Jim Rosica – Page 7 – 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.

Judge lifts stay in Joe Redner ‘home grow’ marijuana case

A Tallahassee judge on Tuesday lifted an automatic delay of the effect of her earlier ruling that Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner can grow and make juice of his own medical marijuana.

An attorney for the Department of Health said it would immediately appeal Circuit Judge Karen Gievers‘ decision to lift the ‘stay‘ to the 1st District Court of Appeal. (A copy of the judge’s order is below.)

“It is solely Mr. Redner who will be harmed if the stay is not promptly vacated; each day he is kept from accessing the recommended marijuana juice increases the risk of irreparable harm to him,” she wrote.

Redner is a lung cancer survivor who is in remission. His doctors say juiced marijuana is the “optimal” way to keep his cancer in check.

The department, on the other hand, “has provided no evidence of the harm it will suffer” by lifting the stay, Gievers wrote, adding that medical marijuana regulators have not “complied with (their) constitutional duties as to determining dosage.” Her prior order limits Redner to no more than eight ounces daily, based on his doctors’ recommendations.

During a morning hearing, Redner attorney Luke Lirot reminded Gievers of her previous ruling that Redner has a constitutional right to possess growing marijuana plants. Redner did not attend but was listening in by phone.

But being in remission is “both certain and terrifying,” Lirot said in court. “This is a medical necessity,” he added, saying Redner showed a likelihood of irreparable harm if couldn’t immediately start juicing and drinking his marijuana.

“Every day he misses, every day he cannot consume his medicine, that’s a day we don’t get back,” Lirot said. “This is a real emergency, a sincere emergency.”

Jason Gonzalez, the Health Department’s outside counsel, said automatic stays of cases should not be lifted but for “rare exceptions.”

“This is not the case for an exception … This simply maintains the status quo,” he told Gievers, saying such motions should be granted only in the “most compelling circumstances.”

“What could be more compelling than the health of a human being?” Lirot countered.

In last week’s ruling, Gievers wrote that her decision was supported by the “clear language” of the state constitutional amendment OK’d by voters in 2016, and the “lack of any credible evidence” to the contrary.

Her order, which applies only to Redner, allows him to “possess, grow and use marijuana,” but only for juicing.

The department “fully expects Judge Giever’s ruling to be reversed on appeal,” said Devin Galetta, Health’s interim communications director.

Greyhound racing ban heads to voters

Florida voters will decide whether to outlaw greyhound racing under a proposed constitutional amendment approved Monday.

The proposal (P6012) was passed by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) on a 27-10 vote; it needed at least 22 votes.

It will go directly to November’s statewide ballot, where it needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution.

Commissioner Tom Lee, the amendment’s sponsor, tweeted: “My proposal to end dog racing just passed the @FloridaCRC! The amendment will now appear on the November ballot and voters will decide whether our state ends this archaic tradition.”

The measure goes into effect Dec. 31, 2020, if passed, and bans dog racing itself and betting on dog races. It doesn’t, however, affect any other gambling now going on at dog tracks, such as card games.

Lee, a Republican state Senator from Thonotosassa and possible candidate for state CFO this year, left the fiery rhetoric to Attorney General Pam Bondi, an ex officio member of the CRC.

Bondi, a Tampa Republican, regularly brings shelter dogs to state Cabinet meetings to get them adopted.

“This is a black eye on our state,” Bondi said in an often emotional speech on the floor of the Senate, where the commission meets.

She recited a litany of alleged incidents of abused racing dogs, showing photos. Bondi said 419 greyhounds have tested positive for illegal drugs, including cocaine, over the last decade. 

“The entire country is watching us,” she said. Dog racing “is cruel and inhumane (and) horrible … This is not who we are as a state.”

Commissioner Chris Smith, a former Senate Democratic leader, asked whether banning racing would be an unconstitutional ‘taking’ of private property. 

Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and former appellate judge Paul Hawkes, who represent the Florida Greyhound Association (FGA), have said the amendment’s passage would subject the state to lawsuits worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

“It is not a taking,” Bondi answered bluntly. As to to the hundreds of dogs that could be out of work, she added: “These dogs will be spoken for … if I have to take 1,000 of them, I will.” 

Smith later brought up a much-maligned ‘pregnant pigs’ amendment, as another example of what not to put in the state constitution: “This is why we have a Legislature,” he said. “Let’s not ‘one up’ the pigs by adding dogs.”

He was backed up by Commissioner Arthenia Joyner, another former Senate Democratic leader, who said dog racing “is how people make their living.” As one person told her, “Close this down and you close me down.”

“We’re seeking to take away an opportunity from hard working people,” Joyner added, saying the Legislature should provide a solution. 

But Commissioner Don Gaetz, a Republican and former Senate President, countered the Legislature could deal with it, but hasn’t and won’t. The issue is too fraught with peril because it implicates the state’s gambling laws, he said. Gaetz co-sponsored the proposal. 

“The industry won’t reform itself,” he added, mentioning “reasonable” past attempts to regulate dog racing. “Let the people of Florida decide whether to continue this as part of our culture.”

Updated 7 p.m. — Carey M. Theil, executive director of GREY2K USA Worldwide, emailed the following statement:

“… This is a major victory for everyone in the state who cares about dogs. Commercial greyhound racing is cruel and inhumane. Every three days, a greyhound dies at a Florida dog track. Greyhounds endure lives of confinement, and many suffer serious injuries. Over the past decade, there have been more than 400 greyhound drug positives in Florida including dogs that tested positive for cocaine, opiates, and other serious drugs.

“The animal protection community is united in its support for this humane proposal. We are prepared to run a formidable campaign, and are confident Floridians will vote ‘yes’ for the dogs this November.”

Crime victims’ bill of rights OK’d for ballot

A proposed constitutional amendment is headed to the ballot that would, among other things, enshrine a crime victims’ bill of rights in the state constitution.

“Revision 1” (P6001) was OK’d Monday by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) on a 34-3 vote; it needed at least 22 votes for ballot placement.

Now, the amendment must get no less than 60 percent approval in November to be added to the constitution.

The measure would create a Marsy’s Law for Florida, named after Marsalee ‘Marsy’ Nicholas of California. She was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.

It creates constitutional rights for victims or their surviving family members to attend and be heard during certain court proceedings and to “full and timely restitution,” among other provisions.

“Only one week after her death, Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, walked into a grocery store where they were confronted by the accused murderer,” according to the group’s website. “The family, who had just come from a visit to Marsy’s grave, was unaware that the accused had been released on bail.

“In an effort to honor his sister, Nicholas — co-founder of Broadcom Corp. — made it his mission to give victims and their families constitutional protections and equal rights. He formed Marsy’s Law for All in 2009, providing expertise and resources to victims’ rights organizations nationwide.”

Six other states have enacted a Marsy’s Law, according to the group, including California, Illinois, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Montana.

The amendment as passed also raises the judicial retirement age in the state to 75 from 70, and requires courts and administrative tribunals to interpret statutes and rules without regard to the way a state agency may have interpreted them for enforcement purposes.

The CRC is formed every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document. Amendments it approves go directly on the 2018 statewide ballot.

Low going: Florida Bar exam results again under 60 percent

The passage rate for first-time Florida Bar winter exam takers continues to stay in a ditch.

Of 637 first-time takers in the February examination, 369 passed the bar, or 57.9 percent, according to a Monday release from the state’s Board of Bar Examiners.

That’s only a 0.2 percent uptick from this time last year, when 57.7 percent of first-timers passed — 433 out of 751.

The highest pass rate in recent years still is 80.2 percent from February 2013, when there were 819 first-timers.

Like many state bar exams, Florida’s is given twice a year: In late February and late July. Both administrations of the test are held at the Tampa Convention Center.

More law students traditionally take the exam in the summer, however, immediately after graduation and bar review. A smaller number, including those who fail the summer exam, take the bar in the winter.

The total of all test-takers for this February was 1,762, with 445 approved for admission to The Florida Bar.

Here are the February 2018 passage rates broken down by individual Florida law schools or other category:

Florida International University College of Law – 85 percent.

Ave Maria School of Law – 84.6 percent.

Florida State University College of Law – 76.7 percent.  

Those already admitted to the practice of law elsewhere – 75 percent.  

Florida Coastal School of Law – 62.1 percent.

Stetson University College of Law – 56 percent.  

University of Miami School of Law – 56 percent.

Nova Southeastern University College of Law – 50 percent.

Barry University School of Law – 41 percent.

St. Thomas University College of Law – 38.9 percent.

Florida A&M University College of Law – 36.7 percent.  

Graduates of non-Florida law schools – 36.6 percent.

University of Florida College of Law – 31.8 percent.

Statistics for previous exams are here.

Updated 4:30 p.m. — Laura A. Rosenbury, dean of the University of Florida’s Levin College of Law, issued the following statement on the school’s showing. 

“We are beyond disappointed in the performance of our students on the February bar exam. The results are utterly unacceptable given the caliber of our students and the quality of their education.

“The efforts we undertook prior to the February bar exam were clearly insufficient. We will be increasing the support we provide to the students taking the July, 2018 bar exam.

“We have a long tradition at UF Law of respecting our students’ autonomy and control over the courses they take. Given these shocking and disheartening results, we are rethinking this approach and doubling down on our intervention strategy.

“These results are a clear wake-up call for the entire law school. Faculty and staff will do our part by providing support, resources, and encouragement to students. We have no doubt our students will rise to this challenge.”

 

Bill Galvano: No deal on Special Session for gambling

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano on Friday said there was no “agreement (on) or recommendations” for a Special Legislative Session on gambling.

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 concerns over the potential loss of revenue share from the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Galvano, expected to take over as president after the 2018 election cycle, also is his chamber’s point man on gambling issues.

The Tribe pays $19.5 million monthly, with a balloon—or “true-up”—payment at the end of the state’s fiscal year, which runs July 1-June 30. A “forbearance period” that was part of a settlement over blackjack litigation ended on March 31, after which the Tribe was entitled to stop paying.

But the Tribe’s lawyer seemingly took the wind out of the Special Session sails, telling Florida Politics last week that the Seminoles would continue paying the state its monthly share of casino gambling revenue.

“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.”

Asked about the latest prospects for a Special Session, Galvano – a Bradenton Republican – said in a text message: “Discussions are continuing (but) there is not an agreement or recommendations at this time.”

The head of an anti-casino gambling organization also has written to top lawmakers, saying the Tribe’s promise to keep paying should shut down further talks on a Special Session.

“Doesn’t (the) 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.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican term-limited in the House this year, is expected to announce a run for governor.

 

Dumpster diving for pot? State continues rule-making for medical marijuana

Calling it a “blue sky opportunity,” the state’s chief medical marijuana regulator opened a rule-making workshop Friday with a twist: No rules.

Agencies usually issue draft rules weeks in advance of a workshop, so there’s something to comment on when interested parties arrive. Many attendees were lobbyists for marijuana providers.

But Christian Bax, head of the Florida Department of Health‘s Office of Medical Marijuana Use, told reporters after the workshop — which lasted barely half of the three hours allotted — that he wanted to start with a blank slate.

That includes addressing the emerging issue of ‘dumpster diving’ behind medical marijuana treatment centers.

“The department certainly has ideas on where we’d like to go … but this has been such a contentious issue, with so many people with so much to say,” Bax said. “We don’t want to get ahead of the process, and come out with (rules that say), ‘this is where the negotiation starts.’

“People get the idea we’re cemented behind a position, and it’s much more difficult to claw changes back,” he added. “We understand there will be pushback … but we want to have at least made a good-faith effort to get everyone’s opinion to have a benchmark to justify the rules.”

There wasn’t exactly a deluge of opinions, however, at the workshop, aimed at regulations on “packaging and labeling,” “solvent-based extraction” processes, retail location “advertising and signage,” and even “waste management.”

For instance, Bax said he’s heard “anecdotes” from other states where people were rifling through dumpsters behind medical marijuana stores looking for “product.”

“People perceive that waste as (containing) medical marijuana, or plant product,” he said. “We see now that waste disposal areas have become highly secure … You want to avoid the appearance of being a soft target.”

Could that result in Florida with a future rule on trash security, including lockable dumpsters? Maybe, Bax said, but that creates more problems.

“If people see a dumpster that’s locked, they’re going to think there’s something inside” worth stealing, he said. “We’ve been told about dumpsters with crowbar marks” because would-be thieves “perceive there’s product in there.”

Bax’s office now begins writing proposed rules, followed by additional public comment on the proposed language.

Tampa’s Joe Redner wins ‘home grow’ marijuana suit

A Tallahassee judge has ruled in favor of Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner in his fight against the state to grow and make juice out of his own medical marijuana.

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers‘ order was released Wednesday. The state immediately filed a notice of appeal to the 1st District Court of Appeal. The notice said it would “automatically operate as a stay (that is, a delay of the effect of the order,) pending appellate review.”

Gievers had ruled last year that Redner, a lung cancer survivor, has a constitutional right as a “qualifying patient” to possess a live cannabis plant.

In Wednesday’s ruling, she wrote that her decision was supported by the “clear language” of the state constitutional amendment OK’d by voters in 2016, and the “lack of any credible evidence” to the contrary.

Her order allows Redner to “possess, grow and use marijuana,” but only for “juicing,” the form that Redner’s doctors have told him will work best to keep his cancer in remission. He can’t use more than eight ounces daily, she added.

Further, it’s not clear from the order whether her holding is limited to Redner, or applies to all medical marijuana patients in the state.

“The constitution says what it says, and the judge recognized that,” Redner said in a statement. “I’ve been saying all along: The Department of Health and the Legislature can’t take away the rights that the constitution gives you.”

Gievers wrote that the amendment gives the state’s medical marijuana regulators “no authority by which it may limit routes of administration for a qualifying patients to administer medical marijuana,” and said the Department of Health “has no authority to modify the rights of patients that Floridians have chosen to place” in the state’s governing document.

That’s the crux of another suit in Leon County, brought by Orlando attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan, who financially backed the marijuana amendment’s passage. He wants medical marijuana patients to be allowed to smoke the drug; the state now prohibits the smoking of medicinal cannabis. Gievers is also the judge on that case.

The judge also slammed the Florida Department of Health, which regulates medicinal pot through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, for being “non-compliant” with the requirements of the amendment.

“We have appealed the judge’s ruling. Her order has been stayed. We will continue to work to implement the law so Florida patients can have safe access to this medicine,” said Devin Galetta, a spokesman for the department, in an email.

“I filed this lawsuit because I couldn’t have survived cancer without medical marijuana. It’s not just a miracle drug—it’s a miracle plant, and the State keeps standing in the way of patients getting their medicine,” Redner said Wednesday.

“…A mom who’s using low THC cannabis to control her child’s seizures can stick a plant in the ground and make her baby’s medicine for around 30 bucks a month if she can grow her own,” he added. “And 71 percent of us voted for an amendment that clearly gives her that right. This ruling is a victory for the patients of Florida.”

Redner is a stage 4 lung cancer patient, initially diagnosed in 2011. He became of one of the first people in Florida to challenge the state’s medical marijuana laws in June after state lawmakers implemented the 2016 constitutional amendment into law.

Redner, a multimillionaire, has said that he filed the lawsuit because “many patients don’t have enough money to pay for their medicine, let alone a lawsuit.”

“I filed this lawsuit because I couldn’t have survived cancer without medical marijuana,” he said in a statement last year. “I am a raw vegan, and I want to juice my own raw cannabis to protect my health. The only way to do that is to grow my own cannabis.”

In a separate statement Wednesday, CEO Kim Rivers of medical marijuana provider Trulieve said the company is prepared for the new business.

“Trulieve is committed to expanding patient access across Florida and, in anticipation of this court decision, we sought state approval to provide this patient — and others like him — with the medical marijuana his doctor prescribed. (We) stand ready to dispense it once authorized,” Rivers said.

gambling casino poker cards

Marc Dunbar fires back after latest John Sowinski salvo

Gaming industry lobbyist Marc Dunbar is asking No Casinos head John Sowinski whether he’s “ready to end the games.”

Dunbar’s latest “open letter” to Sowinski, released Monday, is the third in an exchange between the two over the proposed “Voter Control of Gambling” constitutional amendment, also known as “Amendment 3.” 

It’s backed by Voters In Charge, a political committee that Sowinski also chairs, and aims to give statewide voters sole authority to approve future expansions of gambling in the state.

Dunbar took issue with “edits” of his oral arguments before the Florida Supreme Court that Sowinski posted on Twitter, saying he’s “further distorting the facts.”

Sowinski had argued that the amendment, if passed by 60 percent or more of voters in November, would retroactively undo, or “de-authorize,” any gambling expansion approved by state lawmakers between now and then.

Lawmakers recently considered – but are now silent – on a Special Session on gambling after they failed to pass any related legislation this past Regular Session.

“You obviously missed or intentionally glossed over the comments of your own lawyer who stated quite succinctly: ‘First of all, this amendment is not retroactive as has been suggested in some of the papers,’ ” Dunbar wrote. 

He then asks Sowinski, “Will (you) make yourself available publicly to clarify for Florida’s voters your organization’s position on Amendment 3 and your desire for its impact on existing Florida businesses, their employees and the government services they help support?”

“Voters deserve a clear picture,” he adds. “… To save you time and ink on your next response, a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer will suffice. We can work the details out later as to the forum for the discussion if the winds of courage blow favorably in your direction.”

The latest letter and previous ones are below. Previous coverage is here and here.

Marijuana provider: State’s pesticide regulation too ‘stringent’

If a pesticide is good enough for organic crops, it’s good enough to be used on medicinal pot, a Florida medical marijuana provider says.

Liberty Health Sciences, a Canadian concern operating in the U.S., last week filed an administrative challenge over a Florida Department of Health proposed rule on marijuana pesticides.

Within days, however, both sides agreed to a ceasefire, Division Of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) records show. They asked asked Administrative Law Judge June McKinney to call off an April 23-24 hearing.

That’s because Office of Medical Marijuana Use regulators were “continuing to evaluate the Proposed Rule in an effort to resolve the (company’s) concerns,” according to a filing. McKinney agreed, but ordered both sides to file a status report on the case by May 7.

“Failure to timely advise will result in the conclusion that this matter has been amicably resolved, and the file … will be closed,” McKinney wrote.

Liberty Health Sciences, represented by Tallahassee’s Lockwood Law Firm, says the department’s rule would “cause great harm to Florida’s medical marijuana industry and the patient population it serves.”

Here’s why: It “prohibits MMTCs (medical marijuana treatment centers) from using a large number of pesticides that have been approved for use in organic crop production without any valid scientific or legislative basis for such prohibition,” its filing says. 

“Very few substances meet the (department’s) stringent requirements, and the substances that do meet the requirements will adversely impact the quality of the cannabis product due to their low efficacy,” it adds.

“According to the clear language of (state) statute, the Office (of Medical Marijuana Use) may only determine which pesticides are safe for use on plants intended for human consumption. Once a pesticide has been determined to be safe for use on plants intended for human consumption, the Office must permit the pesticide to be used.”

The department has not filed a formal response, according to a Monday docket check.

Officials have “consulted with the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services on its rule for pesticide use on marijuana, as required by Florida law,” Health Department Deputy Press Secretary Brad Dalton said in an email.

“Because there are no federally approved pesticides for use on marijuana, regulating pesticides within Florida’s medical marijuana market is a complex endeavor,” he added. “The Department will continue to work towards establishing a regulatory framework that protects some of our state’s most vulnerable patients in a manner that represents effective and efficient policy in practice.”

Rick Scott vetoes ‘toilet-to-tap’ measure

There’ll be no “toilet-to-tap” in Florida this year.

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday vetoed a water-related measure (HB 1149) from the 2018 Legislative Session, which includes a contentious provision that’s come to be known as “toilet-to-tap.”

The proposal would have allowed chemically treated, recycled water to be pumped into the state’s underground aquifer, an effort supporters say will boost the state’s supply of potable water.

But critics, including the Sierra Club, have said that could contaminate Florida’s supply of drinking water.

The wide-ranging bill (HB 1149) also addresses a variety of water-related issues, including rules regarding rebuilding single-family docks and the operation of the C-51 reservoir project south of Lake Okeechobee.

“While there are many worthwhile provisions in this bill, they do not outweigh my concerns that this legislation presents toward protecting Florida’s aquifer,” Scott wrote in a veto letter.

Scott, term-limited as governor this year, urged lawmakers to again take up the other parts of the bill next Session. The Naples Republican is widely expected to declare a 2018 run for the U.S. Senate against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson on Monday.

He added, “I do not believe that approving HB 1149 is worth risking Floridians’ confidence in our existing water quality regulatory system … Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way.”

But Rep. Bobby Payne, the Palatka Republican who sponsored the measure, had said any water being pumped into the aquifer must meet clean water drinking standards.

“Reclaimed water can start out as many different kinds of water,” Payne told members of the House Government Accountability Committee in February. “We often have reclaimed water that we use in irrigation. But this water will be sanitized and reused as (to) the drinking water standard.”

The reclaimed water will help combat saltwater intrusion into the aquifer, Payne said.

David Cullen, a lobbyist for the Sierra Club, has said his group opposes the measure because of the potential long-term negative impact caused by the use of chemicals. Cullen objected to “stuff we don’t know about” at wastewater treatment plants being used to treat water that would go into the aquifer.

“It’s the Pottery Barn rule,” Cullen said. “You break it, you bought it — for decades, perhaps generations.”

Friday’s veto marks only Scott’s second veto of legislation this year; the first was of a bill that would have expanded the governing board of the Palm Beach County Housing Authority.

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The News Service of Florida contributed to this post. 

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