Jim Rosica – Page 3 – 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.

Gambling lobbyist to No Casinos head: You’re a ‘bully’

Gambling lobbyist Marc Dunbar is telling anti-gambling activist John Sowinski to lay his cards on the table.

In an open letter released Thursday, Dunbar says Sowinski – president of No Casinos – has “declared war on (the gambling) industry, and in turn our economy, with a proposed constitutional amendment which you now have finally and publicly disclosed is intended to ban retroactively many forms of legal gambling in the state.”

Sowinski also chairs Voters In Charge, the political committee behind the proposed “Voter Control of Gambling” constitutional amendment, also known as “Amendment 3,” on the November ballot.   

The idea behind the amendment is to give statewide voters sole authority to approve future expansions of gambling in the state.

But Sowinski earlier this week sent his own letter to lawmakers that “revenue estimators, the Florida Supreme Court and even the gambling industry’s own legal experts agree that the voter approval requirements of Amendment 3 could be applied to any expansion you might now approve.” Legislative leadership had been considering a Special Session on gambling.

“In other words, you must assume that legislation to expand gambling now may be overturned in November with voter approval of Amendment 3,” Sowinski wrote.

Dunbar, in turn, said “this quest to retroactively outlaw legal operations could eliminate large segments of an industry that has contributed billions of dollars to Florida’s economy.”

“Your lack of candor with state economists, lawmakers and even the Florida Supreme Court regarding the true motives behind your proposal (raises) the question whether you similarly respect the rights of Floridians to make an informed decision regarding your proposed Amendment and gambling within their communities,” Dunbar added. 

It is clearly time to meet in the public square and have a candid and truthful dialogue about Amendment 3 and your group’s desired impacts. I am hopeful that this dialogue will allow voters across Florida to make an informed decision on Amendment 3 when they go to the polls in November.”

The Voters In Charge Twitter account later Thursday posted in response, “Nice try, Marc Dunbar. Your letter makes the same misguided arguments you made in front of the Florida Supreme Court. They didn’t work then. They won’t work now.”

And the No Casinos account tweeted, “BREAKING: Gambling lobbyist/pari-mutuel owner doesn’t like Amendment 3 (@VotersInCharge) which puts Florida voters in control of casino gambling decisions (not Mr. Dunbar) #shocker”

Dunbar’s full letter and the tweets are below.

Constitutional review panel’s ‘style’ committee wraps up work

Barring any last minute turbulence, get ready for a long ballot in November.

The Constitution Revision Commission’s Style and Drafting Committee on Thursday OK’d 12 proposed amendments to the state’s governing document. (A meeting packet for Thursday is here.)

They would be in addition to five amendments, either from the Legislature or citizen initiatives, already set for the November statewide ballot.

The committee’s work now goes to the full CRC for consideration. It’s slated to meet again starting April 16.

Each amendment must receive a minimum of 22 votes from the 37-member panel. From there, approved amendments go directly to voters. CRC members can also try to further amend proposals on the floor, but that also requires 22 votes.  

Amendments the commission will review include a crime victims’ bill of rights, an ethics package that would extend the state’s lobbying ban on former elected officials from two to six years, and bans on indoor ‘vaping,’ offshore drilling, and greyhound racing.

Ballot titles can be no longer than 15 words, and summaries can’t go past 75 words. Courts have held both must not mislead voters.

The five amendments already slated for November include proposals to expand the homestead-exemption property tax break and limit property tax assessments, restore voting rights to former felons, give voters final authority in deciding whether to expand casino-style gambling, and require a supermajority vote of lawmakers to raise state taxes and fees.

The commission must finish its work by May 10 and turn in a report to Secretary of State Ken DetznerThe panel is formed every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state constitution. 

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Background provided by The News Service of Florida. 

No Casinos: With Tribe’s decision, no need for Special Session on gambling

The head of an anti-casino gambling organization has again written to top lawmakers, saying the Seminole Tribe of Florida‘s commitment to keep paying gambling revenue share should shut down further talks on a Special Session.

“Doesn’t today’s commitment by the Seminole Tribe to continue making compact payments resolve the potential revenue loss concern that legislative leaders said was the basis for holding a special session?” No Casinos’ president John Sowinski asked in a Wednesday letter.

The Tribe’s lawyer told Florida Politics earlier Wednesday his client would continue paying the state its share of Indian casino gambling revenue each month. It paid a little more than $290 million last fiscal year.

“There is no plan to stop the payments,” attorney Barry Richard said. “The Seminoles are perfectly happy with the relationship they have with the state … They don’t want to take advantage of the state economically any more than they want the state to take advantage of them.”

Legislative leaders, who failed to agree on comprehensive gambling legislation this past Regular Session, have been considering a Special Session after House Speaker Richard Corcoran last week raised concerns over the potential loss of revenue share from the Tribe.

A previous story Wednesday is here. The letter and a fact sheet Sowinski sent to legislative leaders is below.

Rick Scott, Cabinet appeal voting rights ruling

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will appeal a federal judge’s order to devise a new process for restoring voting rights to felons.

The Governor’s Office announced the move Wednesday morning. The appeal will be filed with the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

“People elected by Floridians should determine Florida’s clemency rules for convicted criminals, not federal judges,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said in a statement. “This process has been in place for decades and is outlined in the both the U.S. and Florida constitutions.”

But a citizen initiative resulted in a proposed constitutional amendment getting on the November statewide ballot that would automatically restore the voting rights of certain nonviolent offenders. Now, former prisoners have to wait at least five years before they can vote.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker first decided in February that “Florida’s vote-restoration scheme is crushingly restrictive,” calling it “arbitrary and discriminatory.”

In late March, he permanently blocked Florida’s “fatally flawed” process of restoring voting rights, giving Scott and the Cabinet, which is also the state’s Board of Executive Clemency, one month to come up with a new system of giving back the right to vote to ex-cons.

Florida is home to about 1.5 million citizens who have been stripped from their voting rights, and is one of a few states that disenfranchises convicted felons who have served their sentences.

Solicitor General Amit Agarwal also moved for a stay of the case while the appeal is pending, mentioning a “substantial likelihood” of the state’s success.

“Plaintiffs in this case have not pleaded—much less proven with ‘clear evidence’—that the duly-elected constitutional officers serving on the Board discriminated against them,” he wrote.

“Since adopting the current Rules of Executive Clemency on March 9, 2011, the Clemency Board has ruled on more than 4,200 applications for the restoration of civil rights,” another filing says.

Walker had said the “burdensome” state system felons go through to regain their voting rights relied on a “panel of high-level government officials over which Florida’s governor has absolute veto authority.” He added that “no standards guide the panel.”

“The governor will always stand with victims of crime,” Tupps said Wednesday. “He believes that people who have been convicted of crimes like murder, violence against children and domestic violence, should demonstrate that they can live a life free of crime while being accountable to our communities.”

Board of Executive Clemency member Adam Putnam, the state’s agriculture commissioner, issued his own statement on the appeal later Wednesday.

“For the federal judge to interfere at this stage and say that this process, which has been in place since 1968, is now unconstitutional is extreme,” he said. “We are always looking for ways to improve it, but, as a member of the Clemency Board, my top priority is to make sure the victims have a chance to be heard.”

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Background for this post from The News Service of Florida. 

All in: Seminole Tribe says it will keep paying state

Despite a legal right to cut off the money, the Seminole Tribe of Florida has decided to continue paying the state its share of Indian casino gambling revenue each month.

The Tribe “confirmed” its decision Tuesday night, according to its outside counsel, Barry Richard of the Greenberg Traurig firm, who participated in a conference call. The Tribe pays $19.5 million monthly, with a balloon—or “true-up”—payment at the end of the fiscal year.

“There is no plan to stop the payments,” Richard said Wednesday morning. “The Seminoles are perfectly happy with the relationship they have with the state … They don’t want to take advantage of the state economically any more than they want the state to take advantage of them.

“It has never been in their mindset to stop or reduce payments just because they have a legal right to,” he said. “Now, they would have liked the Legislature to have corrected some of the problems that exist … but they will wait and see what happens.”

Legislative leaders, who failed to agree on comprehensive gambling legislation this past Regular Session, have been considering a Special Session after House Speaker Richard Corcoran raised an alarm over the potential loss of revenue share from the Tribe.

Moreover, a proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment on November’s ballot would give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida. If that’s approved by no less than 60 percent, it could shut out lawmakers from having any sway over gambling.

“The Seminoles’ potential to completely walk away … jeopardizes the stability of the state budget,” Corcoran said in a statement last week. “We would be forced to cut between $390 and $441 million in General Revenue, or we would have to allow our reserves to be drained, which could jeopardize our state bond rating.”

The Tribe paid a little more than $290 million last fiscal year into state coffers as part of a 2010 agreement that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack. (Exclusivity essentially means freedom from competition.)

Though the Tribe and the state settled a lawsuit over blackjack, allowing them to offer the game till 2030, the Tribe’s continued payments to the state are contingent on state gambling regulators promising “aggressive enforcement” against games that threaten their exclusivity.

The sides had been in a “forbearance period” that ended March 31, after which the Tribe was entitled to stop paying.

“Look, the assumption that they’re going to stop paying the state just because they can is based upon a belief that all they care about is taking advantage of the state,” Richard said. “That has never been their attitude. They have an interest in the health of the state’s economy; it affects them. They don’t want to do anything precipitously.”

Requests for comment have been sent to Corcoran and Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican and his chamber’s point man on gambling.

“They could have stopped paying as soon as they won the federal case, and the fact is, they are not now planning to do that,” Richard said.

In 2016, a federal judge ruled the Seminoles could continue to offer blackjack and other “banked card games” at its Hard Rock casinos, despite the expiration of a 5-year blackjack provision in the overarching gambling deal, or “compact,” with the state.

Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said the state had broken the blackjack exclusivity promise, allowing it to keep its blackjack tables until 2030, the end of the larger compact. That was, in part, because state gambling regulators had OK’d certain kinds of  “designated-player games,” similar to poker, that played too much like—if not identically to—blackjack.

The Tribe still is going after games it believes violate its exclusivity, including civil lawsuits against slot-machine style pre-reveal games and “electronic gambling parlors” in the Jacksonville area.

Efforts to pass omnibus gambling legislation failed during this year’s Regular Session. That included an all-new deal with the Seminoles guaranteeing $3 billion from them over seven years for continued exclusivity. Only the Tribe offers blackjack in Florida, and slot machines outside South Florida.

Seminole Tribe’s lawyer says same old gambling proposals ‘won’t fly’

Despite increasing calls for and against a Special Legislative Session on gambling, the Seminole Tribe‘s lawyer continues to back his client’s promise to keep paying millions to the state.

“They’re not just going to stop paying just because they have the right to,” said Barry Richard on Tuesday.

That said, if lawmakers come back with the same ideas as this past Regular Session, “that won’t fly,” Richard added.

POLITICO Florida reported Tuesday that top lawmakers were considering April 23 to begin a Special Session after House Speaker Richard Corcoran last week raised an alarm over the loss of revenue share from the Tribe.

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican and his chamber’s point man on gambling, later said in a text message that “no date has been set.”

“The Seminoles’ potential to completely walk away … jeopardizes the stability of the state budget,” Corcoran said in a statement. “We would be forced to cut between $390 and $441 million in General Revenue, or we would have to allow our reserves to be drained, which could jeopardize our state bond rating.”

And a proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment on November’s ballot looms. If that’s approved by no less than 60 percent, it would give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida.

The Tribe paid a little more than $290 million last fiscal year into state coffers as part of a 2010 agreement that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack.

Though the Tribe and the state settled a lawsuit over blackjack, allowing them to offer the game till 2030, the Tribe’s continued payments to the state are contingent on state gambling regulators promising “aggressive enforcement” against games that threaten their exclusivity.

The sides had been in a “forbearance period” that ended March 31, after which the Tribe is entitled to stop paying.

“They’ll look at what happens with pending litigation,” Richard said. “If any of that fails to resolve the problem, and the problem becomes significant enough, then they might look at something. And that might not mean a complete termination of payments.”

For the Tribe, the issue has always been about getting what they pay for.

The Seminoles sued over the state allowing a hybrid of poker and blackjack they contended played too much like blackjack, for which they’re supposed to have exclusive rights to offer in Florida.

They’ve also filed suit against 25 operators of what’s called “electronic gambling parlors” in the Jacksonville area, saying they violate the Tribe’s deal with the state to exclusively offer Vegas-style games.

And an appeal is pending over pre-reveal games, video consoles at bars that the Tribe says look, play, and pay out like slot machines, which the Seminoles have exclusive rights to offer outside South Florida.

As to a Special Session, “I don’t think they care one way or the other,” Richard said. “The only thing they care about is what proposal is brought to the table.”

An attempt to pass omnibus gambling legislation failed during this year’s Regular Session. As part of that, the underlying new deal with the Tribe would have guaranteed $3 billion into state coffers over seven years for continued exclusivity.

But the House and Senate came to impasse, among other things, over designated player games—the poker-blackjack hybrid that rakes in money for pari-mutuel cardrooms. The House has wanted to ban them; the Senate would allow them.

The Florida Greyhound Association; No Casinos, a anti-casino gambling group, and others still oppose a Special Session.

“If ever there was an issue that the Legislature has already spent too much time, energy, intellectual capacity and political capital, it is gambling,” No Casinos president John Sowinski wrote in a letter, released Monday, to Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

Mike Fernandez, others oppose Florida ‘E-Verify’ system

Billionaire GOP contributor Mike Fernandez and nearly 70 other business and political leaders are objecting to a proposed constitutional amendment to require employers to verify their workers’ immigration status and employment eligibility.

Fernandez, a health care entrepreneur who also chairs the Immigration Partnership and Coalition Fund (IMPAC Fund), sent a letter Tuesday to members of Florida Constitution Revision Commission in opposition to Proposal 29 (P29).

It would create “a new section in … the State Constitution to prohibit unauthorized aliens from working in the state and to require the Legislature, by a specified date, to establish an employment eligibility verification process.”

The idea is backed by Commissioner Rich Newsome, an attorney appointed by GOP House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The amendment would mandate a system similar to “E-Verify,” a federal “Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility.”

The proposal “would be devastating and costly to Floridian businesses and workers,” says the letter, signed by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez and Angel Ferrer, Managing Director of Citi Private Bank, among others. “Moreover, constitutionally requiring reliance on a yet to be created and untested process would open the door to discriminatory practices by employers that would harm vulnerable communities.”

The idea “is nothing more than an attempt to constitutionally mandate E-Verify by another name, and it suffers from all the same deficiencies,” the letter says. “Any newly created system would undoubtedly be subject to the same types of mismatches and errors that are all too common with E-Verify, and most government databases.”

The proposal is one of 24 now under review by the commission’s Style & Drafting Committee, which meets again this week in Tallahassee to continue work on ballot summaries and amendment groupings.

The full text of the letter and list of signatories, which includes former Clearwater GOP state Sen. Jack Latvala, follows:

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Dear Members of the Constitutional Revision Commission,

We, the undersigned business leaders of our state, stand in solidarity with the Immigration Partnership and Coalition (IMPAC) Fund in our opposition to Proposal 29.

Proposal 29 would place a requirement in the Florida Constitution that all Florida employers, under threat of significant penalties, use a substitute E-Verify process that has yet to be created to verify immigration status and employment eligibility of all employees.  Additionally, Proposal 29 would place in our state’s Constitution a requirement that all Florida businesses be subject to random audits, mandating penalties for employers found to be noncompliant.

We ask that you Vote No on Proposal 29.  The Proposal would be devastating and costly to Floridian businesses and workers.  Moreover, constitutionally requiring reliance on a yet to be created and untested process would open the door to discriminatory practices by employers that would harm vulnerable communities.

Proposal 29 is nothing more than an attempt to constitutionally mandate E-Verify by another name, and it suffers from all the same deficiencies.  Any newly created system would undoubtedly be subject to the same types of mismatches and errors that are all too common with E-Verify, and most government databases. According to a study by the conservative/libertarian think-tank Cato Institute, funded in no small part by David and Charles Koch, from 2006 to 2016, legal workers had roughly 580,000 jobs held up due to E-Verify errors, and of these, roughly 130,000 jobs were lost entirely due to E-Verify mistakes.

The cost to employers posed by Proposal 29 could be astronomical.  Paul Dimare, CEO of DiMare Distribution, known as “Mr. Tomato,” noted that imposing E-Verify (or a similar) system in Florida will cause a short-term labor shortage that will leave crops rotting and un-harvested. DiMare has said that, “E-verify will destroy our state’s economy.  It will shut agriculture down, the second largest industry in our state.”

​As Bob Dickinson, ​Retired CEO of Carnival Cruise Lines has said, “Proposal 29 is anti-jobs.  It would impose unacceptable burdens on Florida’s businesses and workers.  It is bad for our tourism industry and creates disincentives for businesses to be in our state.”

We ask that YOU VOTE NO on Proposal 29 because this provision is not only ineffective, it will hurt our workers and harm the Florida economy.

Signed,

Michael Fernandez, Chairman, MBF Healthcare Partners

Bob Dickinson, Retired CEO, Carnival Cruise Lines

Leonard Abess, Chairman, ThinkLAB Ventures

Cesar Alvarez, Senior Chairman, Greenberg Traurig

Marivel Andreu, Managing Director, Celedinas Insurance

Tony Argiz, President and CEO, Morrison, Brown, Argiz and Farra

Daisy Baez, Executive Director, Dominican Health Care Association of Florida

Steven Bandel, Retired Co-Chair and CEO, Cisneros Group of Companies

Jose Bared, Chairman, Farm Stores and Gardeners Supermarket

Rodney Barreto, Chairman, Barreto Group

Joseph Berardo Jr. CEO, Concordia Care, Inc.

Mark Blank, Director, Miami Children’s Hospital

Martin Burkett, Co-Chair, Mergers & Acquisitions and Private Equity Practice, Akerman LLP

Vicky Camero, Director, Program Management Medicaid Regulatory Services, Simply Healthcare Plans

Al R. Cardenas, Senior Partner, Squire Patton Boggs

Mario Cartaya, CEO, Cartaya and Associates, PA

Rudy Cecchi, President, Rudy Cecchi and Associates

Ambassador Paul L. Cejas, Chairman and CEO, PLC Investments

Ramon Cernuda, Owner, Cernuda Arte

Dr. Barbara R. Cowley, Medical Director, Simply Healthcare Plans

Antonio de la Guardia, Owner, TRESART

Mayi de la Vega, Founder and CEO, One Sotheby’s Realty

Manny Diaz, Senior Partner, Lydecker Diaz, Former Mayor of Miami

Edward W. Easton, Founder, Chairman and CEO, The Easton Group

Tomas Erban, Director, Central Baptist Hospital Foundation

Angel Ferrer, Managing Director, Citi Private Bank

Michael “Mike” B. Fernandez, Chairman, MBF Healthcare Partners

Victor Giorgini, President and CEO, Equiflor

Felice Gorordo, Global Director, StartUp Health

Nelson Guerra, Senior Accountant, MBF Healthcare Partners

Dr. Jerry Haar, Clinical Professor, Department of Management and International Business, Florida International University, College of Business

Tino Herran, CEO and President, Sedano’s

Heather Hitzemann

Al Hoffman Jr., Founder, Hoffman Partners

Teddy Klinghoffer, Partner, Akerman LLP

Bill Kunkler, Executive Vice President, CC Industries

Jack Latvala, Former Florida State Senator

Iliana Lavastidea Rodriguez, Managing Editor, Diario las Americas

David Lawrence Jr., Chair, The Children’s Movement

Thomas Liberti, Senior Consultant, Clear Health Alliance

Maria Lopez Alvarez, Vice-President and Co-Director, Univision

Modesto Maidique, Former President, Florida International University

Manuel D. Medina, Founder and Managing Partner, Medina Capital

Dr. Enrique Murciano, Anesthesiologist, South Miami Pain Center

Bob Ontiveros, Chairman and Founder, Group O

Alexander Penelas, Former Mayor of Miami-Dade County

Sergio Pino, President and Founder, Century Homebuilders Group, LLC

Nestor Plana, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Independent Living Systems

Earl W. Powell, Founding Partner, Chairman Emeritus, Trivest Partners

Jose R. Rodriguez, Partner In-Charge Audit Committee Institute, KPMG LLP

Ray Rodriguez, President, Dorlom Construction

Felix Sabates, Partner, Chip Ganassi Racing

Carlos Saladrigas, Co-Founder and CEO, Regis HR

Federico Sanchez, Senior Vice President – Wealth Advisor, UBS Financial Services

Guy Sansone, Managing Director, Alvarez and Marsal

Brian Siegal, Regional Director, Miami and Broward County, AJC

Sharon Socol, Author and Photographer

Eugene E. Stearns, Chairman, Stearns Weaver Miller Weissler Alhadeff & Sitterson

Ronald G. Stone, President, The Comprehensive Companies

Mayor Francis Suarez, City of Miami

Dr. Robert Thomas, Medical Direector, Coral Gables Executive Physicians

Dr. Marta Torroella-Kouri, Associate Professor, Cancer Researcher

University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Hector Tunidor Jr., Senior Global Client Service Partner, Ernst and Young

Darlene Williams, Equestrian Artist

Ed Williamson II, Chairman and CEO, Williamson Auto Group

No Casinos on Special Session for gambling: Don’t do it

The head of a group that opposes casino gambling in Florida is telling lawmakers to take a pass on a Special Session for unresolved gambling issues.

“If ever there was an issue that the Legislature has already spent too much time, energy, intellectual capacity and political capital, it is gambling,” No Casinos president John Sowinski wrote in a letter, released Monday, to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

“Whenever this issue comes up in Tallahassee, negotiations between the chambers seem to be more focused on coming up with a ‘deal’ that satisfies competing gambling interests than enacting solutions that are in the best interests of the people of Florida,” Sowinski added.

Legislative leadership late last week said it was considering a Special Session on gambling because of the end of a settlement agreement between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state.

“The Seminoles’ potential to completely walk away from the … agreement jeopardizes the stability of the state budget,” Corcoran said in a Thursday statement. “We would be forced to cut between $390 and $441 million in General Revenue, or we would have to allow our reserves to be drained, which could jeopardize our state bond rating.”

The Tribe paid a little more than $290 million last fiscal year into state coffers as part of a 2010 agreement that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack.

Though the Tribe and the state settled a lawsuit over blackjack, allowing them to offer the game till 2030, the Tribe’s continued payments to the state are contingent on state gambling regulators promising “aggressive enforcement” against games that threaten their exclusivity.

The sides are now in a “forbearance period” that ends March 31, after which point the Tribe is entitled to stop paying, though its lawyer has said he does not expect the Seminoles to stop paying.

“Some articles have indicated that the reason convening a Special Session is being considered is because there are concerns about a potential revenue loss if the Seminole Tribe does not keep making payments to the state … ,” Sowinski said.

“The urgency of this matter is curious, since no facts have changed since the end of session that would now make this such an enormous priority that it could merit a call for a Special Session of the Legislature.

“… Most observers see this as a fictional crisis manufactured by gambling lobbyists who want you to re-convene so they can try to make one more run at a major expansion of gambling before the November elections, when Florida voters will likely approve Amendment 3,” he added.

A proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment, also backed by Sowinski, will be on November’s ballot. If that’s approved by 60 percent or more, it will give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida.

The full letter is below:

Medical marijuana provider Trulieve sues state over store limits

Trulieve, a medical marijuana provider, on Monday filed a “constitutional challenge” against the state’s Department of Health over how many retail stores it can open, and where, under current law.

An attorney for the company, which is seeking “non-monetary declaratory or injunctive relief,” provided a copy of the complaint by George Hackney Inc., the Gadsden County nursery that does business as Trulieve.

The lawsuit follows a similar administrative action last year that sought to lock down its “dispensary rights.”

It wanted “to clarify that the allowed number and location of (medical marijuana) dispensaries (under Florida law) does not setoff or divest dispensary rights vested under its dispensing organization license,” that filing said.

Trulieve now is asking a court to declare its rights under law to open new stores. The case for now has been assigned to Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge John Cooper.

Its complaint, filed Monday in Leon Circuit Civil court, says its original application made clear “its plan to locate dispensaries throughout the state. Upon comparative review, DOH granted Trulieve’s application without any limitation on the number of dispensaries.”

State laws passed in 2014 and 2016 “imposed (no) limit on the number of dispensaries that dispensing organizations could establish … The right to compete statewide without restriction was an essential part of Trulieve’s business plan and a significant incentive to enter this novel business.”

The department “did not express any objection to this plan,” the complaint says, and the constitutional amendment on medical marijuana passed by voters in 2016 “does not limit the number of dispensaries for licensed suppliers.”

But an implementing bill, passed last year, sets a limit on dispensaries statewide and “further subdivides this statewide quota into five regional quotas based on population … This cap on dispensaries expires April 1, 2020.”

The sole purpose of this statutory cap on the number and location of dispensaries is to temporarily suppress competition among MMTCs,” or medical marijuana treatment centers.

The department “has indicated its intent to limit Trulieve to 25 total dispensaries, apportioned by region, under the 2017 statute. (This) will impair Trulieve’s vested rights as a dispensing organization, and diminish the value of Trulieve’s licensed business,” the complaint says.

The department does not comment on pending litigation, but Christian Bax, head of the department’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, has told lawmakers that a litany of lawsuits continues to jam up Florida’s medical marijuana licensure process.

His office’s latest weekly email newsletter, which comes out every Friday, showed at least eight pending lawsuits, not counting administrative actions.

Medical marijuana implementation “continues to be frequently litigated,” the newsletter says.

“While some of these lawsuits have little impact on our progress, others – particularly those regarding the constitutionality of the law we are tasked with executing – have significant impact on DOH’s ability to implement certain requirements” under law.

Updated Tuesday — Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said in a statement: “This lawsuit is first and foremost about patient access. The current arbitrary caps are not just an after-the-fact restriction that was added after we were awarded a license, but they limit our ability to provide safe medical marijuana efficiently to our customers throughout Florida.

“The restrictions force us to use extremely expensive long-distance delivery and build dispensaries on a model based on geographic distribution, not where patients live. This not only restricts access to patients in need, but forces higher prices. We believe these arbitrary and highly restrictive caps violate Florida’s constitutional guarantee of safe medical cannabis to patients in need.”

Updated Monday, April 9 — Circuit Judge John Cooper has recused himself from the case, but did not give an explanation. Chief Judge Jonathan Sjostrom had not yet reassigned the suit as of Monday afternoon.

Rick Scott signs 18 bills, including booze delivery; vetoes one

Let the good times roll — to your door.

A bill (HB 667) that would expressly allow Floridians to use a smartphone app to order alcoholic beverages for home delivery was one of 18 signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on Friday.

Services with apps, such as Drizly and Shipt, already deliver in the state. But “current law does not address orders received via the Internet or other electronic forms of communication,” a staff analysis says.

It was supported by retail and restaurant groups, and by Uber and Target.

Another bill Scott approved directly benefits him: SB 186 reinstates a resign-to-run law that requires candidates seeking federal office to give up their state or local elected office in order to run for Congress.

That bill, however, does not apply to those departing office because of term limits.

That means Scott won’t have to step down early in April when he’s expected to announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson.

“There are no carve outs,” the bill’s Senate sponsor, St. Augustine Republican Travis Hutson, tweeted Friday. “From day one, I said if you want to run and think you should keep your seat if you lose, it is unacceptable. Termed out means gone, therefore no need to resign.”

Scott also vetoed one measure (HB 1113) that would have allowed the Palm Beach County Housing Authority to add two additional members.

In a veto letter, he said changes “to the established appointment process for county housing authorities should be uniform … to ensure consistency statewide.”

The list of bills OK’d Friday, as provided by the Governor’s Office, is below:

SB 1392 Criminal Justice – This bill increases transparency in the criminal justice system, authorizes the adult civil citation program, and revises the juvenile civil citation program.
SB 186 The Resign-to-Run Law – This bill makes changes to the law on running for public office for current office holders.
HB 165 Written Threats to Conduct Mass Shootings or Acts of Terrorism – This bill prohibits a person from making, posting, or transmitting a threat to conduct a mass shooting or an act of terrorism in a way that allows another person to view the threat.
HB 185 Redirection of Fees to Tax Collectors – This bill allows Florida tax collectors to retain the processing fees for administering driver license knowledge and skills tests and processing reinstatements of suspended or revoked driver licenses.
HB 215 Motor Vehicles – This bill provides terms of use for autocycles and mobile carriers and prohibits local governments from preventing motor vehicle access to limited transportation points of entry or exit from state universities.
HB 465 Insurance – This bill makes several changes to the insurance statutes, including insurance adjuster license examinations and the documents an insurer can submit for the Own-Risk Assessment compliance.
HB 565 Excess Credit Hour Surcharges – This bill creates a refund for state university students with excess credits who graduate within four years.
HB 667 Beverage Law – This bill allows alcoholic beverage vendors to make deliveries based on electronic orders, such as smartphone applications, and authorizes third-party deliveries.
HB 731 Home Education – This bill provides greater flexibility to families administering home education programs.
HB 961 Beverage Law – This bill provides guidelines for a licensed malt beverage vendor to accept glassware from a distributor.
HB 1091 Early Learning – This bill establishes a statewide program accountability system for School Readiness providers.
HB 1211 Airboat Regulation – This bill requires airboat operators to meet safety requirements to give rides to passengers for-hire.
HB 1265 Alcoholic Beverages – This bill removes the size restrictions on bottles of liquor sold or purchased on intrastate passenger trains.
HB 1285 Florida Business Entities – This bill allows state banks and trust companies to form as social purpose corporations or benefit corporations and renames the Institute for Commercialization of Public Research to the Institute for Commercialization of Florida Technology.
HB 6003 Participant Local Government Advisory Council – This bill abolishes the Participant Local Government Advisory Council, created in 2008 to review the administration of the Local Government Surplus Trust Fund.
HB 6009 Write-in Candidates – This bill repeals current law requiring a write-in candidate to reside within the district represented by the office sought at the time of ballot qualification, which was found unconstitutional by the Florida Supreme Court.
HB 6049 Medical Marijuana Growers – This bill repeals the requirement that a Recognized Class Member License applicant for a Medical Marijuana Treatment Center be a member of the Florida Black Farmers Agriculturalist Association.
HB 6059 Department of Corrections’ Direct-Support Organization – This bill continues the direct support organization within the Department of Corrections.

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