Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

Alan Clendenin says the FDP needs to come together in selecting a new chair

With a sudden vacancy at the top of the Florida Democratic Party, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Tampa’s Alan Clendenin is being mentioned as a possible successor to Stephen Bittel.

Bittel stepped down Friday after less than a year as the party chairman following a POLITICO Florida report of anonymous allegations of sexually inappropriate behavior. He made his announcement shortly after all four Democratic party gubernatorial nominees called for him to resign.

Clendenin automatically becomes part of the conversation, if for no other reason than the fact that he finished second in the past two elections for FDP Chair – to Bittel last January, and Allison Tant back in 2013.  And while he says his phone has been ringing off the hook over the past 24 hours following Bittel’s resignation, Clendenin says he’s much more interested in making sure that the party is unified with less than a year to go before the 2018 midterm elections.

“I think more than anything else that we have somebody in the chair’s seat who will be effective and turnkey and unifying,” Clendenin said late Saturday morning. “So whether that’s me or someone else, I think that’s the most important element of this and I think that’s more of an informal discussion everybody will have.”

FDP vice chair Judy Mount has been selected to lead the party on an interim basis, with the state executive committee scheduled to meet Dec. 9 to elect a permanent successor.

With just three weeks before that election, there will be extremely limited time for any potential candidates to campaign for the role, which Clendenin says is appropriate under the circumstances. If he were to become a candidate, he says it would be nothing like his previous two races for the position.

“It was brutal, and decisive, and that’s not what the Democratic party needs today,” he says of those campaigns in 2013 and again last winter.

The January 2017 vote for the FDP took several bizarre turns, including the byzantine party machinations that allowed Bittel and Clendenin to even become eligible to run in the contest.

A longtime member of the Democratic National Committee, Clendenin was rebuked by his own Hillsborough County Democrats in part because of a controversial by-law change, and ultimately moved to Bradford County to become a Democratic Executive Committee member eligible to run for the party chairmanship. He contends that those bylaws would not be in play in a special election to replace Bittel, but that remains to be seen.

Clendenin was elected chair of the Democratic National Committee Southern Caucus last month, and says with so much at stake in 2018, “this is not a time to screw around.”

Before Bittel’s resignation, the FDP had been on a roll this fall, capturing the special Senate District 40 election with Annette Taddeo and the St. Petersburg mayor’s contest. But there are some in the party who are fine with his resignation.

“The party works for us, not the other way around,” says attorney general candidate Jeremy Ring. He says that under Bittel, the party apparatus showed “zero interest in my race.”

“We asked them for the simplest of things, and we couldn’t even get them to do an email swap with us,” Ring said Friday, shortly before Bittel officially stepped down.

“I think it’s incumbent that they stay focused on Cabinet seats and state legislative seats, ” Ring adds. “Everything isn’t just about the top of the ticket.”

Democratic party strategist Steve Schale came out on Friday in support of Mount getting the job in 2018. Clendenin says he’s a fan.

“She’s been an activist as long as I can remember, and now as first vice chair she’s really immersed herself in a party leaderhip role and I think, she’s somebody who is an effective voice for the FDP,” he says, before adding that another candidate could emerge who’s not even being discussed in FDP circles this weekend.

“We need to be professional and have that type of leeaderhop where we can all come together, have a party that is unified and ready to hit the street running and capitalize on that momentum that we’ve experienced,” he says.


Ruta Jouniari hopes grassroots support will propel her House District 72 bid

It’s fair to say that a considerable number of people on the political left are emboldened (and embracing party politics) since the stunning election of President Donald Trump.

That’s certainly the case with Sarasota businesswoman and activist Ruta Jouniari.

Like a lot of people she knows, the 50-year-old House District 72 candidate was frustrated by “stagnation” in government.

“It’s the same bureaucrats, the same people who are paid by the big companies who are sitting there,” she laments.

“I think the rest of the country has just been neglected and left behind, and I think that we just need a voice,” she says in a recent phone interview, adding that she hopes to give that voice to the voters in HD 72, which became an open seat after incumbent Alex Miller announced in September that she was bailing out of her job, less than a year after the voters in the northern Sarasota district elected her.

Jouniari is one of two Democrats competing in the Dec. 5 primary. Also running is Sarasota attorney Margaret Good, who has the backing of the Florida Democratic Party establishment and is dominating in fundraising. The first campaign report turned in by Good showed her raising ten times more money that her opponent with $87,000 to Jouniari’s $7,400.

Yet Jouniari isn’t fazed by the discrepancy, believing she can win by relying on small donations and grassroots outreach.

“I really don’t see the need to raise $100,000 or $200,000 or $300,00 for a position that pays $29,00 a year,” she said.

Jouniari also says that unlike Good, she won’t take money from developers, claiming it’s a “direct conflict of interest.”

“She has a different stance on that,” Jouriari says of her opponent.

That’s nonsense, maintains the Good campaign.

“The act of Ruta making false statements about Margaret is getting pretty old,” replies Kevin Lata, Good’s campaign manager.

“This is a grassroots campaign. We’ve received over 300 contributions to people all across the district. To suggest anything otherwise is absurd. We were endorsed by the Sierra Club because they believe that we’re the best on environmental issues and on conservation issues.”

Jouniari and Good originally were “co-endorsed” by the Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus, but that was later rescinded after Good acknowledged that, unlike Jouniari, she doesn’t support immediately raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Jouniari supports such a hike, as well as a single-payer “Medicare for all” health care plan espoused by national Democrats like Bernie Sanders.

On Friday, Jouniari was endorsed by the National Nurses Union, and she’s also endorsed by the local Stonewall and State LGBTA Caucus, State Democratic Progressive Caucus, Progressive Sarasota and Stand Up 4 Democracy.

Not having been involved with party politics to any significance previously, Jouniari said she was surprised to see such a division between progressives and more mainstream Democrats, but believes it’s ultimately a healthy process for the party.

While Jouniari’s main source of income is from an international staffing company that works with the federal government to place veterans in jobs, she also co-founded a nonprofit medical clinic that provides free health care to people in Sarasota, Manatee, DeSoto and Charlotte counties.

Earlier this week, Florida Politics publisher Peter Schorsch wrote a blistering piece saying Jouniari campaign materials such as T-shirts and mailers had “no corresponding financial records of expenditures listed either in her political committee or campaign account.”

Jouniari labels the report “fake news.”

The due date to report campaign expenditures was October 19, she says the campaign T-shirts in question weren’t printed out until the end of October and will be in the next financial report due Dec. 1.

“It was a little disheartening to see somebody do that without actually reaching out and contacting somebody to let us answer that,” she says.

The winner of the Good-Jouniari Democratic primary will advance to the general election on Feb. 13 against Republican James Buchanan and Libertarian Alison Foxall.

(Next week, Florida Politics profiles Margaret Good).

Vern Buchanan opposes Trump administration allowing elephant ‘trophies’

Vern Buchanan is displeased with the Trump administration’s decision to lift the ban on importing elephant trophies from Africa, saying the world’s largest land mammal is a threatened species facing extinction.

“We should not encourage the hunting and slaughter of these magnificent creatures,” the Sarasota Republican congressman said Friday. “We don’t get a second chance once a species becomes extinct.”

The administration is reversing an Obama-era ban on bringing to the U.S. the heads of elephants killed in two African countries.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) officials announced they have determined that hunting African elephants in Zimbabwe and Zambia “will enhance the survival of the species in the wild,” the standard that determines whether to allow imports of parts — known as trophies — of the animals.

Buchanan isn’t the only conservative Trump supporter disagreeing with the president.  Radio and TV personality Laura Ingraham tweeted Thursday that she didn’t understand the decision either.

Along with Oregon Democrat Earl Blumenauer, Buchanan co-chairs the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, and the two men released a statement in opposition to the Trump Administration’s decision to reverse the ban on elephant “trophy” imports:

“African elephants are a threatened species and face extinction in our lifetime. As part of the international effort to reverse this trend, we strongly support the ban on imports of elephant “trophies” from Zambia and Zimbabwe. We are deeply disappointed by reports that there are plans to remove this ban, and as co-chairs of the Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, we are united in our effort to maintain the existing ban.”

Buchanan has a strong animal rights record in Congress, so strong that he was named Legislator of the Year by the Humane Society last year.

He’s previously urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to restore a database of animal cruelty information that the department removed suddenly and without notice. He has also introduced the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, bipartisan legislation that permanently bans the transport of horses to slaughterhouses in Mexico to be sold around the world.


Tensions high among blacks, police as Seminole Heights manhunt continues

With four unresolved murders in the past six weeks, tensions in Southeast Seminole Heights have never been higher.

Among some black residents, there’s even more anxiety, with many complaining about increased surveillance in the community — and that was before the Tampa Police Department announced earlier this week that the chief suspect is a black male.

That served as a backdrop Thursday night when Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan addressed the Hillsborough County branch of the NAACP at the Seminole Heights Branch Library.

Dugan acknowledged his department is, in fact, convinced the suspect has only killed two of the four people shot in the neighborhood since October 9.

“We believe that this person definitely murdered Ben Mitchell and Ronald Felton,” he said, referring to the first and fourth persons killed in the still-unresolved killing spree. “We’re not sure enough to say that he was able to murder Monica Hoffa and Anthony Naiboa, so it could be someone else who murdered those two.”

Undeniably, police presence in the neighborhood is higher, and arrests have spiked — 150 in the area in the last month. That’s up from 56 in October 2016, and 126 in October 2015. Motorists are now being pulled over for making rolling stops, a move that Dugan admitted normally the TPD  wouldn’t be so aggressive about.

These aren’t normal times, however.

Dugan said the decision to cite motorists for failing to make a complete stop in Seminole Heights came from him.

“We want to know who you are. We’ve got four dead people. How many bodies gotta stack up? … so we are stopping everyone.”

In addition to TPD officers in Seminole Heights, there are also law enforcement officers from the Hillsborough County Sheriffs Department, the St. Petersburg Police Department, and now the Florida Highway Patrol in the neighborhood, courtesy of Gov. Rick Scott.

The chief also defended what some have labeled heavy-handed tactics such as officers clad in SWAT gear and holding long guns knocking on doors and asking residents if they can search their homes. He said residents have “every right to say no,” but he said the circumstances demanded such actions.

“This person is a coldblooded killer and we’re trying to catch them, and there is no doubt in my mind that cops are not exempt from his bloodthirst,” Dugan said.

Activist Connie Burton asked Dugan if he would consider changing the profile of the suspected killer, questioning if the suspect might have had military service or be a rogue cop?

Dugan appeared pained to pontificate broadly, especially with so many scrutinizing his every word. He confessed that it had crossed his mind that the suspect might have law enforcement training.

There were some raw feelings in the room, going back to 2015 when the TPD policy on citing black bicyclists for citations became the subject of a Tampa Bay Times series known colloquially as “Biking While Black.”

The uproar in the community led the department to call on the U.S. Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to study the issue. A year later, they produced an 82-page report showing the policy was not discriminatory, but also ineffective.

Neither Tampa police nor Mayor Bob Buckhorn apologized for the now discarded policy, a slight that still stings in the community. While Dugan wasn’t in charge at the time, he was part of the force and was pressed on the issue Thursday by activist Jarvis El-Amin.

“We thought we were doing the right thing,” said Dugan. “We weren’t targeting African-Americans. We were targeting people doing violations on their bicycles. Afterward, when we sat down and looked at the numbers, clearly we were stopping mostly African-Americans.”

Former Police Chief Jane Castor pushed back strongly against the Times story after its publication, and Dugan appeared to still have problems with the story himself.

The chief added that there were murder suspects who escaped on bikes and another story of a young black man throwing a box containing an automatic rifle into a bush.

“Why was that not part of the story? I don’t know.”

Joe Wicker becomes first Republican to file for Ross Spano’s HD 59 seat

Businessman and Iraq War veteran Joe Wicker is running for the House District 59 seat.

The Republican’s entrance into the race comes a day after current HD 59 occupant Republican Ross Spano announced his bid for Attorney General.

“Trust in government is at an all-time low and voters are looking for leaders with a demonstrated history of service to their country and community to help restore faith in the political process,” Wicker said Friday.

“I’m looking forward to having a conversation with voters about how we can continue to grow Florida’s economy and improve our education system, while at the same time addressing critical needs in healthcare and transportation,” he added. “As a small business owner and healthcare professional, I know firsthand just how important it is that we address the rising costs of care for Floridians and increase the affordability and accessibility of every Floridian.”

An Atlanta native, Wicker was called to active duty in 2002 with the U.S. Army and subsequently served two deployments in Iraq as a Tank Platoon Leader in 2003 and an advisor to the Iraqi Security Forces during the 2007 surge.

He later was recruited to work in Tampa. Wicker currently lives in Brandon, where he owns Home Helpers Home Health, an agency servicing the needs of seniors so they can remain independent in their home.

Wicker first ran for political office in 2012, when he lost to Spano by just two points in the Republican primary.

At the time Spano said he was “elated” to come out on top in a nail biter for the seat, which encompasses virtually all of the Brandon area — including Valrico, Dover, Seffner, Riverview, Palm River and Clair-Mel City.

With Spano trying his hand at higher office, the path to the Legislature is likely much easier for Wicker, who proved in that election that he knows how to raise a little money – he brought in $79,234 for his primary effort – and that he was likeable enough on the trail to get some votes. He received 3,222 in that bid, just 175 fewer than Spano.

So far, Wicker is the only candidate filed for HD 59.

Janet Cruz first to react to Stephen Bittel accusations

Janet Cruz was one of the first Democrats to respond on Friday to a POLITICO Florida report that Florida Democratic Party chairman Stephen Bittel has created a hostile workplace environment for women through constant inappropriate comments and suggestions.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with Stephen Bittel. He’s always been kind and respectful to me,” the Democratic House Minority Leader wrote in a text Friday morning. “No woman should be made to feel uncomfortable or unsafe, and I encourage women to be courageous and speak up. My office is open, and a safe place.”

While the women told POLITICO that they were never touched inappropriately, they said Bittel’s suggestive remarks, invitations to go on his private plane and even his possession of a breast-shaped stress squeeze-ball kept at his desk made them uncomfortable.

Bittel, a millionaire Coconut Grove developer who was just elected to serve as party chair in January, apologized for his behavior and did not deny the accounts of the women who talked to POLITICO Florida.

“Every person, regardless of their gender, race, age or sexuality should be treated with respect and valued for their hard work and contributions to our community, and if any of my comments or actions did not reflect that belief I am deeply sorry,” Bittel said.

Since Cruz’s response, Democratic gubernatorial candidates Andrew Gillum, Gwen Graham and Philip Levine have all released statements saying that Bittel needs to resign.

This is the second time that Bittel has had to apologize for his actions since becoming party chairman, and the second time that Florida Democrats have had to defend him.

At the FDP’s Leadership Blue Gala in Hollywood in June, Bittel angered members of his own party for racially-tinged remarks made backstage at the party’s most prominent annual fundraising event.

“I know Stephen Bittel, and I have never, ever thought of him or known him to be a racist,” Cruz said in July. “I think perhaps he might be elitist, but I have never known him to be a racist, so I was really sad that was the focus of the press and the focus of the attention.”

The Bittel story follows national fallout on sexual harassment that has dominated the media landscape over the past six weeks, initially sparked by the New York Times and New Yorker revelations against movie producer Harvey Weinstein.

The story hit home in Tallahassee after it was revealed last month that South Florida Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemens engaged in an extramarital affair, resulting in his resignation.

Two weeks ago, POLITICO Florida reported anonymous allegations by several women that Clearwater state Senator and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala acted inappropriately around them. Latvala denies the charges, and now faces two Florida Senate complaints about sexual harassment.

UPDATE: On Friday morning, Bittel announced he is resigning following reports that he created a hostile work environment for women by “belittling” them in front of male staffers and making suggestive remarks.

Ross Spano announcement opens HD 59 seat in 2018

Dover House Republican Ross Spano is throwing his hat into the ring for Attorney General, making his House District 59 open next year.

The eastern Hillsborough County seat is one in which Democrats hoping for a wave election in 2018 think they might be able to flip — with the right candidate, of course.

Last year, Spano defeated attorney Rena Frazier by eight points, 54-46 percent, a disappointment officials with the Florida Democratic Party, who thought they had a legitimate chance of capturing the seat and put financial resources into that campaign.

Frazier did not respond to a request for comment from Florida Politics, but it’s unlikely she would leave her role as chief of policy and communications under Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.

Another Democratic possibility is Gail Gottlieb, an attorney who had worked at many public policy positions in Washington D.C.

Gottlieb narrowly lost to Spano in 2012, 51 percent to 49 percent. She currently lives in D.C. but returns to Brandon often.

Joe Wicker

Gottlieb told Florida Politics that “one can’t help but think about” running again, adding she also thinks some other qualified candidates could compete.

Hillsborough County schoolteacher Naze Sahebzamani lost to Frazier in the HD 59 Democratic primary. She did not return a request for comment.

On the GOP side, a top candidate mentioned is Joe Wicker, a businessman and veteran who lost to Spano by just 2 points in the HD 59 Republican primary in 2012.

Colton Curry, the son of East Hillsborough conservative activist Clif Curry, is reportedly considering a candidacy. Another name floating around Republican circles is David Wilson, a real estate and home building professional.

House District 59 encompasses Brandon, Riverview, Valrico, Clair Mel and Progress Village in eastern Hillsborough County.

Old tensions about Cuba resurface at Tampa City Council meeting

A recent trip to Cuba by Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin and Councilman Harry Cohen was just the latest by members of the political establishment who have worked for nearly a decade to set up closer relations between the city and the Communist island.

Former Councilwoman Mary Mulhern first visited Cuba as part of a delegation of local business leaders in 2009, and she boarded the first direct flight from Tampa to Havana in 2011 after the Obama administration opened up travel to other U.S. airports beyond Miami, New York and Los Angeles.

Although not nearly as controversial as a decade ago, such trips are still not necessarily universally embraced in Tampa, which houses a huge Cuban-American population, including exiles of the Fidel Castro regime.

After former President Barack Obama made history in 2014 when he announced a full resumption of relations with Cuba, council members rallied to seek a Cuban embassy in Tampa.

Mayor Bob Buckhorn did not endorse the move, saying he always remained loyal to those exiles.

Those tensions came to light at a presentation Thursday when Councilman Mike Suarez, a Cuban-American who never fully embraced the outreach, asked Capin if any members of the delegation had reached out to Cuban dissidents, referring to how former Congressman Jim Davis had done so during a trip in 2006.

Capin said they had not, but appreciated the question.

“Our president just went to China and Vietnam,” Capin said. “He did not ask to see any dissidents.”

“I’m not challenging you at all,” Suarez replied.

Capin had made six trips to Cuba, and she said the issue of meeting dissidents had never come up a single time.

Tampa’s current U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, made her first trip to Cuba in 2013, meeting dissidents at that time. Upon her return, she became the first member of Florida’s congressional delegation to call for the end of the U.S. economic embargo to the island.

Officials Capin met in Cuba asked for “mutual respect for different ideologies,” and dispelled the perception that the country was in “chaos” following Hurricane Irma.

Chambers of Commerce for Tampa and St. Petersburg are considering attending the annual International Trade Fair there, she said.

“In my estimation, Tampa stands to gain thousands and thousands of jobs and transforms us into the global city that we want to be.”

While the local delegation visited the island nation, Donald Trump blamed Cuba for the mysterious attacks that sickened American diplomats there and prompted the abrupt withdrawal of United States embassy staff from Havana.

Cohen said that comment created certain a “chill” on the trip, which he deemed “unfortunate.”

“The international situation I think more than anything, more than anything else, was made clear to us that was going to affect our own region’s ability to engage with the future of Cuba,” Cohen added.

He did say that the Florida Aquarium will continue its partnership with the National Aquarium of Cuba, where it is nurturing and tracking coral reefs in Cuba to learn how to save reefs in Florida better.

Last week, the Trump administration rolled back some of the diplomatic thaw enacted by the Obama administration.

Travelers who visit Cuba under “people to people” guidelines must now book a tour only with an official U.S. group; a member of that team must go with them on the trip.

The administration also issued a list of more than 100 businesses, including 84 hotels, where American travelers cannot go.

Earlier in the council discussion, Luis Viera, another Cuban-American member of the board whose family members are exiles, said he supports Capin and Cohen’s visit as part of what he calls “principled engagement” with Cuba.

He challenged his colleagues to have a dialogue with Cuban-exiles about the relations with the country.

“I think that this would behoove us as council members on this if that’s something that is going to be continued as a policy is to engage members of that community,” he said, “because in the city of Tampa that community is a very large part of our city in terms of the social fabric, cultural fabric, etc.”

Capin said that was an excellent idea.

Two members of the audience questioned the council members visit.

“I have family in Cuba, I want to see a change in Cuba,” said Rafael Pizo, who complained that his family in Cuba still cannot buy aspirin, which had nothing to do with an economic embargo. “This is a tactic by the regime to keep the people down.”

Another unidentified Cuban exile, who spoke in Spanish (with an English translator), said the council was wasting its time trying to do business with the current regime.

“What business can we expect with this regime, they don’t even pay their allies and they pay no debts?” he asked. “To give them our money that we need in our communities for our roads, for our sick, for our social economic programs, we need our money here in our town, not in Cuba, they have nothing to offer us.”

EMILY’s List backs Mary Barzee Flores in CD 27 scrum

EMILY’s List, the political action committee that supports pro-choice female Democrat candidates, is endorsing former judge Mary Barzee Flores for Congress in Florida’s 27th Congressional District.

CD 27 is the Miami-Dade County seat which will open next year for the first time in three decades when Republican incumbent Ileana Ros-Lehtinen steps down.

“Mary Barzee Flores has built a reputation as a dogged public defender and empathetic judge in the same community she was born and where she and her husband are raising their family. Now EMILY’s List is proud to endorse her as she seeks to bring her incredible work ethic and passion for her hometown to the halls of Congress,” said EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock.

The seat at once became a top target for Democrats nationally after Ros-Lehtinen suddenly announced in the spring that she will retire from the seat she has held since 1988. Her decision prompted election handicappers like Sabato’s Crystal Ball to change the CD 27 rating from “likely Republican” to “leans Democrat.”

In 2016, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried the district by more than 20 points.

“This open seat represents an opportunity for Floridians to send a message to Washington,” Schriock adds. “Working families need a representative who will fight to protect basic women’s health care services, defend against the rolling back of environmental protections, and push to reform our broken immigration system. Mary is ready for the job, and we look forward to supporting her every step of the way.”

Although Ros-Lehtinen said that her decision to retire had nothing to do with some of her differences with President Donald Trump, she is one of a growing list of House Republicans (now at 12) who won’t run for re-election in 2018 in what could be a tough year for Republicans.

Barzee Flores is one of nine Democrats running in the contest, along with state Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, state Rep. David Richardson, Miami City Commissioners Kristen Rosen Gonzalez and Ken Russell, Matt Haggman, Michael Hepburn, Mark Anthony Person and Marvin Dunn.

Six Republicans are in the race: Miami City Commissioner Bruno Barreiro, former Miami Dade School Board member Raquel Regalado, Gabe Ferrer, Maria Pedro, Bettina Rodriguez-Aguilera and Gina Sosa-Suarez.

Pam Bondi, state attorneys general call for more legal accountability in opioid crisis

Pam Bondi has joined more than 40 state attorneys general Wednesday on a letter to congressional leaders urging them to repeal a 2016 law to restore the ability of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to hold drug manufacturers and distributors of opioids more accountable.

“The opioid crisis is affecting families across our country and we need every tool available to combat this epidemic and save lives,” Florida’s attorney general said in a press release. “To ensure the Drug Enforcement Administration is able to stop the oversupply of dangerous prescription opioids, Congress must repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016.”

Public officials reacted with alacrity to the 2016 measure following a Washington Post/60 Minutes report in October saying a handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, which undermined efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills.

More than two million Americans are addicted to prescription or illicit opioid. Since 2000, more than 300,000 have died from overdoses involving opioids.

According to the National Association of Attorneys General policy letter that Bondi has signed onto, the 2016 law effectively strips the DEA’s ability to issue an immediate suspension against a drug manufacturer or distributor whose unlawful conduct poses an immediate danger to public health or safety.

Florida joined a bipartisan coalition of 41 state attorneys general who recently sent subpoenas and demanded additional information about potentially unlawful practices in the distribution, marketing, and sale of opioids.

A bill from Missouri Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill seeks to repeal the Ensuring Patient Access and Effect Drug Enforcement Act of 2016. She will lead a roundtable discussion on the issue during a meeting of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee later this month.

Co-sponsors of the 2016 bill were U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Palm Harbor GOP Rep. Gus Bilirakis. Bilirakis has been attacked by one of his Democratic 2018 opponents for his sponsorship of the bill. He responded in an op-ed found here.

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