Jim Rosica, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 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.

Court says ‘pre-reveal’ games that play like slots are illegal

If a video game looks, plays and pays out like a slot machine, it’s a slot machine — even if you know whether you’re going to win or lose, an appellate court ruled Thursday.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal found that what’s known as pre-reveal games, specifically the kind called Version 67, “is an illegal slot machine.”

The games “preview” outcomes as to their winning or losing nature, meaning there’s no element of chance, attorney Bryan DeMaggio said at oral argument in July. He represents the Jacksonville company that licenses and distributes the games, Gator Coin II.

But the court said DeMaggio “improperly focus(ed) on the player’s knowledge instead of the machine’s operation.”

He sought “to define the game as what happens after the player presses the play button – i.e., the flashing lights and sounds – thereby ignoring the operation of the machine … the element of chance is inherent in it given that it has a preset win/loss ratio.”

The court added that though “the user is advised of the outcome of the game at hand ahead of time through the preview feature, the user cannot predict that outcome until it is randomly generated and then displayed by the machine. Nor can the user predict the outcome of Game 2 while playing Game 1.”

Jonathan Fanning, Gator Coin II’s third-generation owner, said he had not yet read the decision when reached Thursday and declined immediate comment.

The case began when Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) agents found one of the games in a Jacksonville sports bar and told the proprietor the machine was an “illegal gambling device.” A lawsuit followed. 

After first deciding “pre-reveal” games aren’t slots, Circuit Judge John Cooper of Tallahassee reversed himself last year, saying he had “(gotten) it wrong the first time.”

Cooper changed his mind after a hearing in which Barry Richard, a lawyer for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, told him the machines violate the Tribe’s exclusive right to offer slot machines outside of South Florida.

“We’re very pleased with this decision,” Richard said Thursday. “It gives a clear definition of what a slot machine is, and we need that, because people keep trying to circumvent it.”

The judge, however, had said his reversal was based on further evidence on how the pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games — as its software maker prefers to call them — actually play.

His second order said that “to have a chance to receive an outcome other than what is currently displayed by the preview feature, the player must commit money to the machine to be privy to the next preview.”

That “play pattern” is an “illegal gaming scheme designed to circumvent gambling prohibitions,” Cooper wrote.

Rep. Scott Plakon, a Longwood Republican, filed legislation this past Session to outlaw the games; that bill passed the House and died in the Senate.

“I’m glad that now both courts have seen through this latest scam and attempt to circumvent our laws,” Plakon said. “The court simply ratified what is obvious, that these are unregulated and illegal slot machines.

“I’m hopeful that this ruling will be used by law enforcement to step in and finally put an end to these illegal devices, designed to benefit the owners at the expense of often vulnerable Floridians.”

Thursday’s opinion was by Judge Joseph Lewis Jr., with Judges James R. Wolf  and Stephanie W. Ray concurring.

Personnel note: Gunster’s Joseph Raia named vice chair of ABA International Law section

Joseph L. Raia of the Gunster law firm has been appointed vice chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of International Law, the firm announced Thursday.

Raia will play a key role in the leadership of the 17,000-member section that has representation from over 100 countries worldwide.

He will be primarily responsible for coordinating the work of the section’s 62 committees and will work closely with the chair and chair-elect to advance the section’s strategic plan.

“I see the section’s mission as one of service,” Raia said in a statement. “We help our members to do well, by becoming better lawyers and improving their worldwide professional network. We help them to do good, by advancing the development of international law and the rule of law.”

Raia co-leads Gunster’s international law practice where he “represents foreign and domestic individuals and companies in court proceedings, government investigations, and arbitrations relating to commercial, trade and investment matters pending in the United States and abroad,” the firm said.

Prior to his role as vice chair, he served on the section’s executive committee and as its secretary and operations officer.

Sean Shaw: Ron DeSantis ‘monkey’ comment ‘was racist and offensive’

Sean Shaw, the Democratic nominee for Attorney General, on Wednesday added his voice to those condemning GOP gubernatorial hopeful and congressman Ron DeSantis.

On FOX News earlier in the day, DeSantis – who won the Republican primary Tuesday night – commented on his Democratic counterpart, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases, and bankrupting the state,” DeSantis said during an interview with FOX host Sandra Smith.

DeSantis is white; Gillum is black. Comparing African Americans to apes or monkeys usually is considered disparaging.

“The remark made by Congressman DeSantis was racist and offensive and has no place in our political discourse,” said Shaw, an African American, in a statement.

“We already have a president that uses divisive and hostile language and we do not need Ron DeSantis trying to import that from Washington to Tallahassee,” he added.

“Racism is cancer that must be weeded out. DeSantis should step aside if he cannot find a way to apologize and control the language that comes out of his mouth.”

In a statement, DeSantis campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said DeSantis “was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses.

“To characterize it as anything else is absurd. Florida’s economy has been on the move for the last eight years and the last thing we need is a far-left Democrat trying to stop our success.”

FOX News on Ron DeSantis’ ‘monkey’ comment: ‘We do not condone this language’

FOX News announced that Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum would appear on the network later Wednesday as it distanced itself from a controversial statement made by Republican candidate Ron DeSantis on an earlier program.

After that appearance, host Sandra Smith did a follow-up segment on “America’s Newsroom.”

“A little while ago we had Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor in Florida, on for an interview to discuss the Florida election,” she said.

“During the interview, he made what some are calling an inappropriate comment about his Democratic opponent, Andrew Gillum.”

DeSantis, a Congressman from Ponte Vedra Beach, had said, “To make sure that we continue Florida going in a good direction, let’s build off the success we’ve had (with) Gov. (RickScott.

“The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases, and bankrupting the state. That’s not going to work; that’s not going to be good for Florida.” (A previous story is here.)

DeSantis is white; Gillum is black. Comparing African Americans to apes or monkeys usually is considered disparaging.

Sandra Smith went on, saying a DeSantis campaign spokesman “has since clarified his comment.”

In a statement, Stephen Lawson said DeSantis “was obviously talking about Florida not making the wrong decision to embrace the socialist policies that Andrew Gillum espouses.

“To characterize it as anything else is absurd. Florida’s economy has been on the move for the last eight years and the last thing we need is a far-left Democrat trying to stop our success.”

Sandra Smith then added: “We do not condone this language and wanted to make our viewers aware that he has since clarified his statement.”

She also announced that Gillum is scheduled to be interviewed by host Shepard Smith at 3 p.m.

High court hears argument on dog racing ban

The Florida Supreme Court will now consider whether general election voters will get to see a constitutional amendment ending live greyhound racing.

Lawyers for the state and the Florida Greyhound Association gave argument Wednesday before the state’s seven justices. As usual, the court offered no clue when it might rule.

The association challenged the amendment, saying its ballot title and summary would mislead voters. Circuit Judge Karen Gievers already has agreed in a harshly-worded ruling, striking the measure earlier this month and calling it “outright ‘trickeration.’ ”

She said Amendment 13’s title and summary were “clearly and conclusively defective,” a legal standard developed by the Supreme Court to justify keeping proposed amendments off the ballot.

Deputy Solicitor General Jordan Pratt, who works for Attorney General Pam Bondi, defended the amendment. He told the court all the title and summary have to do is “make clear the chief legal effect of the amendment,” which they do. 

When Justice Peggy Quince suggested some voters may be interested in getting rid of dog racing but not in saying animal welfare is a “fundamental value,” Pratt said a title and summary don’t have to allude to the policy behind an amendment.

Major B. Harding, a retired Supreme Court justice who represents the Greyhound Association, had previously argued the title and summary don’t disclose that “humane treatment of animals would become a fundamental value of the people of Florida.”

But the court’s previous rulings suggest voters should be prompted not on the ‘why,’ but rather on the ‘what’ of an amendment, Pratt said. 

Harding

Harding later told the justices a vote for Amendment 13 would “constitutionally disconnect” dog racing from other gaming; slot machines in South Florida are provided for in another amendment. 

He said the language also doesn’t make clear to voters that the amendment’s passage would create “freestanding casinos” because other gambling activities would not be affected.

“Why would you include such a significant statement … and not disclose it?” Harding said. “It’s misleading and it’s inappropriate.”

Pratt, in rebuttal, suggested that dog tracks now offering card games or slots already are casinos, and taking away dog racing means just one less ‘game’ to bet on. 

The racing ban is one of eight amendments OK’d by the Constitution Revision Commission; 13 amendments in all have been set for the ballot. Amendment 13 was the first to be struck down, followed by two more this month. All amendments must get at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

The race that almost wasn’t: How Sean Shaw won Democratic Attorney General bid

Sean Shaw captured the Democratic nomination for state Attorney General in a historic fashion.

First, he sued and won in having his only same-party opponent knocked off the primary ballot, the first time that had happened.

Then, after an appellate court suspended the effect of that ruling pending review, Shaw overcame Ryan Torrens on Primary Election Day. By 8:30 p.m., the span was 73 percent to 27 percent.

Shaw’s campaign quickly emailed he had again “made history” as the “first African-American nominee in Florida’s history” to be the state’s chief legal officer. Torrens had not publicly conceded.

“When I entered this race I noted that for too long the Florida Supreme Court has been the only institution that has stood up for the principles of our Constitution,” he said in a statement.

“Tonight we took one step closer to electing a fighter for Floridians to the Attorney General’s office. From going after sexual predators and domestic abusers, cracking down on scams, fraud and identity theft that threatens seniors, to standing up to the gun lobby – I will be that fighter for Floridians.”

“… I know that somewhere, my father – Leander J. Shaw Jr., the first African American Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Florida – is looking down on me, proud of the progress that this state has made,” Shaw added.

Just last week, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers of Tallahassee ordered Torrens out of the race, saying he “clearly acted contrary to the law” when he qualified in June to run.

But Torrens soon appealed that decision, saying Gievers unfairly removed him on a “contribution law technicality.” Now, that challenge is moot.

Shaw, a former state Insurance Consumer Advocate and current House member from Tampa, had filed the complaint that led to Torrens’ getting booted.

He claimed Torrens, a Tampa consumer affairs lawyer, qualified to run only because he improperly transferred money into his campaign account. Gievers agreed, finding Torrens essentially pulled a fast one so he would have enough money to cut a check for the $7,738 qualifying fee.

The case “involves a candidate who chose to deposit an improper contribution on Monday of qualifying week, acknowledged on Tuesday … that he knew a refund would have to be provided, intentionally chose not to issue the refund, and knowingly used the illegal funds to pay the qualifying fee on Thursday,” she wrote.

As it stood as of 8:30 p.m., Shaw looked likely to face Republican and former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ashley Moody in November’s general election.

Earlier this month, Shaw was asked why he sued. He answered that he was “running on a platform of being one of the most active attorney generals” in the country.

“If I don’t hold my primary opponent accountable, what does it mean when I tell people I am going to hold the Legislature accountable? Or when I’m going to go after anyone doing wrong in this state?” he said. “This is what being a proactive attorney general looks like.”

In a statement, Florida Democratic Chair Terrie Rizzo said Shaw “will be a tireless advocate for Florida families. He will stand up for Floridians with pre-existing conditions, take on the gun lobby, and take meaningful action in the opioid crisis by holding manufacturers and drug traffickers accountable.”

Shaw, she added, “offers a stark contrast to Ashley Moody who will continue Pam Bondi’s cruel legacy of fighting civil rights, medical marijuana, and leading the fight to take away healthcare for nearly 7-million Floridians with pre-existing conditions. Floridians can’t afford another 8 years of Pam Bondi – and that is what they will get with Ashley Moody.”

The Republican Attorneys General Association similarly drew battle lines.

“Where to start? Sean Shaw is a radical and dangerous liberal who has openly admitted he would use the power of the office to go after people,” said RAGA Communications Director Zack Roday in an email.

“This is reckless and irresponsible; the attorney general must fairly enforce Florida law, regardless of personal political beliefs. How extreme is Sean Shaw? He sides with cop killers and wants to give convicted felons the right to vote. The rule of law simply does not matter to Sean Shaw.”

Personnel note: Rebecca Kapusta made interim DCF Secretary

Rebecca Kapusta will become interim Secretary of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) after the resignation of Secretary Mike Carroll, who’s leaving the post Sept. 6.

Gov. Rick Scott announced the move Tuesday afternoon. He did not say when he expected to name a full-time replacement, if any; the term-limited governor departs office in January.

“Rebecca has served the Department for more than 10 years, and I’m sure she’ll continue to work to better our communities and protect Florida’s most vulnerable citizens,” Scott said in a statement.

Kapusta

Kapusta was most recently Assistant Secretary for Operations after being the department’s General Counsel.

Before that, the decade-plus department veteran was Chief Counsel for DCF’s SunCoast Region in Children’s Legal Services, as well as Assistant Regional Counsel and Assistant General Counsel.

Kapusta, who once was a general magistrate in the 12th Judicial Circuit, received her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Central Florida and a law degree from Stetson University College of Law.

She follows Carroll, whose “tenure as secretary is the longest in DCF’s 21-year history,” Scott has said. Carroll was appointed in December 2014.

He inherited a system documented earlier that year, by the Miami Herald’s “Innocents Lost” investigation, as “clearly broken, leaving children unprotected and at risk.”

And a 133-page internal review commissioned by Carroll in 2016 depicted a dysfunctional agency, with workers feeling “unsupported,” “overwhelmed,” and “defeated.”

But a previous press release from Scott’s office said Carroll oversaw “expanded substance abuse treatment services statewide, including medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders; achieved record numbers of adoptions; (and) championed anti-human trafficking efforts,” among other achievements.

Groups file legal briefs to support education measure under challenge

Two friend-of-the-court briefs by “groups with distinct interests” have now been filed in an attempt to save a proposed constitutional amendment on education from getting trashed from the November ballot.

The Florida Supreme Court on Monday said it will hear arguments Sept. 5 at the 4th District Court of Appeal courthouse in West Palm Beach.

Justices face a time crunch because ballots for the Nov. 6 general election will be printed and start to be mailed to voters in September.

The Urban Leagues of both Miami and Central Florida, along with the Florida Consortium of Public Charter Schools and the Florida Charter School Alliance, have now filed briefs in support of the amendment.

The proposed Amendment 8, placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission, would impose eight-year term limits on school board members and would require the promotion of “civic literacy” in public schools.

But another provision drew a legal challenge from the League of Women Voters of Florida. It would allow the state to operate and control public schools “not established by the school board,” wording that opponents said would lead to the expansion of charter schools.

Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper sided with the League of Women Voters, ruling that the proposal should not go before voters because of misleading wording. The state quickly appealed the ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal, which then passed it to the Supreme Court.

“In reaching its conclusion to the contrary, the Circuit Court mistakenly relied on the language of an earlier draft proposal that was never approved by the CRC and is not before this Court,” the State’s brief explains.

“We remain determined and hopeful that the court will make the right decision to allow voters to decide Amendment 8 on its merits,” said Erika Donalds, a Collier County School Board member who sponsored the plan when she was a member of the CRC.

“Those with a mission to preserve the status quo have created unwarranted confusion and fear over what Amendment 8 will do. And we’re working to correct the record. This effort has always been about students. I hope more adults will remember that.”

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Background from The News Service of Florida, republished with permission. 

Gambling opposition group spends $15 million on ads

A political committee leading a drive to pass a ballot proposal that could make it harder to expand gambling in Florida spent $15 million on advertising this month, according to finance reports.

The committee known as Voters In Charge, which has been primarily funded by Disney Worldwide Services, Inc. and the Seminole Tribe of Florida, paid $15 million to the Virginia-based firm National Media Research, Planning & Placement.

The report posted on the state Division of Elections website indicates the payment was made Aug. 8 and lists “advertising” as the purpose of the expenditure.

Voters In Charge has raised about $26.74 million since being formed in 2015 and had $4.8 million in cash on hand as of Thursday.

The committee is backing a proposal on the November ballot that would change the Florida Constitution and give voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state.

It would require voter approval of casino-style games in the future and effectively reduce the power of the Legislature and governor to decide gambling-related issues.

The measure, which will appear on the ballot as Amendment 3, would require approval from 60 percent of voters to pass. Disney has been a longtime opponent of casino gambling in Florida, while the Seminole Tribe already operates casinos in the state.

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

Supreme Court passes on ‘bundling’ challenge to constitutional amendments

The state’s highest court has punted a challenge that six proposed constitutional amendments were wrongfully “bundled.”

Without explanation, the Florida Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously kicked the case to the 2nd Judicial Circuit in Tallahassee, with a proviso that the trial judge assigned the case “should not interpret the transfer of this case as an indication that it must or should reach the merits of the petition.”

Retired Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead filed a challenge to the amendments earlier this month. He said six amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) were “logrolled.” That is, they could force people to vote for an amendment because they’re in favor of one policy in it, but not others.

He called it “a form of issue gerrymandering that violates the First Amendment right of the voter to vote for or against specific, independent and unrelated proposals to amend the constitution without paying the price of supporting a measure the voter opposes or opposing a measure the voter supports.”

In her own filing, Attorney General Pam Bondi countered that there’s no such thing as improper bundling of issues when it comes to CRC amendments: “The single-subject requirement applies to amendments proposed by citizen’s initiative, and only to such amendments.”

In other words, “the single-subject limitation exists because the citizen initiative process does not afford the same opportunity for public hearing and debate that accompanies the other constitutional proposal and drafting processes (i.e., constitutional amendments proposed by the Legislature, by a constitutional revision commission, or by a constitutional convention).”

Anstead, a Gov. Lawton Chiles appointee who served on the Court 1994-2009, seeks a writ of ‘quo warranto.‘ That’s a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action — in this case, against Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s chief election officer.

The measures at issue include amendments that already have been ordered off the ballot by circuit judges: Amendment 8, a contentious education-related amendment; and Amendment 6, which would create a crime victims’ bill of rights and raise judicial retirement ages.

Anstead also is going after Amendment 7, which would extend survivor benefits to first responders and military; Amendment 9, which bans both offshore oil drilling and indoor ‘vaping,’ Amendment 10, which would overhaul state and local governments by requiring certain offices now appointed to be elected; and Amendment 11, which deals with property rights and criminal laws.

Yet another amendment aimed at ending live greyhound racing in Florida, Amendment 13, also has been ordered off the ballot in a separate challenge; that case is under appeal at the Florida Supreme Court. Oral arguments are set for Wednesday morning.

Anstead filed his petition with Robert Barnas, a former High Springs City Commissioner and former state Elections Commissioner. They’re represented by Joseph Little, a constitutional scholar and retired professor of the University of Florida’s law school.

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