Jim Rosica, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 175

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.

Chris Nocco files constitutional proposal for crime victim rights

Pasco County Sheriff and Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) member Chris Nocco on Wednesday filed his proposed constitutional amendment to give equal rights to crime victims.

The amendment, if placed on the 2018 statewide ballot and passed by 60 percent of voters, would create a Marsy’s Law for Florida, to “bring assurance that victims of crime and their families are provided with enforceable constitutional protections, the same level that is afforded to those accused and convicted – nothing more and nothing less,” Nocco said in a statement.

If approved, victims and their families would be informed of their rights and services available, and would be notified of major developments in a criminal case and of changes to an offender’s custodial status, such as being released on bail.

It would allow victims and their families the right to be present — and heard — at court proceedings, providing feedback to the prosecutor before finalizing a plea agreement and establishing a right to restitution from the convicted.

“I believe victims of crime should have the same rights as the accused and should be treated fairly and with dignity,” Nocco said. “By allowing this language on the 2018 ballot, we will be giving all Floridians the ability to put their stamp of approval on this common sense, victim friendly initiative. I ask my fellow CRC commissioners to stand with me in supporting this measure.”

Fellow commissioners Patricia Levesque and Carolyn Timmann have both signed on as co-sponsors of the initiative, he added. The amendment is also supported by state Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat.

While most states give crime victims constitutional-level protections, Florida remains one of 15 that does not.

Marsy’s Law is named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, the accused murderer confronted Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, at a grocery store. The family was not informed the accused was released on bail.

Information on the Marsy’s Law nationwide initiative is at marsyslaw.us, Facebook and Twitter. For the group’s Florida efforts, visit marsyslaw.us/marsys-law-state-efforts/florida or @MarsysLawForFL on Twitter.

The CRC meets every 20 years to review and propose changes to the Florida Constitution for voter consideration.

Annette Taddeo suspends campaign because of Irma

Annette Taddeo, Democratic candidate for South Florida’s Senate District 40, says she is suspending her campaign as Hurricane Irma approaches the state.

“Our community’s safety must be our singular focus right now,” she said in a statement. “Therefore, I have instructed my team to move to immediately suspend campaign activities and have asked that we pause any advertising from airing as soon as possible.

“I call on my opponents to join me in this effort and ask that both sides immediately cease campaigning to ensure our teams and their families can prepare for the storm,” she added. “We will also shift any campaign efforts to focus on hurricane preparedness as I remember my families’ challenges as they lived through Hurricane Andrew and the need to have all hands on deck as our community braces for Hurricane Irma.

“I urge everyone to heed the warnings issued as we prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Taddeo said, echoing Gov. Rick Scott‘s statement on the storm.

Taddeo is running against Republican Jose Felix Diaz and independent Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth for the seat, vacated by former GOP Sen. Frank Artiles. Their campaigns have not yet responded to Taddeo.

Gov. Rick Scott ordered a special election for the district on Sept. 26.

Personnel note: Top gambling regulator quits to open own firm

Anthony Glover, director of the state’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering (DPMW), resigned his post Tuesday to start a boutique law firm specializing in “complex corporate and government affairs issues,” he told Florida Politics in an email. 

Glover Law “will advise businesses on the gamut of regulatory issues, including preparing permit and license applications, designing compliance plans, and defending against potential agency discipline,” he added.

The firm “will also work closely with entrepreneurs and emerging companies” and follow “legislative and executive policymaking closely, available to provide lobbying services on a limited basis.” (Glover can’t lobby his former employer, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), for two years under the state’s lobbying ban.)

Glover said Susan Doherty, former chief of licensing at the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco (ABT), is expected to join the firm as a licensing consultant, with “more personnel announcements expected over the next several weeks.”

Both divisions fall under the DBPR. As DPMW director, Glover oversaw the regulation of “horse racing, greyhound racing, jai alai games, slot machines, and cardroom poker games.”

He previously was deputy director of ABT, helping to oversee alcoholic beverage retailers, manufacturers and distributors, including the “review of hundreds of beverage license applications,” he said.

In his resignation letter, Glover praised his colleagues’ “dedication and expertise,” saying they all “deserve a raise.”

He added that “working through complex, high-profile regulatory matters can lead to some challenging moments, but there is no finer group of people to face those issues with.”

Glover, named a member of the 2013 class of SaintPetersblog’s “30 Under 30 Rising Stars of Florida Politics,” received his undergraduate degree from Florida A&M University and a law degree from the Washington and Lee University School of Law.

He’s also worked at the Carlton Fields law firm in Tampa.

Court overrules regulators regarding ‘flag drop’ races

An appellate court on Tuesday unanimously reversed state regulators in favor of a ragtag north Florida horse track looking to become a “first-class (gambling) facility.”

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering last year rejected an administrative law judge’s tossing out of the state’s complaint that Hamilton Downs ran “flag drop” races contrary to its license.

But a three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal ruled in favor of the track, which it described as “an L-shaped dirt track … in an open field, with a shed for betting, a covered box on stilts, and a barn.”

Regulators said the small track, located 90 miles east of Tallahassee, violated its license by running such races in June 2014. Essentially, the division said such races weren’t legitimate horse racing.

Even Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early conceded that there was “nothing about Hamilton Downs (that was) real in terms of racetrack standards.” The flag drop races “must be seen to be believed,” he wrote, referring to video of the contests that were “evocative of an Our Gang comedy short.”

Still, track owner Glenn Richards “has ambitious plans to turn Hamilton Downs into a first-class pari-mutuel facility complete with a cardroom, slot machines, an oval race track, starting gates, and grandstands,” the Tuesday opinion said.

Indeed, he was “frank in his admission that the 2014 race season was important because it allowed Hamilton Downs to qualify for a card room license and, if ultimately allowed, slot machines,” according to Early’s order.

A possibility for slot machines is moot for now because the state Supreme Court ruled in May that Florida counties can’t allow slots where voters have approved them in local referendums because “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.” Hamilton County is one of those slots referendum counties.

The “overall quality of the videotaped races was about what one would expect of an entry-level campers’ horse show held at the conclusion of a two-week YMCA summer camp,” Early wrote. At the same time, he said the state’s case was “insufficient to support a disciplinary sanction based on what the Division perceives to be inadequate speed, ‘breaking’ ability, or competitiveness of any given race.”

The appellate panel sided with Early, saying he “properly concluded that a violation did not occur as alleged (and) the Division should be (halted) from prosecuting Hamilton Downs even if it did.”

The division, in part, “alleged that Hamilton Downs failed to conduct all of the 160 races at the 2014 meet,” according to the 12-page decision, by Chief Judge Brad Thomas and judges Harvey L. Jay III and James R. Wolf.

But the court said Early got it right and the state was legally in the wrong when it dismissed his conclusions. The panel found that races in question “occurred on a licensed, approved course … in the presence of duly appointed racing officials,” and winners were paid.

“Richards made every effort to satisfy race officials and ensure compliance with state law,” the opinion said. “We further conclude that Richards relied on the Division’s representation to his detriment [an on-site state “steward” had OK’d the races] … The public trust is undermined when the government punishes people for violations the government causes.”

Don’t take down FSU’s Francis Eppes statue, Sandy D’Alemberte says

As Florida State University begins its look at its historical “campus names and markers, including statues,” former university president Sandy D’Alemberte isn’t convinced that the contentious statue of school founder Francis Eppes needs to come down.

“I’ve heard from several people who criticize Eppes and I think some of what they’re saying is right, but that doesn’t lead me to the conclusion that we need to take down the statue,” D’Alemberte told Florida Politics on Tuesday.

The statue of Eppes, a Leon County slave owner who lived 1801-81, was commissioned by D’Alemberte in the 1990s as part of “an overall campus improvement project,” a university website explains.

“I think what we need to do is a better job of explaining our history,” said D’Alemberte, now a law professor emeritus. He was FSU president in 1994-2003.

FSU President John Thrasher on Tuesday announced the “creation of a panel of university students, faculty, staff, administrators and alumni to examine and make recommendations on current university policies concerning campus names and markers, including statues and other recognitions,” he said in a release.

“As we seek to become a more inclusive campus for all, it is essential that we continue to engage in dialogue and inquiry with the entire university community,” Thrasher said. “We must continue to examine our history in order to collectively build our future.”

“The creation of the panel follows Thrasher’s condemnation of last month’s hateful and violent acts by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his pledge to the FSU community to protect free speech while ensuring the safety and well-being of students, faculty and staff,” the release said.

Last October, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that FSU students “overwhelmingly defeated a proposal seeking the removal of a statue honoring former Leon County slave owner Francis Eppes from campus and the removal of his name from a campus building.”

The statue is on the campus’ Westcott Plaza. Eppes was the grandson of Thomas Jefferson, who also owned slaves.

D’Alemberte said, for instance, his office on campus is in a former home built by slaves.

He added that the university’s law school, of which he was once dean, is named after the late Florida Chief Justice B.K. Roberts, who wrote the court’s 1957 majority opinion to deny law school admission to an African-American student, Virgil Hawkins.

“I think we have a lot of things on campus that require more explanation,” D’Alemberte added. “Instead of removing them, let’s explain them … All of our histories are not entirely pure. That doesn’t mean some aspects of what we’ve done can’t be celebrated.”

The review panel will consist of “FSU undergraduate and graduate students, faculty members including Faculty Senate representatives, staff members and alumni representatives,” Tuesday’s release said.

“The panel will be charged with researching the issues, meeting and engaging with university constituencies to seek input and feedback, determining criteria for appropriate naming policies and, if necessary, recommending an appropriate process for renaming campus recognitions,” it added. “In the coming weeks, the university will launch a website to provide additional information and updates on the panel’s progress.”

Sides seek more time in $700M Lottery lawsuit

The Florida Lottery and the House of Representatives are seeking an extension in which to settle a pending lawsuit over a $700 million contract for new equipment, court records show.

Lottery outside counsel Barry Richard and House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum asked the 1st District Court of Appeal that they “be permitted to provide another status report to the court by Oct. 31.” Last Thursday was the previous deadline for a status report.

“The parties continue to pursue good faith negotiations,” their 2-page filing says, obtained Tuesday after a public record request to the court. “Some of the issues involved necessitate additional time to work out a satisfactory resolution.

“In the meantime, the parties respectfully suggest that leaving the current stay in place will increase the likelihood of achieving that resolution.”

The appellate court, based in Tallahassee, had agreed to suspend the case while the sides work out their differences.

“If the case has not been dismissed” by the end of August, the parties had to report whether they see a “need for any further proceedings,” according to a docket entry.

In March, Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers invalidated the Lottery’s 15-year deal with IGT (International Game Technology), OK’d by former Secretary Tom Delacenserie, for new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets.

Delacenserie has since quit to head the Kentucky Lottery and was replaced by former Department of Economic Opportunity chief of staff Jim Poppell. 

The contract also provided for in-store signage, self-service ticket checkers and would upgrade security in the communications network.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran sued, essentially saying the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the contract last year.

Hurricane could affect legislative committee week

The approach of Hurricane Irma may affect the upcoming legislative committee week, currently set for Sept. 12-15.

“We are closely monitoring the developments of Hurricane Irma as the storm approaches our state,” House Speaker Richard Corcoran wrote in a Tuesday memo to members.

“As the path of the storm becomes more clearly defined, we will, in consultation with the Senate, make a final decision regarding the status of House committee and subcommittee meetings scheduled for next week,” he said. “In the interim, House committees and subcommittees will be releasing meeting notices.”

Corcoran added: “Please join me in continuing to pray for those who will be affected by Hurricane Irma in the coming days.”

Updated 11 a.m. — Senate President Joe Negron also wrote to members that he is “closely monitoring the impending storm expected to impact Florida in the coming days.”

Later today, the Senate “plan(s) to proceed with publication of the interim calendar, including the notice of committee meetings scheduled for next week,” he said. “As more information becomes available, we will provide updates regarding any potential schedule changes.”

Rick Scott on hurricane duty

No rest for Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday, as his daily agenda shows a schedule packed with planning items in advance of Hurricane Irma‘s track toward the state.

At 7:30 a.m., the governor had a weather briefing with Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan Koon. An hour later, he was set for a call with county sheriffs on hurricane planning.

At 9, there was a call with local chiefs of police, and another at 9:30 with county school superintendents.

Looking ahead, another call is set for 10:20 a.m. with Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long.

At 10:30, the jobs governor will make an appearance at Naples’ Pyure Organic, an independent stevia sweetener compan, to “highlight its new facility and job growth.” That’s followed by another weather briefing at 11:15 a.m.

Then Scott high-tails it to Tampa to “announce new jobs at Cognizant Technology Solutions” at 2:15 p.m.

At 5:15, he’ll get yet another weather briefing at the State Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera also gets into the act today, with weather briefings at 7:30 and 11:15 a.m., and again at 5:15 p.m., his schedule shows.

Updated 10:30 a.m.: Scott’s schedule was revised to add a 7:55 a.m. call with South Florida Water Management District Chairman Dan O’Keefe, an 8:05 a.m. call with Army Corps of Engineers district commander Col. Jason Kirk, and an 8:20 a.m. call with the Navy’s southeast region commander, Rear Adm. Babette Bolivar.

Rick Scott sets special election for House District 72

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday set the dates for the special elections to replace former state Rep. Alex Miller, the Sarasota Republican whose resignation became effective today.

The special primary election for House District 72 will be held on Dec. 5, and a special general election is set for next Feb. 13, Scott’s executive order says. 

Miller

That means the district, which includes Siesta Key and South Sarasota, will be unrepresented for more than half of the 2018 Legislative Session.

As of Friday afternoon, Miller’s information was removed from the House website, with “Representative–Special Election Pending” showing for HD 72.

Miller turned in her resignation from the House last week, citing family and business reasons.

“As a mother with two teenage boys who is the CEO of a rapidly growing business, I have come to the conclusion that I must spend more time at home than my service in the Legislature would allow,” she wrote in her letter.

Miller, who recently turned 44, is CEO of Mercedes Medical, a medical and laboratory supply company in Sarasota.

Less than an hour after her resignation became known, James Buchanan, son of Sarasota-area Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan, said he would run for the seat.

James Buchanan, also a Republican, had previously announced a run in House District 71, now held by term-limited state GOP Rep. Jim Boyd.

Rick Scott sets date for next Florida execution

Gov. Rick Scott set the execution of Michael Lambrix, who’s been on Death Row for 33 years, for 6 p.m. Oct. 5, the Governor’s Office announced Friday. 

The Florida Supreme Court last February delayed his execution after attorneys argued that the state should first determine how to apply a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the state’s death penalty system is unconstitutional. The U.S. Supreme Court found Florida’s death penalty system flawed because it allows judges, not juries, to decide death sentences.

Lambrix (Photo: Florida Dep’t of Corrections)

This March, the state’s high court said Lambrix was entitled to no further legal relief and lifted its stay of execution.

Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s office, also Friday, asked the court to dismiss Lambrix’s Thursday request for habeas corpus, calling it over long and an “untimely … abuse of process.”

“Lambrix’s latest habeas petition presents a misleading potpourri of previously presented and rejected claims,” Senior Assistant Attorney General Scott Browne wrote. “The petition … inappropriately seeks duplicative review of a decision of this Court that has been final for years.”

That was after Bondi wrote to Scott earlier Friday, saying that “the record is legally sufficient to set a new execution date.”

Lambrix was sentenced for the 1983 tire-iron and strangling slayings of two people he met at a bar, Aleisha Bryant and Clarence Moore Jr. Prosecutors said he killed them after inviting them home for dinner.

(Background material provided by The Associated Press, reprinted with permission.)

*                    *                    *

Updated 5 p.m. — In a docket entry, the state Supreme Court said that “because the governor has reset the execution … , we direct that all further proceedings in this case be expedited.”

Trial court proceedings, if any, were ordered completed, with orders entered by Sept. 11.

The court also set the following briefing schedule: Notice of appeal by Sept. 12; initial brief on the merits by Sept. 14; answer brief on the merits by Sept. 15; Reply brief on the merits by Sept. 18.

“Oral argument, if necessary, will be scheduled at a later date,” according to the docket.

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