Jim Rosica, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 221

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.

Lauren Book backs Pam Bondi’s investigation of sexual abuse by Catholic priests

State Sen. Lauren Book, a child sexual abuse survivor, said she supports Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s investigation into possible abuse committed by Catholic priests in Florida.

Bondi “has sent a clear message to any person using their position of power to exploit and manipulate children: Your actions are not tolerated, and you will not get away with harming children,” the Plantation Democrat said in a statement issued Friday.

As a child, Book endured sexual abuse for six years at the hands of a trusted caretaker. She later created the “Lauren’s Kids” organization to “educate adults and children about sexual abuse prevention through in-school curricula, public awareness campaigns, and speaking engagements.”

The organization also leads a yearly statewide “Walk in My Shoes” awareness walk across the state of Florida – 1,500 miles from the Southernmost Point of the U.S. in Key West to the Capitol in Tallahassee.

“Anyone who has contributed to the institutional victimization of children is a criminal and must receive the maximum punishment,” she added. “Attorney General Bondi is once again shining light in dark places as she works to protect victims and stand up for those who have been silenced.”

Bondi this week launched a statewide investigation into sexual abuse by Catholic priests after a Pennsylvania grand jury report this summer that found more than 1,000 children were molested over decades by hundreds of priests whose wrongdoing was covered up by church leaders.

Bondi, whose office is investigating all seven Catholic dioceses in Florida, said Thursday that she had launched a tip site “to allow victims and anyone with information about priest abuse to report what they know.”

“Any priest that would exploit a position of power and trust to abuse a child is a disgrace to the church and a threat to society,” Bondi said during a Tampa news conference.

As a survivor of child sexual abuse, “I know how scary it is to come forward, but I want all survivors to know that your voice matters, the guilt is not yours to carry, and you will be believed,” Book said. “If you or someone you love is a victim of sexual abuse, I promise it is OK to tell.

“… Please visit the tip line created by Attorney General Bondi’s office. Together, we will work to ensure justice is served.”

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Updated 3:45 p.m. — Bondi released this statement Friday afternoon:

“We cannot comment on the specifics of our ongoing criminal investigation, but I am pleased with the response from the public so far, and the growing number of reports from victims. Based on these confidential reports, I believe the tip site is providing us the information we need to conduct a successful investigation and protect children.

“I want to thank the media for helping us spread the word about our tip site. Please let viewers and readers know they can report past priest abuse at MyFloridaLegal.com/StopAbuse.” 

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Background provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.

‘Vote no’: FanDuel comes out in opposition to gambling amendment

Saying it will “make it impossible to bring sports betting to Florida,” FanDuel is telling Florida voters to vote down a proposed ‘voter control of gambling’ constitutional amendment.

The amendment’s main backer, however, says the national fantasy sports website has got it all wrong. It won’t be impossible, he said: It’ll just require a vote.

In a Thursday email shared with Florida Politics, FanDuel said “Amendment 3 was written to try to deceive you … It pretends to give voters more power, but the reality is it … makes it more difficult to protect your right to play fantasy sports.”

Moreover, the ballot measure “would stop any chance of bringing sports betting to Florida dead in its tracks.”

It goes on: “Sports fans like you are now able to legally place bets using the FanDuel app in New Jersey, and at locations in West Virginia, Delaware, and Mississippi, with more states coming on soon. And fans LOVE it.

“But if Amendment 3 passes, the Legislature will no longer have the power to authorize sports betting in Florida. Our opponents will also use Amendment 3 to make it more difficult to protect your right to play fantasy sports.

“Preserve the opportunity to have legal, engaging, and exciting sports betting in Florida. Please vote NO on Amendment 3.”

The amendment, backed by Disney and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, aims at limiting gambling’s expansion in the state. The amendment would “ensure that Florida voters shall have the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling,” the ballot summary says.

But it “does not prohibit sports gambling,” said John Sowinski, chairman of Voters in Charge, the political committee behind the initiative.

“What it does do is gives the final say on this and other casino gambling decisions to Florida voters,” he added. “Likewise, it does not affect traditional fantasy sports pools.” The amendment has largely been polling above the required 60 percent needed to be added to the state constitution.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a challenge brought by the State of New Jersey, opened the doors to sports betting in a decision against the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), finding it unconstitutionally “dictate(d) the extent to which the states must maintain prohibitions on sports wagering.”

Florida has struggled with fantasy sports in recent Legislative Sessions, letting die measures that would have explicitly legalized online fantasy play.

Lawmakers also moved omnibus gambling bills just this year without addressing sports betting, citing fears that allowing wagers on sports would violate the Seminole Compact, the Seminole Tribe’s gambling contract with the state.

‘No, dog. No!’ State rejects request for greyhound kennel tours

The state’s top gambling regulator, using the greyhound industry’s own concern against it, has nixed an “emergency” request to allow tours of greyhound kennels at race tracks.

Robert Ehrhardt, director of the Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering, on Wednesday released a letter (reprinted below) that he sent to Florida Greyhound Association lobbyist and spokesman Jack Cory. Ehrhardt’s division oversees dog racing and other gambling.

At issue is a worry over environmental “contamination,” which trainers and owners themselves have long complained about, Ehrhardt explained.

He recited a litany of dog drug-testing cases in which trainers argued that 25 separate caffeine positives and 24 cocaine positives “were the result of contamination,” for example.

Bearing in mind that “trainers have testified that kennel areas are susceptible to contamination,” Ehrhardt said, “allowing more people into the backside (of race tracks) would contradict the directive that the Division has received from the industry and increase the chance of contaminating the racing animals.

“This a risk the Division, and until this petition, the greyhound industry, is unwilling to take.”

The National Greyhound Association had said it would offer tours of “three Florida greyhound tracks and their on-site kennels.” The free two-hour guided tours were “designed to promote transparency and educate the public about the care of greyhounds at the track, as well as stewardship of the breed,” according to a press release.

A proposed constitutional amendment known as Amendment 13 aims at ending live greyhound racing at the 11 tracks in Florida where it’s still offered. Such constitutional changes need at least 60 percent approval from voters this November to be adopted.

Derby Lane in St. Petersburg and the Palm Beach Kennel Club in West Palm Beach, had been selected to be the first two tracks to open their doors.

Ehrhardt’s division is part of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). A spokeswoman there, Suellen Wilkins, had explained that “certain areas of pari-mutuel facilities are restricted access,” specifically “the backside where racing animals are kept.”

Cory then asked for a temporary change to state regulations to allow visitors with passes to see kennels “under direct supervision at all times.” Seeing is believing, he added, so “voters can decide whether or not the state needs this change to the constitution.”

But the Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign, which is promoting passage of Amendment 13, called the planned tours “staged political photo opportunities.” The campaign said the tour registration form included “screening questions to weed out animal advocates,” and that waiver language “gave the (greyhound association) the right to use the likeness of participants in political ads.”

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Main photo: courtesy Van Abernethy.

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Judge’s ruling eviscerates state’s greyhound drug-testing system

An administrative law judge on Monday largely gutted the state’s proposed rule governing the drug testing of racing greyhounds.

In a 44-page “final order,” Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early struck down specific provisions of the state regulation on how greyhounds are chosen for testing on race days, and how samples are stored and at what temperature. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks.

Early also criticized the lack of a ‘chain of custody‘ standard: The rule “provides no procedure for handling, storing, or shipping (urine specimens), and no chain of custody procedure, other than delivery to the (state’s) contract laboratory,” he wrote.

“The lack of any procedures … constitutes a failure to establish adequate standards for agency decisions, and vests unbridled discretion in the agency,” he added.

For instance, the state requires using “evidence tape” to seal samples and to store them in “lockable freezers” until they’re sent off for testing. But Early said the rule was “irrational” because it doesn’t actually require the freezers to be locked.

It’s now up to state gambling regulators whether the struck-down components are “integral enough to the testing program that any specimen collected under the rule would need to be dismissed,” said one industry lawyer, who asked not to be named.

A request for comment to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), which regulates dog racing and other gambling through its Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, is pending.

The challenge to the rule was filed by the Palm Beach Greyhound Kennel Association, which does business as Palm Beach Kennel Club.

The track — which offers greyhound racing, poker and table games — is represented by the Slusher & Rosenblum law firm in West Palm Beach. Attorneys there did not respond to a message by the close of business on Monday.

Jack Cory, spokesman and lobbyist for the Florida Greyhound Association, which represents the state’s owners and breeders, said the group’s members have a “zero tolerance for the use of any improper drugs.”

“According to the University of Florida Testing Lab, over 440,000 greyhounds tested negative for any drugs over the last 10 years,” he said in a statement. “Live greyhound racing is the cleanest sport in America — human or animal … This should be a wake up call for DBPR to sit down with the industry and come up with reasonable and enforceable rules.”

Gambling regulators last month renewed the emergency rule that allows them to continue testing racing greyhounds for drugs, including cocaine. Another administrative law judge also struck down the state’s prior testing regimen, saying it was invalid.

Lawrence P. Stevenson had barred the state from relying on a 2010 testing manual because it wasn’t properly adopted, though as one of the division’s lawyers said, “There aren’t that many ways to do urine collection.”

A cocaine-in-dogs controversy came to light in Jacksonville in the summer of 2017. That in part spurred a constitutional amendment for the 2018 ballot to ban betting on greyhound racing in the state.

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign, which advocates for passage of Amendment 13, said it’s “the second time in a year that the greyhound drug program has come under assault by lawyers for the greyhound industry.

“This ruling throws two pending greyhound cocaine cases into doubt. Two greyhound trainers are currently facing administrative charges after dogs in their control tested positive for cocaine earlier this year at Daytona Beach Kennel Club,” the statement said. “And Florida greyhounds have tested positive for cocaine 73 times since 2007.”

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Main photo: Van Abernethy.

Dorothy Hukill says cancer has returned, entering hospice

State Sen. Dorothy Hukill on Friday announced on Facebook that she “recently experienced an aggressive recurrence” of cancer and has decided to enter hospice.

“I received treatment for cancer in 2016,” the Port Orange Republican wrote. “Thanks to the well wishes and prayers from so many of you, and the excellent care from my medical team, the cancer went into remission. Returning to work serving my constituents over the past two years was one of the great joys of my life.

“Unfortunately, I have recently experienced an aggressive recurrence of this cancer. Along with my family, I have made the difficult decision to enter hospice care and no longer seek treatment for this disease. As a result, I will no longer be seeking re-election this November.”

Hukill, first elected to the Senate in 2012, was running against Democrat Melissa “Mel” Martin in Senate District 14. [Ed. Note — See bottom of post.] Hukill also served in the House 2004-12 and was mayor of Port Orange 2000-04.

“I have so enjoyed serving you and the people of Florida,” she said. “I have been honored by your friendship and the trust you have placed in me, from my very first term serving on the Ponce Inlet Town Council to the past six years in the Florida Senate.

“To all of my friends, supporters, constituents, colleagues, and my dedicated staff who have all done so much on behalf of the people we’ve served: thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

In November 2016, Hukill disclosed that she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. She missed the 2017 Legislative Session while she was undergoing treatment.

Last March, Hukill told Senate President Joe Negron that she was on the mend and she returned to Tallahassee this past Session. The attorney, chair of the Senate’s Education Committee, has long been interested in education, legal and technology issues. She is a former public elementary school teacher.

She sponsored a measure that became law in 2014 prohibiting Florida public schools from collecting or using student “biometric data” — fingerprints, handprints, and retinal scans — as part of an education data privacy measure.

“I am deeply saddened by the news today from Senator Hukill’s family on her declining health,” Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, said in a statement.

“Dorothy is a longtime dear friend and my heart breaks at this news,” he added. “I know my friend to be a fighter and she has battled this terrible disease with everything she has. Julie and I send our prayers to Dorothy and her family at his time.”

Outgoing President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, added: “Senator Hukill is a tireless, passionate and selfless advocate for her constituents. Even in her times of greatest medical challenge, she has remained steadfast in representing her community. On behalf of the Senate, I offer our thoughts and prayers to her and her family in this difficult time.”

Gov. Rick Scott was among the hundreds of well-wishers who expressed concern for Hukill on Twitter.

Scott and his wife, Ann, were “saddened” to hear the news about Hukill, the governor tweeted.

“I am grateful for her steadfast commitment to Florida & have been glad to work with her in Tallahassee. We are praying for comfort and peace for Dorothy & her family,” he went on.

Sen. Rob Bradley, a Republican from Fleming Island, called Hukill “a dear friend and cherished colleague.”

And Susanne Raines, president of the Democratic Club of Northeast Volusia County, issued a statement praising Hukill for setting “a good example by her community service” and calling her “a well-loved public servant.”

In her re-election campaign, Hukill had a sizeable financial advantage over Democratic challenger, Martin, a former judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps. The Republican-leaning Senate District 14 includes covers southern Volusia and northern Brevard counties.

As far as the election, Sarah Revell, director of communications for the Florida Department of State, explained that if the state receives a letter of withdrawal, “it would create a vacancy in nomination which triggers a process outlined in state law.

“The Republican Party would have the opportunity to designate a nominee to fill the vacancy,” she said. “Since it is too late to change the ballots, a notice would be provided to voters at the polls, and enclosed with any future vote-by-mail ballots, indicating that a vote for the former party nominee will be counted for the person designated by the political party to replace the former party nominee.”

This is the same process being followed in Congressional District 17, she added. Democratic U.S. House candidate April Freeman died unexpectedly Sunday night.

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Updated 6:45 p.m. — Martin, Hukill’s Democratic opponent, released this ‘open letter’ on Friday:

Dear Dorothy,

While we have only had the opportunity to meet in person a few times, please know you have always had my respect and admiration. The news today sent shockwaves of sadness; a surreal moment where the reality of our fragile humanity stomps the notion of party politics into the dirt.

You have given so much of yourself serving Ponce Inlet, Port Orange and the state of Florida, and we are incredibly grateful for your decades of service.  

I’m not sure what comfort I can provide you or your loved ones in this time of sadness and reflection, but please accept my most sincere condolences and gratitude for your contributions to our community.

Now is not the time to reflect on politics, and I will not spend any time doing so.  At this moment, we reflect on your lifetime of service to those in need and the people you so ably represented.

Today, we are all kin.  We all share in this heartbreak and we all send our warmest thoughts and earnest prayers.  We lift you up in true respect and esteem, and I would love the honor to sponsor a bill on Day 1 to assure your name continues to be known and loved in perpetuity.

With deep regard,

Melissa Martin

Some material from the News Service of Florida is used in this post, with permission.

Garrett Richter, Willie Meggs named to Ethics Commission

Former state Sen. Garrett Richter and retired State Attorney Willie Meggs were named to the state’s Commission on Ethics, the Governor’s Office announced Thursday night.

Richter, 68, is President and Chief Executive Officer of First Florida Integrity Bank.

The Naples Republican served two terms in the state Senate, 2008-16, rising to President pro tempore under then-Senate Presidents Don Gaetz and Andy Gardiner. He served in the House from 2006 to 2008.

Richter

In the Senate, Richter also chaired the Banking and Insurance, Ethics and Elections, and Gaming committees.

He served in the U.S. Army and Air Force Reserve and was awarded a Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry, a news release said.

Richter fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Sept. 27 and ending June 30, 2020.

Meggs, 75, is the former elected top prosecutor for the state’s 2nd Judicial Circuit, which includes Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty and Wakulla counties in North Florida.

Meggs

One of his last cases involved the sexual assault allegation against then-Florida State football quarterback Jameis Winston.

First elected in 1985, the Tallahassee Democrat decided not to seek re-election in 2016. He also was a sheriff’s deputy, Tallahassee police officer, and served as president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association.

He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning Sept. 27 and ending June 30, 2019.

Both appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.

Target, Walmart file rule challenge for ‘whiskey and Wheaties’

Target and Walmart are heading to court to get an administrative law judge to give them what Gov. Rick Scott wouldn’t: The ability to sell whiskey and Wheaties in the same store. 

The big-box retailers late Monday filed an administrative challenge against the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages And Tobacco (ABT).

At issue: The state’s obscure, 24-year-old “Restaurant Rule,” which restricts eateries and other businesses that have ‘consumption on premises’ liquor licenses from selling anything other than items “customarily sold in a restaurant.” The plaintiffs say the rule is “not supported by logic or necessary facts.”

For over eight decades, Florida law — enacted after Prohibition — has required retailers to sell hard liquor in a separate store, though beer and wine can be sold in grocery aisles.

The current end game is that retailers selling ready-to-eat food, such as Costco, would be able to use consumption on premises licenses normally granted to restaurants to avoid the prohibition on selling booze in the same space as other goods.

(Costco isn’t involved in the current case, but has also been fighting the battle. One of its Florida stores was denied a consumption on premises license earlier this year.)

Bills have been filed since 2014 to remove the wall of separation between hard liquor and other items. Last year, legislation barely passed both chambers only to get vetoed by Scott, who said it’d be a job killer for small businesses, many of whom would likely be overwhelmed by big-box stores’ superior selling power.

Attorneys for the GrayRobinson law firm, which has represented Costco in Florida, filed the petition challenging the Restaurant Rule on behalf of Target and Walmart, each of which “operate(s) numerous locations in the state of Florida that are licensed as restaurants.”

“In effect, the Rule forecloses (them) from obtaining a consumption on premises license,” the petition says.

ABT’s rule defines items “customarily sold in a restaurant” as only “ready to eat appetizer items, ready to eat salad items, ready to eat entrée items, ready to eat vegetable items, ready to eat fruit items (and) hot or cold beverages.” State law, however, is silent.

In any case, the state “has granted hundreds, if not thousands, of applications for consumption on premises licenses for entities that sell items beyond those identified in the Rule,” the petition says.

“Applications that have been approved include ones for golf country clubs, hotels, casinos, movie theatres, retail stores, sports complexes, bowling alleys, and senior living complexes, among others, all of which, in addition to ready to eat foods and beverages and lottery tickets, sell merchandise like golf clubs, clothing, toiletries, jewelry, fashion accessories, movie tickets, cosmetic products and other items similar to those sold by petitioners.”

Also joining the challenge is the TopGolf “golf entertainment” chain, which has five locations in Florida.

State regulators have “also recently informed TopGolf that its Florida locations, which are licensed for consumption on premises, are prohibited from selling items other than those identified in the Rule, despite the fact that TopGolf has been selling such items since opening each location in Florida,” the petition says.

ABT “was fully aware of such sales at the time it issued the licenses to TopGolf. Yet, the Division has now decided to selectively enforce the Rule against TopGolf and other similar restaurant retailers.”

The case has not yet been assigned to a judge at the Division of Administrative Hearings.

An attorney representing Publix, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, and the Florida Independent Spirits Association, all of which oppose tearing down the wall, warned regulators at a rule-making workshop earlier this year. 

“The purpose of rule-making is to interpret statutes, not to get around laws that a party does not like,” said William Hall of the Jones Walker firm. “The (state) should reject this attempt to use rule-making to usurp the legislative process.”

Medical regulators propose penalties for not checking drug database

Doctors and physician assistants could start facing fines and license revocations for not checking a state prescription drug database before they write a script.

The state’s Board of Medicine last week also announced a related rule “to change penalties for prescribing medicinal drugs or controlled substances (that) demonstrates a lack of reasonable skill or safety to patients.”

Florida recently passed a new law addressed at attacking the ongoing opioid crisis by thwarting “doctor shopping,” or patients seeking prescriptions for addictive drugs from multiple physicians.

And a National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) working paper out this month noted that prescription drug monitoring programs that require their use “have been found to be effective in reducing opioid misuse and other related health outcomes.”

The state’s proposed rule says “failure to consult the Prescription Drug Monitoring System” could result in punishment “from a letter of concern to a reprimand and an administrative fine of $1,000 to $2,500” for a licensed physician.

For continued offenses, they face “from a reprimand to revocation (of their licenses) and an administrative fine of $2,500 to $10,000,” it says.

And those who demonstrate “a lack of reasonable skill or safety to patients” in prescribing medicine, according to the board’s determination, could face up to a $10,000 administrative fine and revocation of their licenses, another proposed rule says.

In Florida, physician assistants can prescribe certain drugs if they’ve been delegated that responsibility by a supervising physician.

For them, failure to check the Prescription Drug Monitoring System would be a $100 fine for a first offense, $150 for a second, and $200 for a third-time citation, the proposal says.

A new law limits opioid prescriptions for acute pain to a three-day supply, and, when deemed medically necessary, a seven-day supply. Certain patients, such as those suffering cancer and other forms of chronic pain or those in hospice, are not affected by the new prescription limits.

If a doctor or physician assistant asks for a hearing on the proposed regulations in the next three weeks, one will be set, the board said.

State officials last week said more than 92,000 health-care providers had registered to use the database, which tracks patients who are prescribed controlled substances. The August total is more than double the number of providers who were registered to use the system the previous year.

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Tallahassee correspondent Danny McAuliffe contributed to this post. Background provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission.

State asks court to reverse medical marijuana ‘home grow’ ruling

Saying a lower-court judge “misconstrued the plain language of Florida’s Medical Marijuana Amendment,” the state is asking an appellate court to reverse her ruling allowing Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner to grow and make juice of his own medical marijuana.

Outside counsel for the Department of Health filed an initial brief Thursday in its appeal at the 1st District Court of Appeal. The agency regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers in April decided that Redner — a 77-year-old lung cancer survivor — has the right to ‘home grow’ under 2016’s constitutional amendment on medical marijuana. His doctor says juiced marijuana is the best way to keep his cancer in remission.

Luke Lirot, Redner’s attorney, has said the state erroneously argues that the amendment doesn’t mean what it says: That qualified marijuana patients can grow their own.

But the state’s brief says the amendment “defines ‘medical use’ as ‘the acquisition, possession, use, delivery, transfer, or administration of an amount of marijuana not in conflict with Department rules, or of related supplies by a qualifying patient or caregiver for use by the caregiver’s designated qualifying patient for the treatment of a debilitating medical condition.’

“The definition of ‘medical use’ does not include the right to cultivate (or grow) marijuana, even for personal use.”

Rather, only licensed providers known as ‘medical marijuana treatment centers’ (MMTCs) are “authorized to cultivate marijuana, (and therefore) any medical use of marijuana that is not cultivated by an MMTC would not be ‘in compliance’ with the amendment,” the brief says.

Redner, the owner of the Mons Venus nightclub, is a vegan. Gievers’ order limits him to no more than eight ounces or raw marijuana daily, based on his doctors’ recommendations. It applies only to Redner and allows him to “possess, grow and use marijuana” only for juicing.

A Health Department spokesman previously said the agency “fully expects Judge Gievers’ ruling to be reversed on appeal.” It’s represented by Jason GonzalezRachel Nordby and Amber Stoner of the Shutts & Bowen law firm’s Tallahassee office. 

Nordby recently joined the firm after being a deputy solicitor general for Attorney General Pam Bondi. She was on the team of state lawyers that lost a case, organized by Orlando attorney John Morgan, against the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana. That decision also is under appeal.

Regulators renew emergency rule on race-dog drug testing

Gambling regulators on Tuesday again said they were “renewing” an emergency rule that allows them to continue testing racing greyhounds for drugs, including cocaine.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, posted a “notice of renewal” in Tuesday’s Florida Administrative Register.

The emergency rule on “Procedures for Collecting Samples from Racing Greyhounds” was adopted late last December. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks.

An administrative law judge struck down the testing program, saying it was invalid. Tuesday’s notice said a rule challenge was still pending in the Division of Administrative Hearings.

The docket shows that case is “awaiting (an) order” from Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early.

Another judge, Lawrence P. Stevenson, had barred the state from relying on a 2010 testing manual because it wasn’t properly adopted, though as one of the division’s lawyers said, “There aren’t that many ways to do urine collection.”

The emergency rule includes using “evidence tape” to seal samples and storing them in “lockable freezers” until they’re sent off for testing.

A cocaine-in-dogs controversy came to light in Jacksonville in the summer of 2017. That in part spurred a constitutional amendment for the 2018 ballot to ban betting on greyhound racing in the state.

Attorney Jeff Kottkamp, who represents the Florida Greyhound Association, has previously said it has “a zero-tolerance policy for anyone that would give a racing greyhound any illegal substance.” The organization advocates for the state’s race-dog owners and breeders.

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13, which advocates for passage of Amendment 13, called the renewal “good news” but called out “a continuing problem.”

“Greyhound breeders have thrown the entire regulatory scheme into chaos by repeatedly challenging the state drug testing program in court,” the campaign said in a statement. “This is is an intentional strategy to prevent greyhound trainers from being held responsible for greyhound cocaine positives.

“The regulatory structure is broken, and it’s time for voters to act by voting Yes on 13.”

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Senior Editor Jim Rosica contributed to this post. Main photo: Van Abernethy.

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