Jim Rosica, Author at Florida Politics

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.
Mural

Absent any takers, Senate mural in limbo

You can’t give away some art these days.

At least 10 museums or other institutions have declined an offer from the Florida Senate to donate its “Five Flags Mural“—now in storage—that formerly adorned the wall outside the chamber’s 5th floor public and press galleries in the Capitol.

“Most cited the size of the mural and their limited capacity for storage as the reason why they could not accept it,” Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta said Thursday.

The nearly 40-year-old mural, installed during construction of the current 1978 Capitol building, is 10 feet by 16 feet.

But it may not help that it also depicts a Confederate general and flag. Contention has been stoked recently across Florida, including Tampa and Orlando, and the South as cities debate and have begun removing Confederate statues and other memorials.

This week, an effort to rename several roads in Hollywood bearing the names of Confederate generals led to angry confrontation. One black state legislator, Democrat Shevrin Jones, told the Miami Herald he was called the N-word and a “monkey.”

According to Betta, institutions that have turned down the mural include:

— Appleton Museum of Art in Ocala.

— Daytona Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach.

— FSU Museum of Fine Arts in Tallahassee.

— Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee.

— Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota.

— West Florida Trust in Pensacola.

— Jacksonville Historical Society.

— Jacksonville Museum of Science and History.

— Florida Park Service.

— Tallahassee Museum.

The mural, painted by artist Renee Faure of Jacksonville, includes a Confederate general and flag. The Senate voted to remove a Confederate flag from its official seal and insignia in 2015.

Then-Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa had explained that the flag is a “painful symbol of oppression.”

The flag is over the shoulder of Gen. Joseph Finnegan, commander of the Confederate forces at the February 1864 Battle of Olustee in north Florida, the largest Civil War battle fought in the state.

But Betta previously said the mural was taken down during the Senate chamber’s renovation last year because it was showing signs of age, including fading and peeling.

Since then, it “has been properly cared for and stored by the Historic Capitol,” she added Thursday.

“The Senate plans to keep the mural stored in its current location for the time being,” Betta said. “The Senate remains open to the possibility of transferring ownership, if an institution comes forward with the capacity to display the mural.”

Rick Scott gets more time to respond to judicial appointments lawsuit

The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday granted Gov. Rick Scott‘s request for 14 extra days to respond to a lawsuit claiming he doesn’t have authority to appoint three new justices on the last day of his term.

Scott general counsel Daniel Nordby filed the request Wednesday, asking to move the deadline to July 19.

“Multiple extensions of time for the same filing are discouraged,” the court’s order says. “Absent extenuating circumstances, subsequent requests may be denied. All other times are extended accordingly.”

Nordby’s reasons for extension included the need for legal briefings on bills still on the governor’s desk (68 as of Thursday morning), and “official duties associated with Section and Committee meetings at the 2017 Annual Bar Convention,” meeting in Boca Raton this week.

Scott, a Naples Republican, has said he plans to name the replacements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince.

They face mandatory retirement on the same day—Jan. 8, 2019—that is Scott’s last in office as governor.

The lawsuit by The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause says Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day all three retire, and their terms last till midnight.

They seek a “writ of quo warranto,” a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action.

State announces Medicaid managed care bid date

The Agency for Health Care Administration said Thursday it will post material for the next bidding for the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program “on or around July 14.”

That’s when the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for the re-procurement will go live on the Florida Department of Management Services’ Vendor Bid System website.

Companies who put in a proposal will be subject to a 72-hour blackout period, in which they can’t contact “any employee or officer of the executive or legislative branch concerning any aspect of this solicitation,” according to a state law.

“Violation of this provision may be grounds for rejecting a response,” the agency said. “… Due to the upcoming re-procurement, we will not have any discussions relating to the scope, evaluation or negotiation of those procurements.

For more information about the SMMC program, click here.

Hard Rock names four new top executives

Hard Rock International, controlled by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Wednesday announced three new top executives.

Lucas

Jon Lucas will be the company’s new chief operating officer and “will oversee key company departments, in addition to brand operations,” according to a press release. He will report directly to Chairman and CEO Jim Allen.

He was previously executive vice president of hotel operations, where “he helped acquire Hard Rock casino and hotel rights throughout the western part of the U.S. and major international markets, spearheaded casino entry into Canada and entered the hotel management sector.”

The company is opening a fourth location in Florida later this year with the addition of the 200-room Hard Rock Hotel Daytona Beach.

That follows Hard Rock’s recent purchase of the former Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, and a deal to open a Hard Rock Casino in Ottawa, Canada. The company also wants to build a $1 billion casino in northern New Jersey just outside New York City.

Hipsh

Also, Dale Hipsh was promoted to senior vice president, “overseeing the entire hotel portfolio for Hard Rock International,” the release said. He previously served as vice president for hotel operations development.

And Sean Caffery joins the company to locate “new development locations, countries and partners for the casino business throughout North and South America.”

The Tribe last year consolidated its control over the rock ‘n’ roll-themed Hard Rock hotel and casino brand, buying out remaining rights from the owner-operator of Las Vegas’ Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

In Florida, Hard Rock-themed properties are now in Tampa, Hollywood (both include casinos) and Orlando.

Updated 3 p.m. — The company later on Wednesday announced that Stephen K. Judge, a 30-year veteran of the restaurant industry, will serve as president of cafe operations.

He will “oversee daily operations for the brand’s 176 worldwide corporate and franchise cafe locations, and steer Hard Rock’s world-renowned branded retail merchandise, while strengthening the Hard Rock Cafe portfolio.”

With no legislative action, Confederate statue remains in U.S. Capitol

The General abides.

With lawmakers taking no action this year, a bronze statue of a Confederate general representing Florida shall remain indefinitely in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall.

Two competing bills died this Legislative Session. One called for a likeness of educator and civil-rights activist Mary McLeod Bethune to replace the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith.

Another proposed a statue of environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, author of “The Everglades: River of Grass,” to take Smith’s place.

“Next year, we expect movement in the House and we’ll pass it in the Senate,” said state Sen. Perry Thurston, who sponsored the Bethune measure. “I am encouraged we will get it done next year.”

Each state has two statues on display in the Capitol. Florida’s other statue, a marble rendering of scientist-inventor Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola, a pivotal figure in the invention of air conditioning, is unaffected.

The move to replace Smith’s statue came after renewed debate about Confederate symbols, including the battle flag ubiquitous in the South.

City workers this week started moving a Confederate statue called “Johnny Reb” from a park in the heart of downtown Orlando, to a nearby cemetery. And the Hillsborough County Commission is set to discuss the removal of a Confederate memorial that sits in front of the county’s courthouse.

The state Senate also recently removed a decades-old mural that had been outside the 5th floor press and public galleries that included a depiction of another Confederate general and flag. The Senate in 2015 voted to remove that flag from its official seal and insignia.

At the time, then-Senate President Andy Gardiner said the artwork was “beginning to show signs of age that must be addressed if the mural is to be preserved.” Parts of it were fading and peeling.

The removal was part of an almost-$5 million renovation of the Senate chamber, the first since the Capitol opened in 1978. The 10-foot-by-16 foot “Five Flags Mural” now is in storage at the Historic Capitol.

Additional material provided by The Associated Press, reprinted with permission.

Updated 4:45 p.m. — The Hillsborough County Commission on Wednesday voted 4-3 to keep the Confederate memorial in front of the courthouse in downtown Tampa.

Voting to move it: Al Higginbotham, Pat Kemp, Les Miller.

Voting to keep it where it is: Victor Crist, Ken Hagan, Sandy Murman, Stacy White.

Simone Marstiller takes herself out of Attorney General contention

Former appellate judge and Republican Simone Marstiller said on Facebook she will not run for Attorney General in 2018.

“NOT running for AG,” she posted Monday night. “Holding that office has been a dream of mine for a long time.

Marstiller

“But I’ve reluctantly concluded that running for the office just isn’t financially feasible for me,” she added. “Thanks from the bottom of my heart to all of you for encouraging me and pledging your support. I am blessed beyond measure to have people like you in my life. The adventure continues …”

Marstiller declined further comment Tuesday.

Her name was first floated in a January post on The Capitolist by Brian Burgess, who included her among his picks to replace current Attorney General Pam Bondi amid rumors she was leaving to take a post in President Donald Trump‘s administration. Bondi is term-limited in 2018.

“She’s a staunch conservative thinker, a bit of a fireball, and strikes me as someone rank-and-file Republicans could embrace as potential A.G. candidate – not only because she’s got the fire in the belly for politics, but also because she’d throw a wrench into the flailing and failing identity politics machinery of the Florida Democratic Party,” Burgess wrote in January.

“She’d be an absolute joy to watch – not only arguing cases and in press conferences, but on the campaign trail, too.”

Last month, Marstiller told The Capitolist’s John Lucas she was “weighing her options” for a possible candidacy.

The Liberian-born Marstiller is now in private law practice after retiring in 2015 as a judge of the 1st District Court of Appeal, based in Tallahassee.

Her long resume includes being Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Interim Secretary of the Department of Management Services, Deputy Chief of Staff, and state Chief Information Officer under Gov. Jeb Bush. 

She also was Associate Deputy Attorney General under Attorney General Bill McCollum and Executive Director for the Florida Elections Commission.

Declared GOP Attorney General candidates for 2018 include state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody. Tampa Bay-area attorney and political newcomer Ryan Torrens has filed for the post as a Democrat.

Health Department getting started on medical marijuana rulemaking

In the wake of the Special Session’s implementing bill, the Florida Department of Health is gearing up to make rules governing the use of medical marijuana.

The department published a “notice of proposed regulation” in the Florida Administrative Register last Friday.

But the state still could face a lawsuit from personal-injury attorney John Morgan, who backed the constitutional amendment on medical marijuana that passed in 2016 with 71 percent of the vote. He has said he will sue because lawmakers would not allow medical marijuana to be smoked.

The implementing bill (SB 8-A) is pending Gov. Rick Scott‘s review, though he said he will sign it.

Among other provisions, the bill grandfathers in seven existing providers, renames them “medical marijuana treatment centers” (MMTCs) and requires the Department to license 10 new providers by October. The bill also allows four new MMTCs for every increase of 100,000 patients prescribed marijuana.

It also limits the number of retail locations each MMTC can open to 25 across the state, and divides that cap by region. As the patient count goes up, five more locations can be opened per provider for every new 100,000 patients in the state’s Medical Marijuana Use Registry. The limits expire in 2020.

The department is working under an expedited rulemaking process to conform with deadlines in the amendment. Lawmakers failed to come to agreement on a bill during this year’s Regular Session. 

Before the amendment, the state in 2014 legalized low-THC, or “non-euphoric,” marijuana to help children with severe seizures and muscle spasms. THC is the chemical that causes the high from pot.

The state later expanded the use of medicinal marijuana through another measure, the “Right to Try Act,” that includes patients suffering intractable pain and loss of appetite from terminal illnesses.

 

Judge reverses himself, decides ‘pre-reveal’ machines are slots

In a stunning reversal, a Tallahassee judge on Monday decided he had gotten it “wrong the first time around” and said games known as “pre-reveal” are in fact illegal slot machines. 

Circuit Judge John Cooper, however, was quick to say his change of mind was not influenced by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, but rather by further argument on how pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games actually play.

The Tribe’s lawyer had said that allowing the machines, which look and play like slots, violates their exclusive right to offer slot machines outside South Florida, imperiling the state’s future cut of the Tribe’s gambling revenue by “multi-billions of dollars.”

Whether pre-reveal games affect the Tribe’s deal is “a political issue,” Cooper said Monday. “My holding is not based upon whether (the Tribe) likes the ruling or dislikes the ruling.”

In March, Cooper issued issued a declaratory judgment that “pre-reveal” games weren’t slots. That was because players have to “press a ‘preview’ button before a play button can be activated.” If the outcome of the game is known, it’s not a game of chance, he said then.

But Barry Richardthe Tribe’s outside attorney, has previously argued Cooper misunderstood the game play: “The player is not wagering for the already revealed outcome, but rather on the next outcome, which is unknown.”

On Monday, Richard added: “Can anybody rationally believe the intent of the Legislature was to jeopardize (the state’s cut) … to allow these machines?”

Argument offered Monday dealt with the state law on slot machines, the nature of randomness, and whether the “unpredictability” of games of chance lies with the player or with the game.

“Once you walk up to the game, you see the outcome every time,” said Robert E. Turffs, attorney for Blue Sky Games, which designed the software that runs the games. 

Cooper countered: “But I have no way of knowing or predicting the next time, is that right?”

He also used an example of professional basketball player LeBron James shooting free throws. “The ball and the hoop has nothing to do with” James’ free-throw percentage—unless the hoop changes size every time he throws, Cooper said. 

The judge, in withdrawing his earlier ruling, said he had come to realize the game was a “series of plays,” including known and unknown outcomes.

Magdalena Ozarowski, attorney for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), said it’s the “later outcomes” of the game—not the one revealed to the player—that are unpredictable to the user. That’s what makes it a slot machine.

The case got started when DBPR agents found one of the games in a Jacksonville sports bar and told the proprietor the machine was an “illegal gambling device.”

The only way to remove the element of chance is to remove the pre-reveal software, Ozarowski added. Without that, you’d have a “box and a monitor.”

Kathey Bright Fanning, president of the Jacksonville-based Gator Coin II company that’s behind the machines, was in the courtroom for Monday’s proceeding. Afterward, she said she was “disappointed” with the judge’s turnabout.

“They’re wrong,” she said. “The Tribe is wrong.”

Cooper’s new decision will be “immediately appealable” to the 1st District Court of Appeal, he said: “Let’s call it a final judgment.”

Lawyers to face off in hearing over ‘pre-reveal’ games

Lawyers for the Seminole Tribe of Florida and companies behind what are known as “pre-reveal” games—a name they apparently disdain—will appear Monday afternoon in a Tallahassee courtroom.

Circuit Judge John Cooper agreed to hear argument on why he should reconsider his previous ruling that the stand-alone consoles aren’t illegal slot machines. The devices in question use a specific software known as “Version 67.”

Source: Twitter

The machines—offered mostly at bars and taverns—look and play like a slot machine, Cooper had reasoned, but don’t fit the legal definition of gambling because the player always knows whether he or she is a winner or loser.

The Tribe has countered that Cooper’s decision “upends the Compact,” the 2010 agreement between the Tribe and the state for exclusive rights to offer certain gambling in return for a cut of the revenue.

The Tribe believes the machines are slots, which violates its exclusivity. That could cost the state “multi-billions of dollars” by entitling the Tribe to stop paying the state a cut of its gambling revenue.

Barry Richard, the Tribe’s outside attorney, has argued Cooper misunderstood the game play: “The player is not wagering for the already revealed outcome, but rather on the next outcome, which is unknown.”

Gator Coin II and Blue Sky Games, the concerns behind pre-reveal, disagree. They have complained in court filings that the state continues to go after the games through its Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT).

“Customers fear legal repercussions (and) most have decided not to offer the game, fearing (the department’s) wrath,” their filing said, referring to ABT’s “confusing and heavy-handed tactics.” They include threats of criminal prosecution and loss of liquor licenses, according to the motion.

But the state’s filing notes that the machines “operate upon the insertion of money and award prizes through the element of chance.”

A Twitter account called @RealBlueSkyGame has photos of banners advertising the devices as the “only Florida court approved no chance game,” adding that they offer a “cash payout.”

“We don’t violate anything and they know it,” says one tweet. “We are winning!!! They are wrong, so sad.”

Another tweet from that account responded to a FloridaPolitics.com post last week, saying, “They are not pre reveal anything. They are no chance games. Get the terminology correct.”

Rick Scott asked to respond to judicial appointments lawsuit

The Florida Supreme Court has asked Gov. Rick Scott to respond to a lawsuit claiming he doesn’t have authority to appoint three new justices on the last day of his term.

The court on Friday gave Scott till July 5 to file a response, with the League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause having a July 17 deadline to reply to Scott’s filing.

The organizations this week filed a petition for “writ of quo warranto,” a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action.

Scott, a Naples Republican, has said he plans to name the replacements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred LewisBarbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince.

They face mandatory retirement on the same day—Jan. 8, 2019—that is Scott’s last in office as governor. He’s term limited next year.

The filing says Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day all three retire, and their terms last till midnight.

The Supreme Court, in a 2006 advisory opinion, said appellate vacancies may be filled by a governor only “upon the expiration of the term of the judge or justice.”

Advisory opinions, however, “do not constitute binding precedent, though they can be persuasive,” wrote former Justice Gerald Kogan and court spokesman Craig Waters in a 1994 law review article. “They are authorized by the (state) constitution to deal with situations in which the Court’s opinion on an abstract question can advance public interests.”

A Scott spokesman previously declined comment on the suit.

“A prompt, final decision on this pure question of constitutional law … would preempt cynical complaints by anyone dissatisfied with the decision that the case was contaminated by political considerations,” the petition says.

The petitioners also include LWVF President Pamela Goodman, former LWVF president Deirdre Macnab, and Liza McClenaghan, the state chair of Common Cause Florida.

They’re represented by Tallahassee attorneys John S. Mills and Thomas D. Hall, a former Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court.

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