Staff Reports, Author at Florida Politics

Staff Reports

Florida reaps $1.6 million from settlement with Johnson & Johnson

Florida’s share of a settlement with Johnson & Johnson over adulterated over-the-counter drugs will exceed $1.6 million, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced Wednesday.

Florida was among 43 states that sued the company and its Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. subsidiary, alleging that they misled consumers into believing that they’d manufactured the medications in FDA-compliant facilities.

In a consent decree dated Wednesday, J&J agreed to pay $33 million to the states and to improve internal and marketing controls. The company pleaded guilty in 2015 to selling liquid medicines contaminated with metal, and agreed to pay $25 million to the federal government.

According to the complaint, J&J’s McNeil-PPC Inc. subsidiary marketed over-the-counter drugs as complying with federal Good Manufacturing Practices between 2009 and 2011 when not all of its plants met those standards. That noncompliance was the equivalent of selling adulterated medicines, the document says.

That document cites recalls in 2009 and 2010 of drugs including Tylenol, Infants and Children Tylenol, Benadryl, Rolaids, Motrin, and Zyrtec.

“When a consumer purchases over-the-counter drugs, they should be able to trust that the medication is produced in a safe facility,” Bondi said in a written statement. “Thanks to collaborative multistate efforts, this settlement will help us better protect consumers buying OTC drugs across the country.”

Jeff Clemens endorses Andrew Gillum for Governor

Add Sen. Jeff Clemens to the list of Democratic leaders backing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

The Gillum campaign announced Wednesday that Clemens, the Senate Democratic Leader-designate, has endorsed Gillum’s 2018 gubernatorial bid. In a statement, Clemens called Gillum a “bold leader whose vision will transform Florida.”

“Andrew will prioritize the people we serve, not the privileged few who have had their way in Tallahassee for decades,” said Clemens. “Strong values like top-flight education for every child, an economy that works for workers as well as small business owners, and healthcare that protects the vulnerable by covering Floridians with pre-existing conditions.”

Clemens went on to say that Gillum is the best person to “challenge the status quo.”

“Andrew knows we can do better, and I have confidence he will make the Legislature do its job,” he said.

Gillum is one of three Democrats currently vying to replace Gov. Rick Scott in 2018. Former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham and Orlando businessman Chris King have also filed to run.

“It’s an honor to receive Leader Designate Jeff Clemens’ endorsement. He is a true champion for Florida’s working people, and as a former Mayor, he knows the critical importance of building strong communities everywhere in Florida,” said Gillum in a statement. “I look forward to working with him to build an economy that serves all Floridians – not the special interests.”

 

Raquel Regalado announces bid to replace Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Add Raquel Regalado to the list of politicos vying to replace Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Congress.

Regalado, a former Miami-Dade school board member, announced Tuesday she was running to replace Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District. The Miami Herald reported she is the second big-name Republican to enter the race, after Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruno Barreiro.

Republican Maria Peiro has also filed to run, and the Herald reported Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera has considered running for the spot.

Regalado is a 42-year-old mother of two, who has a history of crossing party lines. POLITICO Florida reported Regalado, the daughter of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, backed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink in 2010 over Republican Rick Scott. She endorsed Scott in his 2014 re-election grid. And in 2016, she challenged Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, a fellow Republican. Gimenez won, 56 percent to Regalado’s 44 percent.

Ros-Lehtinen announced earlier this year she plans to retire when her term ends in 2018. Democrats look at the seat as a possible pick-up, since Hillary Clinton won the district by 20 percentage points. The district includes parts of coastal Miami-Dade, including Miami Beach.

State Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez has said he plans to run for the seat, and is the most favored to take the Democratic nomination. He’ll face Democrats Scott Fuhrman, who ran against Ros-Lehtinen in 2016, and Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.

Rick Scott signs 16 bills into law

Foster families will get free annual passes to Florida state parks under a bill signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Lee in the House and Sen. Aaron Bean in the Senate, the new law provides families who operate a licensed family foster home free family annual passes and a discount on base campsite fees at Florida State Parks. Families who adopt children with special needs would be eligible to receive a one-time family annual entrance pass to the Florida State Parks.

It also requires the Division of Recreation and Parks to work with the Department of Children and Families to identify the types of documentation needed to establish eligibility for discounts.

The law requires the division to continue to partner with DCF to promote foster care and the adoption of children with special needs through events held during National Foster Care Month and National Adoption Month.

The law goes into effect on July 1.

The bill was one of 16 the governor signed into law on Wednesday. The Naples Republican also signed a claims bill to compensate Victor Barahona $3.75 million in an abuse case that took the life of his sister, Nubia.

He also signed into law a bill (HB 711) that would reduce registration fees for recreational vessels equipped with an emergency position-indicating radio beacon or where the owner owns a personal locator beacon.

Lawmakers in 2016 reduced registration fees for boat owners with the emergency radio beacon or personal locator. That fee reduction, however, was applicable for vessels registered between July 1, 2016 and June 30.

The new law further lowers the fees, and removes the repeal of the vessel registration discounts.

“Just two years ago, we suffered the heartbreaking loss of two teenagers after sailing from the Jupiter Inlet,” said Scott in a statement. “This important legislation encourages the use of safety measures to ensure this kind of tragedy never happens again. I’m proud to continue our efforts to keep Florida’s families and visitors safe by signing HB 711 today.”

The new fee reduction goes into effect July 1, 2017.

The governor also signed into law:

— SB 80, which requires judges to award attorney fees if they find an agency broke the public records law and a “requestor” gave five days’ notice before filing suit.

 — HB 7041, a bill dealing with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation fees

— SB 818, a bill dealing with timeshares

— SB 852, a bill dealing with human trafficking

— SB 884, a bill that codifies a prohibition against shark finning established by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

— SB 886, a public records exemption bill

— SB 1020, a bill dealing with collective bargaining impasses

— HB 1233, a bill making it easier for cottage food operations to sell and accept payment for goods over the internet

— HB 7045, a bill dealing with the OGSR/reports of Unclaimed Property

— HB 7067, A Review Under the Open Government Sunset Review Act, and

— HB 7107, the homestead exemption implementation

 

Rick Scott signs claims bill for abuse survivor Victor Barahona

Gov. Rick Scott agreed the state needs to pay the remainder of a $5 million settlement to a boy found doused in chemicals while his twin decomposed in the back of their father’s pesticide truck.

Scott signed the claims bill (SB 18) to pay Victor Barahona $3.75 million in an abuse case that took the life of his twin sister, Nubia.

The twins suffered extreme abuse by their adoptive parents, and in 2011, he was found suffering chemical burns along Interstate 95. He was 10 years old at the time.

The Department of Children and Families has been criticized for allowing Jorge and Carmen Barahona to adopt the children despite signs of abuse.

According to a special master’s report provided to the Florida Senate, there were allegations of medical neglect in 2004. The report noted the department became aware that there were reports of sexual abuse, and the children’s school appeared to make several reports of abuse.

The final report of abuse came on Feb. 10, 2011, when, according to the report, a therapist for the Barahona’s niece said the two were tied “by their hands and feet with tape and made to stay in the bathtub day and night as a form of punishment.”

The children were found on the side of I-95 in Palm Beach County on Feb. 14, 2011. The Barahonas have been charged with murder, according to the Miami Herald.

A report commissioned by then-DCF Secretary David Wilkins found the agency’s “failure in common sense, critical thinking, ownership, follow-through, and timely and accurate information-sharing” defined the care of Nubia and Victor.

DCF initially agreed to pay $5 million to the family and had already paid $1.25 million.

__

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Florida leaders react to the bombing at a concert in Manchester

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Tuesday for the suicide bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that left 22 people dead and sparked a stampede of young concertgoers.

The attack was the deadliest in Britain since four suicide bombers killed 52 London commuters on subway trains and a bus in July 2005.

Here is a compilation of reaction from Florida’s elected officials and leaders about the tragedy:

— Sen. Marco Rubio on Twitter: “Our prayers are with the people of Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist on Twitter: “My thoughts and prayers are with Britain and the families impacted by this horrific act in Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo on Twitter: “Praying for the people of Manchester.”

— U.S. Rep. Val Demings on Twitter : “Standing with and praying for Manchester today.  Another cowardly attack against innocent people.”

— U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch on Twitter: “Tonight in #Manchester, enormous amounts of horror, grief, and pain. From America and beyond, we join you in sympathy, outrage and resolve.”

— U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn on Facebook: “Leah and I send our sincere condolences to the British people as they respond to another heinous act of terrorism. The events in Manchester remind us again that these vicious killers will consider any target, even a crowd of teenagers and children at a music concert. We stand with resolve alongside our British friends in the face of this threat.”

— U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings: “I offer my deepest sympathies to the families of the victims of yesterday’s terror attack in Manchester. As England’s law enforcement continues working to establish the full details of this horrific attack against innocent children and families, the American people stand side-by-side in grief, anger, and resolve. My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the city of Manchester and all of England as they come to terms with this terrible atrocity.”

— U.S. Rep. Al Lawson on Twitter: “Our thoughts and prayers are with #Manchester and the United Kingdom for all the victims of tonight’s attack. Such sad news.”

— U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz: “As I am writing yet another statement expressing horror and condolences after another inexplicable terror attack, I feel the angst and anger of a mother who has sent my children off to a concert just like last night’s in Manchester.

The terror attack that apparently targeted innocent young people was a truly despicable act committed by cowards. As Americans, we are heartbroken and horrified by this mass murder of young adults and even children, but make no mistake: our resolve to make our world a safer one for our children is only strengthened, and our commitment to working with our British ally in pursuit of that goal remains unshakeable.

Our thoughts are now with the victims, their families and all the people of Manchester. And while many facts are still unknown, Americans will not waver in seeking justice and standing up against the hate that motivates such heinous crimes. And we will never let these pretenders who hold themselves out as the only true defenders of Islam to be recognized as anything more than what they are: murderers.”

— Gov. Rick Scott on Twitter: “Praying for everyone in Manchester tonight. This is an absolute tragedy and our hearts are with those who were harmed and their loved ones. Also praying for the safety and security of Manchester of law enforcement and first responders during this unimaginably challenging time.”

On Tuesday morning, the governor tweeted: “(First Lady Ann Scott) and I continue to pray for the 22 innocent lives lost in the senseless act of hate and terror in Manchester last night. Florida stands with the British people.”

— Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera on Twitter: “Horrible and senseless. We mourn those lost and pray for swift justice.”

— Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Twitter: “Terrorists who take the lives of innocent people are nothing but cowards & they must be brought to justice. My prayers to Manchester.”

— Democrat Gwen Graham on Twitter: “As a mom, my heart breaks. Praying for the children and families, parents and grandparents in Manchester.”

— Democrat Andrew Gillum on Twitter: “Deeply saddened by #Manchester tonight. Prayers to the families affected & the UK.

— House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Twitter: “My deepest sympathies and prayers for strength go out to the victims, parents, & families of the terror attack in the U.K.”

— Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto on Twitter: “Prayers to our British friends this evening. What a horrible tragedy.”

— Sen. Debbie Mayfield on Twitter: “My heart goes out to those in Manchester, especially to the families and first responders. Our prayers are with you and the United States of America will always stand by you.”

— Rep. Chris Sprowls on Twitter: “Our hearts are with the families of those killed in #ManchesterArena last night. May we unite together to eliminate terror.”

— Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Twitter: “My prayers go out to those in Manchester, as a Father of 2 little girls, I can’t imagine what these families are going through.”

— Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry on Twitter: “Outrage!!–Manchester terrorist attack. Tears & prayers for the victims and families.”

— State Attorney Melissa Nelson: “We’re all grieving for the victims and those affected by yesterday’s bombing in Manchester.

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Florida Democratic Party reveals key staffing changes

More changes are coming to the Florida Democratic Party.

Stephen Bittel, the chairman of the state party, announced several key staffing changes, including the promotions of Roosevelt Holmes and Johanna Cervone, Monday.

In a statement, Bittel said the state party has seen a resurgence in recent months, and he is confident the “new Florida Democratic Party will build the strongest most effective grassroots infrastructure in the entire country as we turn Florida back to blue in 2018.”

Bittel added that Holmes has been promoted to the state party’s political director, while Cervone has been promoted to the organization’s communications director.

Holmes previously served as the deputy political director, and worked on successful Democratic campaigns at all levels, including then-candidate Barack Obama’s 2008 president campaign and Orland Mayor Buddy Dyer’s 2012 re-election campaign. He also worked in Rep. Kathy Castor’s office, for the U.S. House of Representatives’ Committee on Education and Workforce, and served in the Government Affairs and Public Policy Department of the UNCF. He joined the FDP in October 2015.

Cervone joined the state party earlier this year and served as the party’s deputy communications director. Prior to that, she served as the South Florida regional press secretary for the Hillary for Florida campaign, and served a stint as communications director for Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava. She got her start in politics in government working on Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Bittel also announced Monday:

Georgette Brammer will serve as deputy finance director. Brammer joined the Obama for America finance team in 2007 after attending the University of Miami for political science. She spent five years at the U.S. Department of Transportation as the director of scheduling and advance, before joining Ambassador Michael Froman at the Office of the United States Trade Representative as director of scheduling and advance. Most recently, she was the sales coordinator for group and luxury leisure sales at the St. Regis Bal Harbour Resort.

Amir Ahmadiavin will serve as a communications specialist.

Erika Ann Grohoski Peralta will serve as a field specialist.

Rick Scott claims $24 million gain from his Argentina trade mission

Gov. Rick Scott’s trade mission to Argentina has resulted in $24 million in sales to companies that participated, the governor’s office announced Monday.

“Enterprise Florida led this mission, and they do important work to connect Florida small business with opportunities in international markets,” Scott said in a written statement, referencing the state’s embattled economic development arm.

“We are competing in a global economy, and many of these businesses would not have the resources or opportunities to market themselves across the world if not for Enterprise Florida. It is disappointing that the Legislature chose to disregard the impact not fully funding EFI could have on our job creators and families,” Scott said.  

Scott led the mission last month. Also participating were the U.S. Commercial Service, the U.S. Embassy in Argentina, the American Chamber of Commerce in Argentina, and the Florida Ports Council.

Since then, the Ports Council has signed a memorandum of understanding to develop direct sea routes between Argentina and Florida, Scott’s office said.

“This was a successful mission. I believe we will build some great business relationships here in Buenos Aires,” said Arley Bedillion, industrial sales manager for the Mastry Engine Center in St. Petersburg, which participated under an Enterprise Florida trade grand.

“Our success is a direct reflection of the efforts and hard work of Enterprise Florida,” Bedillon said.

Drug Free America Foundation wants marijuana Special Session

The Drug Free America Foundation is adding its voice to those calling for a Special Session on Medical Marijuana Implementation, according to a Monday press release.

“It is critical that our leaders call a special session to complete the unfinished business of implementing Amendment 2,” said Calvina Fay, executive director of the Foundation. “Moreover, it is short-sighted to think that the lack of legislation to implement Amendment 2 will stop the marijuana industry from operating.”

Fay, among other examples, cited a recent cease and desist letter from the Department of Health to Trulieve, telling it to stop selling its whole-flower cannabis product meant for vaping that also could be broken down and smoked.

“These and other similar issues are all addressed in compromise legislation that died when members of the legislature could not come to an agreement on the number of dispensaries allowed for each licensee,” Fay added.

“It is imperative that our legislators come together, take action and not allow the marijuana industry to operate as it does in some states, with no regards to public health and safety.”

A Special Session could be called jointly by Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, but Negron has not yet made up his mind whether to convene lawmakers.

The regular 2017 Legislative Session ended earlier this month without agreement on a bill.

Personnel note: Laura Lenhart joins Frontier Communications

Laura Lenhart is joining Frontier Communications as its head of government and regulatory affairs for Florida, the company announced last week.

“We are delighted to welcome Laura as a strong addition to the Frontier team,” said Allison Ellis, Frontier’s senior vice president for regulatory affairs, in a statement. “As we continue to execute our growth strategy in Florida, Laura’s regulatory and government affairs expertise will be a valuable asset in ensuring that state and local policies continue to encourage investment in and expansion of critical telecommunications products and services.”

Lenhart most recently served as the public affairs strategist at the Moffitt Cancer Center. In that role, she was responsible for administering the government relations social media, facilitating grassroots management and the continued growth of Speak Out Moffitt, and advocating for the Cancer Center before the Florida Legislature.

Before joining Moffitt as its public affairs strategist, she served a stint as a government affairs contractor and coordinator of “CCRAB” Florida’s Cancer Control and Research Advisory Council, which is housed within Moffitt. She also served as the governmental affairs coordinator for the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Lenhart, who received both her bachelor and master’s degrees from Florida State University, will be based out of Tampa.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons