Jim Rosica, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 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.

Personnel note: Teye Reeves joins Smith, Bryan & Myers

Lobbyist Teye Reeves has joined the Tallahassee firm of Smith, Bryan & Myers (SBM).

“Teye has cemented herself as an ardent influencer in the Capitol,” said Matt Bryan, president of SBM, in a statement. “She has the ability to see an issue from all angles and effectively navigate it through the legislative and executive process.

“We’re happy to have her as a part of our diverse team focused on providing complete and successful representation for our clients.”

Added Reeves: “I’m excited to be joining Smith, Bryan & Myers. They have a stellar team approach with a reputation of getting things done for their clients. I look forward to being a part of the team.”

Reeves – featured in a recent edition of INFLUENCE Magazine – joins the firm as a governmental affairs consultant and attorney. She was previously with Floridian Partners.

She has been involved in state politics for more than a decade, representing clients on matters related to insurance, tort reform, taxation, land use, regulated industries, health care, financial services and employment issues before the Legislature, Cabinet, and agencies, as well as before local government entities, according to a press release.

The Cape Coral native received an undergraduate degree in advertising from the University of Florida and a law degree from Texas Tech School of Law. She has been licensed to practice law in Florida since 2008.

In a 2017 interview with INFLUENCE, Reeves explained that the toughness she learned from martial arts as a kid translates to her work.

“When I was 7, my parents put me into karate as opposed to all of the other things that you usually put little girls into,” she said. “So by the time I was 15, I had my black belt, and I was competing all over Florida and the southeast.

“… In that regard, it kind of made me almost fearless … there isn’t a more adversarial way to be up against (someone) than to have full gear on and be sparring with them.

“And also, I won a lot.”

Reeves can now be reached at treeves@smithbryanandmyers.com.

Personnel note: Janelle Irwin Taylor returns to Florida Politics

Janelle Irwin Taylor, formerly Tampa Bay correspondent for Florida Politics and the now-retired SaintPetersblog, is returning to the platform after more than two years at the Tampa Bay Business Journal.

“Her reporting and writing has always been infused with smarts, sass when allowed, and sensitivity when required,” said Peter Schorsch, owner of Extensive Enterprises Media, which publishes Florida Politics and INFLUENCE magazine. “I look forward to her good work again being on our site.”

Irwin Taylor, a native of St. Petersburg, has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Bay area since 2003.

While at the Business Journal, Irwin Taylor said, she “had the privilege to work with reporters and editorial staff who helped me grow as a journalist and am grateful for the experiences shared during my tenure there.

“During this key time in state and local politics, I felt a deep calling to return to covering the contentious races and issues important to our wonderful Tampa Bay community,” she added.

“I’m excited to be rejoining the Florida Politics team and look forward to informing readers of the news that matters most in their lives.”

Irwin Taylor also hosted a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio, and formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News covering local, state and national politics.

“Chronicling the contentious and at times salacious political climate has always been my top journalistic passion,” Irwin Taylor said. “I am anxious to return to the political ring.”

She’s covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters.

Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and on WUSF’s Florida Matters, among others. Irwin provided commentary for radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Irwin Taylor, a self-described “diehard news junkie,” has extensively covered Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete, Tampa Bay transportation and the ongoing Pier debacle.

Her work as a reporter and radio host earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year.

She’s also a mother of “three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.” 

Done deal: Medical marijuana’s MedMen closes on Florida acquisition

MedMen Enterprises Inc. of Los Angeles, the country’s biggest medical marijuana provider, on Friday said it had closed a deal to buy a medical marijuana treatment center license and “related assets” from Central Florida’s Treadwell Nursery.

The $53 million deal, first announced in June, includes “prime retail locations with long term leases in Ft. Lauderdale, Miami Beach, West Palm Beach, St. Petersburg and Key West,” the company said in a news release. 

“The state has high tourist activity and is home to the largest elderly community in the nation,” the release said. “According to Arcview, medical cannabis sales are estimated to be approximately $1.4 billion by 2021.”

“Our entry into Florida through this acquisition demonstrates our growing national footprint as well as our ability to execute, said Adam Bierman, MedMen chief executive and co-founder.

Our real estate team is hard at work preparing to put MedMen branded stores in the most coveted locations in Florida – locations in highly desirable and defensible market areas with high foot traffic and proximity to popular brand retailers.”

The license allows MedMen “to open 30 (and up to 35, if certain conditions are met)” medical marijuana retail locations in the state, and it also now has Treadwell’s cultivation facility on five acres near Orlando.  

Florida has a vertically-integrated market, meaning the same provider grows, processes and sells its own marijuana.

On Friday, MedMen stock (MMEN), which trades on the Canadian Securities Exchange, closed at $5.40 a share, down from $6.02 the previous day. Its 52-week high is $7.15.

MedMen has operations in California, Nevada and New York, which employ over 800 people and “combined account for nearly half of North America’s addressable legal market,” the company’s website says.

Amendment 10 OK’d for ballot by Supreme Court

The state’s Supreme Court on Friday unanimously upheld a lower court ruling approving Amendment 10, which would overhaul state and local governments by requiring certain offices now appointed to be elected.

That means the constitutional change remains on the Nov. 6 ballot, though it still must be approved by no less than 60 percent of voters to take effect.

The ballot measure, created by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, had been opposed by charter counties, such as Miami-Dade and Volusia.

The measure would make the five local constitutional offices — sheriff, tax collector, supervisor of elections, clerk of the court and property appraiser — mandatory and require elections for the offices in all 67 counties. It would also prohibit charter counties from abolishing or modifying those offices.

Charter counties have argued local voters should have the power to decide how constitutional offices are structured and whether they should be elected positions. “Charters are formal written documents that confer powers, duties, or privileges on the county,” according to the Florida Association of Counties.

Circuit Judge James Shelfer of Tallahassee had rejected those arguments, prompting Volusia, Miami-Dade and Broward counties to file notices of appeal.

The court’s 14-page decision, among other things, said the “summary tells voters that the amendment would ‘ensure’ election of constitutional officers in all counties, and provides that county charters may not allow for their selection by an alternative method.

“It is therefore unnecessary to explain the obvious result — that voters would not be able to eliminate election of the officers by charter or special law.”

In a statement, the head of the Florida Sheriffs Association called it a “sound ruling … for the voters of Florida.”

“Every county deserves the right to have an elected and independent sheriff who works directly for the people,” said Columbia County Sheriff Mark Hunter, president of the association. “Sheriffs of Florida are pleased to know that this November, Floridians can guarantee their right to vote for their sheriff is protected in our Constitution with Amendment 10.”

The amendment faced another challenge that it and five other CRC measures were wrongfully “bundled.” Circuit Judge Karen Gievers heard argument in that case this week but said she would not issue an opinion on Amendment 10 and two others because of the Supreme Court’s review.

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

Off to the races: Supreme Court clears dog racing-ban for ballot

The Florida Supreme Court on Friday ordered a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban betting on live greyhound racing back on the ballot, reversing a lower-court judge.

Now, if approved by at least 60 percent of voters in November, the measure could sound the death knell of the state’s 87-year-old greyhound industry. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks.

The court, in a 6-1 decision, overturned a previous order by Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who ruled that Amendment 13’s ballot title and summary would mislead voters, calling it “outright ‘trickeration.’ ” Justice Peggy A. Quince dissented.

The majority made three main findings:

— The amendment’s language saying “humane treatment of animals would become a fundamental value of the people of Florida” …“does not have any independent legal significance” and ‘its omission from the ballot summary does not render the ballot language clearly and conclusively defective.”

— The ballot text itself does not “mislead voters about the effects Amendment 13 would have on other forms of gaming” – that is, none – because “a reasonable voter would understand” that other kinds of gambling like cards and slots “will continue without material change.”

“If Amendment 13 is adopted, the only activities which will change in a material way are dog racing in Florida and wagering thereon, which will cease,” the opinion says.

— The ballot title, “Ends Dog Racing,” won’t “mislead voters to believe all wagering on dog racing would be prohibited, even though in-state betting on out-of-state (simulcast) racing would be allowed to continue” because “a reasonable voter would not interpret” it that way.

Jack Cory, spokesman and lobbyist for the Florida Greyhound Association, which filed the legal challenge, said his group was “disappointed in the decision today, but it is now on to the next race, ‘NO ON ALL in November!’ ”

The racing ban is one of eight amendments OK’d by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission (CRC); 13 amendments in all have been set for the ballot. Amendment 13 was the first to be struck down by a trial court judge.

In a statement, Cory said the proposed constitutional change was made from “false and misleading information,” mentioning what he called the creation of “freestanding casinos” — a point the majority refuted, however. “This is the reason that you should not put issues like this into the Florida Constitution.”

Quince said in a short dissent that “there is no reasonable way for a voter to know whether, by voting yes for this amendment, they are also voting to either suspend or expand” other gambling.

“… Amendment 13 would waive an important condition of licensure for operators of card rooms and slot machines whose licenses arose out of their pari-mutuel dog racing permits,” she wrote.

Pari-mutuels in Florida usually are required to continue running live dog or horse races to have slots and card games that make those facilities more money. A move afoot called “decoupling,” removing the live racing requirement, has failed in the Legislature in recent years.

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign, which is promoting passage of the amendment, said in a statement the challenge “was a desperate attempt to prevent voters from having a voice on whether greyhound confinement and deaths should continue.”

The campaign has bipartisan support from Republicans — Attorney General Pam Bondi and  Congressman Matt Gaetz — and Democrats — state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and House District 47 candidate Anna Eskamani, to name a few.

“This is a major victory for Florida’s greyhounds and as an animal lover, I am absolutely elated by the court’s ruling,” Eskamani said in a text message. “I have no doubt that Floridians will overwhelmingly support Amendment 13 and end the cruel industry of greyhound racing in our state.”

The challenge “was filed because greyhound breeders know that when Amendment 13 appears on the ballot, Floridians will vote ‘yes’ for the dogs,” the campaign added. “Florida has a proud tradition of leading on animal welfare, and we are confident Amendment 13 will pass in November.”

Jack Cory to state gambling regulators: Let the kennel tours go on

The face of the Florida Greyhound Association is asking the head of the state agency regulating gambling to let his people go.

Go behind the scenes at dog tracks, that is.

Tallahassee lobbying legend Jack Cory, who’s advocated for the greyhound industry for decades, sent a request Friday for an “emergency rule” to Jonathan Zachem, secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The department oversees dog racing and other gambling through its Division of Pari-mutuel Wagering.

Earlier this week, the agency had warned racing greyhound owners and others that public tours of kennels at Florida greyhound tracks may violate state regulations.

That’s because last month, the National Greyhound Association 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.

The Florida Supreme Court could issue a ruling as soon as Friday on whether general election voters will get to see a constitutional amendment aimed at ending live greyhound racing.

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers already struck the measure after a challenge from the Florida Greyhound Association, calling its ballot title and summary “outright ‘trickeration.’ 

Spokeswoman Suellen Wilkins has explained that “certain areas of pari-mutuel facilities are restricted access,” specifically “the backside where racing animals are kept.”

But Cory told Zachem he could change state regulations to temporarily allow visitors with passes to see kennels “under direct supervision at all times.”

“The men and women of the Florida Greyhound Association believe in ‘government in the sunshine’ and welcome the citizens of the state to visit the greyhounds, at any reasonable time, to see how well (they) are treated, under the inspection of your staff,” Cory wrote in an email.

“With this knowledge, the voters can decide whether or not the state needs this change to the constitution,” he added.

Because Cory asked for the emergency rule, “this matter is now under legal review (and), as such, DBPR cannot comment,” said Rose Hebert, another department spokeswoman.

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign, which is promoting passage of Amendment 13, has 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.”

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

The amendment, slotted for the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, would need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution, like other proposed changes to the state’s governing document.

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Featured photo courtesy of Van Abernethy.

RIP ‘Every day hero’: Flags at half-staff for Taylor J. Galvin

Gov. Rick Scott ordered flags at half-staff for Taylor J. Galvin, a U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 (CW3). 

Galvin died after an Aug. 20 helicopter crash in Iraq. His wife’s family live in Cedar Key.

Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Levy County Courthouse in Bronson, Town Hall in Cedar Key, and at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

Galvin, of Spokane, Washington, was assigned to Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

Services for Galvin are being held Friday morning and he will be laid to rest at Cedar Key Cemetery.

A tribute to him written by his wife and in-laws is in the Cedar Key News.

“Taylor was an Every Day Hero,” it says. He “shook hands with the homeless and sat by their side offering friendship and much needed supplies (such as sleeping bags). When Taylor was a teenager, he volunteered … raising money to fulfill the last wishes of terminally ill children.

“… Taylor was not a Special Operations Aviator just because he loved what he did. Taylor did it because he truly believed it was the right thing to do and because it would have significant impact on bettering our world regardless of what sacrifices needed to be made.

“In Taylor’s final letter he wrote, ‘If I died at work, I want you to know that I died doing what I believe in and what I believe is right.’ “

Judge set to dismiss horse group’s challenge of Calder Casino gambling permit

A Tallahassee judge is challenging a Florida thoroughbred horsemen’s group to convince him he shouldn’t throw out a challenge of a South Florida track’s gambling permit.

Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early on Wednesday gave the Florida Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (FHBPA) till next Wednesday to show him why he shouldn’t dismiss what he called “an impermissible collateral attack” on Calder Casino‘s summer jai alai permit, issued this February. 

In an order to show causeEarly noted that the FHBPA’s “injury is based entirely on the issuance of the permit, and its effect on (the association) and the racing industry as a whole.” The case is against the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which regulates gambling. 

The latest case again emphasizes the heightened strain between the greyhound and horse industries and racetrack operators, who continue trying to get rid of live racing but hold on to lucrative games like slots and poker. (The pari-mutuel previously went by the name Calder Race Course.)

Calder now wants to ditch horse racing entirely to switch to jai alai games. Indeed, the association’s complaint said “many, if not a majority, of FHBPA’s members are year-round residents of Florida, many of whom will be substantially affected by the major disruption in South Florida’s racing calendar.”

The FHBPA already lost a legal round this week, when another administrative law judge allowed Calder to keep its lucrative slot-machine license. The Miami Gardens track, which no longer runs its own live horse racing, offers slots and electronic table games.

Calder began tearing down its horse racing grandstand in 2015, about a year after its parent company, Churchill Downs of Kentucky Derby fame, reached a deal with The Stronach Group, which owns Gulfstream Park.

Under the agreement, Gulfstream — about 8 miles away — runs 40 races a year at Calder, the minimum number of live races required for Calder to maintain its slots license.

Tracks in Florida are generally required to continue running live dog or horse races to have slots and card games that usually make facilities more money. Decoupling, or removing the live racing requirement, has failed in the Legislature in recent years.

Calder is seeking to completely get out of the horse racing business by discontinuing “the operation of thoroughbred races and instead operat(ing) a full schedule of jai alai performances while maintaining its status as an ‘eligible facility.’ “

Pari-mutuels, particularly in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, covet summer jai alai permits because at a minimum they allow a facility to open a card room and offer simulcast betting.

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Background provided by The News Service of Florida, republished with permission. Main photo: Calder Casino – CC BY-SA 4.0.

Whoa, dog: State says greyhound kennel tours aren’t allowed

Gambling regulators on Tuesday warned racing greyhound owners and others that public tours of kennels at Florida greyhound tracks may violate state regulations.

A representative of the industry soon shot back that the prohibition was “outrageous!”

Last month, the National Greyhound Association said it would offer tours of “three Florida greyhound tracks and their on-site kennels.”

The two-hour guided tours, free with advance registration, 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.

The Florida Supreme Court will soon issue a ruling on whether general election voters will get to see a constitutional amendment aimed at ending live greyhound racing. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers already struck the measure after a challenge from the Florida Greyhound Association, calling its ballot title and summary “outright ‘trickeration.’ 

A spokeswoman for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates dog racing and other gambling in the state, told Florida Politics it “has not taken a position related to tours of racetrack facilities.”

But, added Suellen Wilkins, “certain areas of pari-mutuel facilities are restricted access,” specifically “the backside where racing animals are kept.”

Wilkins referred to department regulations that do allow “sworn law enforcement and corrections officers,” “firefighters” and EMTs, “persons working for a vendor … providing supplies,” and several others to visit kennels.

“If the individuals do not fall into these categories, they are prohibited from accessing the backside of the track,” Wilkins said.

Jack Cory, lobbyist and spokesman for the Florida Greyhound Association, said the state is “stopping the people of the state of Florida from getting the truth and facts about live greyhound racing by hiding behind a rule.”

“This is outrageous!” he said. If regulators wanted to, “they could file an amendment to their own rule – today – to permit the citizens of Florida to visit the greyhounds.”

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign, which is promoting passage of Amendment 13, in a statement called the planned tours “staged political photo opportunities.”

“Although we welcome the opportunity for the public to see the deplorable conditions greyhounds are subjected to, these events were nothing more than …  photo ops aimed at whitewashing the industry,” the campaign said.

Moreover, “the registration (form) included screening questions to oust animal welfare advocates. The event waiver gave the Florida Greyhound Association the right to use video footage of participants in political advertisements, but at the same time prohibited participants from photographing or videotaping the events themselves.”

The campaign said “although we did not have input in this state decision, it is another example of how the greyhound industry can’t play by the rules. Dog racers apparently believe they are above the law, whether it’s the state drug testing program or state laws about racetrack security.”

Cory disagreed, filing a public records request with the department last week for – among other things – “any and all complaints filed either in writing, or all of the notes from any complaints filed over the telephone during the last 30 days, about permitting the citizens of the state of Florida (to visit) greyhound kennels at greyhound tracks.”

Cory’s request names Carey Theil, executive director of GREY2K USA Worldwide, and Christine Dorchak, the organization’s president and general counsel.

“Please be advised that this (request) will be noticed with the Florida (news) media,” Cory wrote.

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

The amendment, slotted for the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission, would need at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution, like other proposed changes to the state’s governing document. 

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Featured photo courtesy of Van Abernethy.

Tempest over ‘truck guns’: FSU sued—again—over firearms on campus

A gun-rights group is again suing over Florida State University‘s guns-on-campus policy.

Florida Carry sued the state university last week over its student conduct code, which was “amended” last June. It now wrongfully prohibits “the open possession of long guns, i.e. rifles and shotguns, in a vehicle unless they (are) concealed,” according to the complaint.

The organization sued in Leon County, naming the university and its president – John Thrasher, a Republican former legislator – as defendants. FSU spokesman Dennis Schnittker said the university “doesn’t comment on pending litigation.”

Jacksonville attorney Eric Friday, general counsel to Florida Carry, said that “despite being well aware of what the … law says, FSU and President Thrasher continue to break the law by regulating guns and ammunition.”

Florida Carry had sued the school in 2015 because of incorrect firearm information published in a football “game day guide.” The guide inaccurately said football fans could not stow guns in cars when attending games.

This May, an appeals court partly sided with the university but sent back to Circuit Judge Charles Dodson issues dealing with the student conduct code, including a university ban on students carrying stun guns. That case, which is still being litigated, spawned the latest lawsuit, Friday said.

Last week’s lawsuit refers to a 2013 appellate ruling that says the University of North Florida could not prevent students from keeping guns in vehicles.

Friday’s complaint says that nothing in state law “prohibits the lawful possession of legal firearms, other than handguns, anywhere in a private conveyance.”

“Additionally, (state law) does not require that such a firearm be concealed, securely encased, or not otherwise accessible for immediate use,” it says, adding the university is also impermissibly trying to ban on-campus possession of ammunition.

The complaint says Florida Carry has members who attend FSU, traveling to the campus in their “private vehicle.” They now “fear arrest, prosecution and academic sanctions.”

The group seeks a court order overturning the code of conduct language in question, a “statutory fine” and other relief, including attorney fees.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, court dockets show.

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

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