind of blatant misuse of office reinforces the culture of corruption that pervades Brevard County.”

Activists call on state to ‘aggressively regulate’ anti-abortion centers

A pro-choice coalition that opposed a law expanding the state’s hand in crisis pregnancy centers that do not offer abortion services isn’t giving up the fight despite the law already coming into effect.

Representatives from Progress Florida, the Florida National Organization for Women and the Florida Interfaith Coalition for Reproductive Health were in Tallahassee on Tuesday to deliver petitions to Gov. Rick Scott’s office and the office of Dr. Celeste Philip, surgeon general and secretary of the state Department of Health, imploring the officials to “aggressively regulate fake clinics’ utilization of tax dollars,” according to a Progress Florida news release. The groups routinely refer to the crisis pregnancy centers as fake clinics because they only appear to offer abortion services.

The petition — complete with more than 5,500 signatures — is a suggested addendum to a new law that took effect at the beginning of the month. Created by the passage of HB 41, the law requires DOH to contract with Florida Pregnancy Care Network (FPCN) to provide contract management services for the Florida Pregnancy Support Services Program (FPSSP) — both promote and encourage childbirth. The law codified FPSSP in statutes and requires the FPCN, which has an existing relationship with the state, to contract with DOH on behalf of FPSSP. Attached to the new law is a recurring $4 million appropriation.

According to Amy Weintraub, Reproductive Rights Program director with Progress Florida, the new law “basically put these clinics under the auspices of the Florida Department of Health.”

Pro-choice advocates had largely opposed the bill while it moved through the 2018 Session, fearing it would further restrict women’s access to abortion. Now that the law is in place, the same interests are looking to make sure it’s regulated. 

The petition demands that the health department provide current and accurate information, provide references to medical claims, and obtain background screenings for all staff members who work for FPSSP and FPCN.

The petition also calls on DOH to provide services in a non-coercive manner and exclude religious content in their services, both of which are provisions provided by the bill as written.

“We will be there to make sure that there are no coercive methods being used on young women or any women who go into these clinics because we know there have been in the past,” Florida NOW lobbyist Barbara DeVane said. “You can be sure that we will be sure that you are following the law at the Department of Health.”

Pastor Jennifer Kopacz with the Florida Interfaith Coalition for Reproductive Health said her group supports upholding the right for each individual to make reproductive decisions, whether they be rooted in faith or science.

“The fake clinics we are protesting today deny women much of the information they truly need to make decisions regarding their health, their families and their lives,” Kopacz said.

Free online courses teach Democrats how to run campaigns

There’s an ongoing effort to teach Democrats across the country and down the ballot how to run effective campaigns.

It’s led by the National Democratic Training Committee, which recently told media it is seeking to supplement the anticipated ‘blue wave’ Democrats are banking on this midterm by providing free online training to any Democrat in any race.

The curriculum — which covers topics like fundraising, management, messaging and field work — is widely sought after. At the end of June, course registrations exceeded 28,000, according to NDTC. In Florida, 320 Democratic candidates have made use of NDTC’s campaign resources.

So far, according to self-reported data, 268 of 369 Democratic candidates who have used the training and have had primaries have won.

But according to the NTDC founder Kelly Dietrich, winning local races may not be the best indicator of success. He told media his organization’s goals include electing Democrats to office at every level, creating a deeper bench of candidates for each election, and facilitating an up-ticket effect, which occurs when local candidates help turn out votes for Democrats running for higher offices.

The up-ticket phenomenon, Dietrich said, can come from having a dedicated force of Democrats running for local offices, essentially acting as surrogates for congressional races on up. In discussing the potential blue wave at the ballot this midterm, Dietrich said his organization could help channel the energy needed to get results favorable to Democrats this cycle and beyond. Of Missouri, he added that Democrats who are campaigning for local government positions in deep-red districts could give vulnerable Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill a boost this cycle. 

“If we can empower and reach those candidates who are already out there, talking to voters, knocking on doors, being the face of the Democratic party in their community” then it could increase Democratic turnout statewide and across the nation, Dietrich said.

The NDTC claims to be a grassroots-backed organization with over 67,000 individual contributions. The group also has found allies within the party, one being the Democratic National Committee.

Michael Blake, a New York Assembly member and DNC Vice Chair, specializes in local races, and told media that teaching candidates how to run effective campaigns tops the list of his concerns.

“Show the path to win,” Blake said. “That is how you make sure someone is successful.”

MLB spring training estimated to have $680M impact

The 15 Major League Baseball teams that retreat to the Sunshine State each spring do more than just please fans during the offseason.

According to a recent report from the Florida Sports Foundation, spring training had an estimated $687.1 million impact on the state’s economy in 2018. That’s a more than 60 percent increase since 2009 when an adjusted total economic impact was estimated to be around $426.5 million. The new impact estimates are a function of direct, induced and indirect effects of spending in Florida tied to the series of exhibition games held this year.

The games held by the 15 teams, known as the Grapefruit League, also are estimated to create 7,152 jobs annually, accounting for $253.5 million in wages.  

“The Sunshine State offers exceptional opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the national pastime of Spring Training,”  Angela A. Suggs, president and CEO of the Florida Sports Foundation, said. “We are pleased with the continued success of the Florida Grapefruit League and look forward to many more exciting opportunities to showcase the many communities in Florida, where the world comes to play.”

The numbers drew the attention of Gov. Rick Scott, who’s led a largely jobs-focused administration.

“Each year, fans from around the world come to Florida to enjoy spring training,” Scott said. “With incredible experiences like spring training happening in Florida, our tourism industry continues to break records.”

The New York Yankees, which holds its spring games at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, had the highest per game average with 9,882 fans attending 16 games during the 2018 season. The Boston Red Sox had the highest overall game attendance with 165,688 fans attending 17 games at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers.

Downs & St. Germain Research carried out the study on behalf of Florida Sports Foundation. The group examined fan spending by out-of-state and in-state attendees, as well as team spending to determine the overall economic impact. On average, game attendees stayed nearly 4 nights per game and accounted for more than $15 million in spending. 

#FlaPol in Review: A weekend roundup

Less than a month from the primary and fewer than 100 days away from the general election, candidates are ramping up their campaigning more and more each weekend.

Florida Politics rounds up what we can from Twitter on Saturday and Sunday, giving you an idea of what your favorite pol is doing to get to office.

Gov. Rick Scott met with a group of College Republicans:

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson found a canvassing friend in U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy:

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, has a young fan:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam received a helping hand from state Rep. Bob Cortes:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum caught Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivor David Hogg‘s attention after tweeting about Florida’s “stand your ground” law.

In Tampa Bay, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King mourned with others over Markeis McGlockton:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jeff Greene helped give away backpacks:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham appears to be rallying female supporters:

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine hit the campaign trail alongside his mother:

Democratic Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw spread news of Charlie Crist‘s endorsement of his bid:

State Rep. Frank White, a Republican Attorney General candidate, took his family to a Sarasota GOP event on the trail this weekend:

Agriculture Commissioner hopeful Denise Grimsley is spreading signs across the state:

Nikki Fried, a Democratic candidate running for Agriculture Commissioner, spoke to the LGBTA Democratic Caucus:

CFO Jimmy Patronis went to Sarasota for a GOP event:

Congresswoman Murphy, in addition to campaigning with Nelson, spoke at the Orange County Democratic Gala:

State Sen. Annette Taddeo is thinking 100 days ahead:

State Sen. Dana Young and state Rep. Jamie Grant — both of Tampa — appear to have each other’s backs this cycle:

State Reps. Shevrin Jones, Byron Donalds, Amber Mariano and Kamia Brown represented the “millennial” voice of the state House this weekend:

At the Orange County Gala, state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith sported Gillum gear:

State Rep. Dane Eagle is aiding in his local State Attorney race:

State Senate hopeful Manny Diaz, Jr. really is working every day:

Ardian Zika, the man hoping to replace term-limited House Speaker Richard Corcoran, kept busy meeting Pasco voters this weekend:


Matt Caldwell: Facebook should ban abortion ads, not gun ads

Republican state Rep. Matt Caldwell is making the most out of Facebook’s misstep.

The tech giant earlier this week removed one of Caldwell’s ads featuring him shooting and declaring his support for guns, the Second Amendment and President Donald Trump.

Caldwell, a candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, accused Facebook of one-sided censorship and has subsequently received an apology from the company. In the aftermath, he scored a 4-minute appearance on Fox News, where he was able to tout his own conservative accolades — including the endorsements of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz — to prospective Republican voters just a few weeks away from the primary. In that race, he will face Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley, retired U.S. Army Col. Mike McCalister and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman.

Caldwell’s media hit is clean and wide-ranging. While brought on to discuss Facebook’s censorship of guns, the Lehigh Acres Republican redirected the conversation to abortion, telling Fox News and its viewers, “I’m 100 percent pro-life, it’s one of the reasons we’ve got support from folks like Marco Rubio.”

At one point during the bit, Caldwell asks rhetorically, “Why don’t they have restrictions on abortion advertisers?

“That’s something that’s an actual, serious problem every single day in this country.”

In a news release highlighting the appearance, Caldwell said, “Facebook’s censorship regime takes advantage of their liberal policies to repress conservative ideals and our pro-liberty message, which includes our pro-Second Amendment endorsement from the NRA.

“This type of liberal bias and censorship is one of the many reasons why President Trump was elected!”

Watch the full-length clip here.

Happy Anniversary: Democrats jeer Rick Scott one year after failed GOP health care plan

Several state Democrats have come together via joint statements to remind Floridians of Gov. Rick Scott‘s intervention in a 2017 push to repeal and replace Obamacare, which ultimately never materialized.

The unified effort — featuring state lawmakers Reps. Amy Mercado and Shevrin Jones, along with Sens. Lori Berman and José Javier Rodríguez  — comes as Scott vies to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

It was reported last year that Scott had helped Congressman Tom Price, President Donald Trump‘s now-resigned pick to lead the U.S. Health and Human Services agency, craft legislation to repeal and replace certain provisions in the Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare. It also was reported that Scott would’ve seen personal tax savings under some of the proposed ideas.

However, when a plan to repeal certain provisions of Obamacare went to the U.S. Senate for a floor vote on July 27, 2017, it failed after Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against the proposal.

It’s unclear how much sway Scott had in the ultimate proposal, but it’s clear that Democrats don’t want anyone to forget his involvement — especially during an election year.

What’s omitted from the Democrats, however, is the idea that they are attacking Scott over a failed GOP plan that would have a higher chance of passage in the future if the Senate has one more Republican.

“Rick Scott bragged about helping write the failed GOP healthcare bill,” Mercado said. “It’s a true blessing for Florida that the bill didn’t pass.

“Even though Scott failed in his efforts, Floridians are still faced with huge hurdles to get access to quality and affordable care, and the governor has done next to nothing to help.”

Added Jones: “Rick Scott’s attacks on access to affordable healthcare are disgraceful, but not surprising. Scott has always put himself first, and his work helping write healthcare repeal is no exception. He cared more about getting props from his Republican friends in D.C. than actually helping Floridians.”

“Not only did he go to D.C. to help write the bill that would’ve stripped protections for pre-existing conditions and increased costs for millions, he actively worked against expanding healthcare for hundreds of thousands of Floridians,” Berman said. “Floridians deserve better.”

“We need a leader who will fight for healthcare access, not against it,” Javier Rodriguez added. 

These attacks come as Democrats nationwide have coalesced around a health care-focused message for the midterms. They also follow Florida’s decision to join a lawsuit with other states seeking for provisions of Obamacare to be overturned. One of the hot-button issues: coverage of individuals with pre-existing conditions.

Scott, a Republican, takes a limited-government approach to the issue and has gone on record saying he believes everyone should have access to health care, but that the marketplace should be competitive. After Democrats attacked him claiming he supports eliminating the pre-existing condition provision, Scott replied, “I’ve continued to say that it is important to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions and that every American, including those with pre-existing conditions, should have the ability to buy any kind of insurance they want. Obamacare is a disaster and costs way too much, but keeping pre-existing provisions should be a part of any healthcare reform. I disagree with efforts to dismantle protections for those with pre-existing conditions.”

Nelson, a Democrat, also has charged Scott with supporting the elimination of the pre-existing condition provision, saying he should withdraw Florida from the lawsuit if he believes otherwise. Scott, however, has told media that Bondi has the independent authority to remain in the lawsuit.

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