Staff Reports, Author at Florida Politics

Staff Reports

Medical marijuana implementation bill signed into law

As expected, Gov. Rick Scott‘s office on Friday announced he had signed into law two closely-watched medical marijuana bills.

Scott approved both the bill (SB 8-A) that implements the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment, passed by voters last year, and a companion measure (SB 6-A) that exempts caregivers’ personal information from public disclosure.

With Scott’s signature, the 78-page bill is effective immediately. That means personal-injury attorney John Morgan, who backed the constitutional amendment, could file suit as early as next week. He has said he will sue because lawmakers would not allow medical marijuana to be smoked.

“I’ll be filing my lawsuit for smoke as soon as it goes into law,” Morgan tweeted on Wednesday. Vaping and edibles are acceptable under the measure, however.

On Friday night, Morgan followed up, also on Twitter: “Thank you @FLGovScott for doing your part! I’ll be in Tally soon to file my suit. #NoSmokeIsAJoke.”

“We don’t believe you smoke medicine,” House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues said earlier this month. “We believe that smoking causes as much harm as the benefits, particularly when we’re offering vaping, which provides all of the benefits and none of the harm.”

The legislation also grandfathers in seven existing providers, now called medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs), with ten more online by October to serve those with qualifying medical conditions.

Until 2020, when these limits sunset, here are the rules: With each additional 100,000 patients, four more MMTCs will be added. Each MMTC will be allowed 25 retail shops, capped at a regional level. MMTCs can add five more for each 100,000 new patients.

The bill allows for caretaker certification, and makes the cannabis and attendant paraphernalia tax-exempt—a key consideration for the Florida House.

The bills, sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Rob Bradley and Sen. Dana Young, were definitely going to be signed; Scott had confirmed as much to news media.

 

Jorge Labarga names Council of Business Partners members

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga on Friday announced the first members of a panel to advise the Florida Supreme Court‘s commission on helping the state’s poor and working poor get legal help.

The Council of Business Partners will advise the Commission on Access to Civil Justice, created by Labarga in 2014.

“Employers, too, have a stake in this,” Labarga said in a statement. “Employees who have challenges accessing justice have higher absenteeism and reduced productivity.

“It is in all our interests to address access to justice,” he added.

Those appointed include:

— Tere Blanca, president and CEO of Blanca Commercial Real Estate in Miami, who will serve as liaison between the Council of Business Partners and the Commission on Access to Civil Justice.

— David Faulkenberry, president of FBMC Benefits Management, Inc., Tallahassee.

— Cathy Roth, senior vice president of legal affairs and general counsel, Universal Parks & Resorts, Orlando.

— Byron Russell, chair and CEO, Cheney Brothers, Inc., West Palm Beach. 

— Lynne Wines, Harvard University, Advanced Leadership fellow, Fort Lauderdale.

The commission has been seeking solutions to the perennial problem of providing civil legal help to those who can’t afford it. That includes things like child custody and landlord-tenant cases.

DEP doles out nearly $3 million in water grants

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) recently awarded nearly $3 million for six stormwater projects to communities across Florida, it announced in a Friday news release.

“Funded through annual appropriations from the Florida Legislature, Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) grants support projects designed to improve water quality in  impaired springs, rivers, lakes and estuaries, which need help meeting Florida’s stringent water-quality standards,” the release said.

“The department is eager to partner with communities to improve water quality in coastal estuaries,” said Drew Bartlett, DEP’s deputy secretary for ecosystems restoration, in a statement. “Healthy waterways are a top priority for Florida’s residents and visitors.”

Here’s the rest of the release:

Specifically, the TMDL grant program provides funding assistance for communities to implement projects to better manage or treat stormwater. Stormwater runoff is generated when rain flows over land and other surfaces and does not seep into the ground. As this runoff flows over paved streets, parking lots and building rooftops, it accumulates debris, nutrients, sediment or other pollutants that could adversely affect water quality if the runoff is left untreated and runs into nearby surface waters.

Recently awarded TMDL grants for stormwater infrastructure improvements include:

Cape Coral: Awarded $800,000 for replacement of nearly 600 existing stormwater catch basin inlets throughout the city with raised inlets designed to accept runoff from roadside grassy swales. This project will help with overflow and reduce pollutants into Charlotte Harbor during intense rainfall.

Fort Myers: Awarded $250,000 for new grassy swales, sedimentation boxes, closed drainage piping and back-flow preventers throughout 379 acres of residential and commercial areas of Fort Myers Beach and Estero Bay. This project will help decrease nutrients and sedimentation into Estero Bay, Florida’s first aquatic preserve.

Village of Palmetto Bay: Awarded $550,000 for catch basin retrofits, installation of additional catch basins, sedimentation boxes, baffle boxes and exfiltration trenches throughout the village. This will help reduce pollutants flowing into Biscayne Bay, southeast Florida’s largest coastal estuary.

Pompano Beach: Awarded $300,000 for a retrofit project including grassy swales, water control structures, baffle boxes and exfiltration trenches in the Avondale community. This project will address flooding in low lying public right of way areas by intercepting stormwater runoff from those areas before it reaches three existing outfalls into the Pompano Canal, which flows into the South Fork New River, the Intracoastal Waterway and ultimately, the Atlantic Ocean.

South Miami: Awarded $100,000 for drainage improvements including storm drain systems with catch basins and exfiltration trenches along a portion of Southwest 59th Avenue. This project will improve water quality in Snapper Creek Canal and ultimately, Biscayne Bay.

Volusia County: Awarded $935,618 for drainage improvements including connection and expansion of Riviera Oaks wet detention pond to a smaller adjacent pond. This project will reduce the force of extreme storm events and reduce pollutants flowing into the Halifax River and ultimately, the Indian River Lagoon.

Since 2002, the department has awarded approximately $120 million in TMDL funding, including $6.1 million to date in fiscal year 2016-17.

Visit the TMDL Water Quality Restoration Grant Program webpage for more information on the application process and qualification requirements.

Rick Scott reappoints picks to State University System Board of Governors

Gov. Rick Scott Thursday announced the reappointment of Syd Kitson and Darlene Jordan to the Board of Governors of the State University System.

The move comes after the Florida Senate, which must confirm Scott’s appointments, failed to do so during this year’s Legislative Session.

Kitson, 58, CEO of Kitson & Partners, “had a notable career in the National Football League, playing offensive guard for both the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys,” Scott’s statement said.

Kitson’s term runs this Thursday through Jan. 6, 2024.

Jordan, 50, the executive director of the Gerald R. Jordan Foundation, also is a member of the Fordham University Board of Trustees, the Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors, the Oxbridge Academy Board of Trustees, the Boys and Girls Club of Boston, and the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach.

She was previously an assistant attorney general and an assistant district attorney in Massachusetts. Jordan’s term also begins now and ends Jan. 6, 2024.

Scott also appointed Alan Levine, 49, president and CEO of Mountain States Health Alliance and formerly Secretary of Health for Louisiana and Secretary of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

His term runs concurrent with Kitson and Jordan.

The Board of Governors is a 17-member board that serves as the governing body for the State University System of Florida, which includes all public universities in the state of Florida.

Governor orders flags at half-staff for FHP Sgt. William T. Bishop

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered flags at half-staff to honor the late Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. William T. Bishop, who was hit by a car on Interstate 75 Saturday night.

According to news4jax.com, Bishop was outside his patrol car investigating a traffic accident in Alachua County when he was struck.

“He was taken to Shands Hospital in Gainesville, where he died,” the site reported.

Scott directed the U.S. and Florida flags at half-staff at the Columbia County Courthouse in Lake City, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles headquarters in Tallahassee, the Troop B Station in Lake City, and at City Hall in Lake City from sunrise to sunset this Friday.

“We are heartbroken over the death of 30-year veteran FHP Sgt. William Trampas Bishop,” Scott said in a statement. “Ann and I are praying for Sergeant Bishop’s family and loved ones during this very difficult time.

“Our thoughts are also with the entire Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and Florida Highway Patrol family as they grieve the loss of Sergeant Bishop. Every day, Florida’s law enforcement officers put their lives on the line to protect and serve Florida families. This terrible loss is a somber reminder of the work our brave law enforcement officers do to keep us safe.”

Zubaly, Amy

Personnel note: Amy Zubaly named new head of FMEA

Amy Zubaly has now gone from interim to permanent executive director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association (FMEA), and the first women to head the organization, according to a Thursday press release.

The board of directors in January had tapped Zubaly, then deputy executive director of public affairs and strategic communications, to helm the association while it looked for a new leader. She’d been with the organization for 17 years.

Longtime FMEA executive director Barry Moline resigned last year to lead the California Municipal Utilities Association (CMUA) in Sacramento.

Now, Zubaly will continue “to manage the day-to-day operations of the association, handle member and board relations, oversee the association’s government affairs, communications and education functions and provide strategic planning.”

“As we celebrate our 75th anniversary and rich history, it’s fitting that Amy—the first woman to serve as the association’s executive director—lead us into the future,” said Clay Lindstrom, FMEA President and Fort Pierce Utilities Authority General Manager.

“Amy’s long record of service to the organization and her deep understanding of the issues important to our members make her ideal for this role,” he said. “We look forward to taking the association in new directions under her leadership.”

Zubaly added: “It is a great honor to continue serving FMEA in this capacity and I deeply appreciate the board’s confidence in me. I am thankful for the opportunity to lead FMEA as we provide support and advocacy for our members today and into the future.”

Here’s more from the release: 

Originally called the Florida Municipal Utilities Association, FMEA was established in 1942 in response to World War II fuel shortages. Today, the association actively represents and advocates for member cities’ interests on a wide variety of state and federal issues, provides education and training for members and serves as a clearinghouse for industry news and information.

Municipal electric utilities provide affordable, reliable electric service, and have been doing so for more than a century. As community-owned and locally managed organizations, these utilities are focused on serving local needs and interests while reinvesting back into the community for services, such as police and fire protection.

Legislative leaders announce committee week schedule

Florida lawmakers will head back to Tallahassee in mid-September to kick-off the 2018 Legislative Session.

Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran outlined the interim committee week schedule in memos to their respective members Thursday. The schedule, as it stands right now, includes one week in September, two weeks in October and November, and one in December.

The first week of committee meetings begins on or after 1 p.m. on Sept. 12. Members will then return for meetings during the week of Oct. 9 and Oct. 23.

They’ll be back in Tallahassee for meetings during the week of Nov.6, but both Negron and Corcoran note “meetings will conclude prior to the observance of the Veterans’ Day holiday” on Friday, Nov. 10. Members will be asked to return to the capital city for committee meetings during the week of Nov. 13.

The only committee week scheduled in December is during the week of Dec. 4.

According to Negron’s memo, travel to Tallahassee is authorized for senators and one member of district staff beginning on Sunday of each week of scheduled committee meetings. Travel from Tallahassee back to the district is authorized at the conclusion of the meeting.

The 2018 Legislative Session begins at noon on Jan. 8. The annual 60-day Session is scheduled to end on March 9.

FMA PAC endorses Jose Felix Diaz in SD 40 special election

The Florida Medical Association is throwing its support behind Jose Felix Diaz in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40.

The FMA PAC announced Thursday it was endorsing Diaz in the upcoming special election. In a statement, Dr. Mike Patete, the political committee’s president, said the association has worked closely with Diaz during his time in the house and appreciates his support over the years.

“The FMA PAC is proud to endorse Rep. Diaz for Senate District 40. During his time in the Florida House, the FMA has worked closely with him on many important issues and our physicians have appreciated his unwavering support,” said Patete. “We look forward to continuing our work with him in the Senate and moving forward important healthcare legislation.”

Diaz faces former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Lorenzo Palomares in the July special primary to replace Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal.

The race for the GOP nomination is expected to be a bitter and expensive battle, with outside groups pouring thousands upon thousands of dollars into the race.

A government law attorney at Akerman, Diaz was first elected to the Florida House in 2010. He is currently the chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and has been the chamber’s point person on gambling legislation in recent years.

“As the son and nephew of medical doctors, it is an honor to receive the endorsement of the Florida Medical Association. The FMA has historically supported legislators that are well-qualified and know the importance of working on sound health care policies which increase access for patients and keep costs low,” said Diaz in a statement. “Senate District 40 includes one of the largest health districts in South Florida. Our doctors truly represent the best interests of our community and it is a great privilege to get their support.”

State announces Medicaid managed care bid date

The Agency for Health Care Administration said Thursday it will post material for the next bidding for the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care (SMMC) program “on or around July 14.”

That’s when the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) for the re-procurement will go live on the Florida Department of Management Services’ Vendor Bid System website.

Companies who put in a proposal will be subject to a 72-hour blackout period, in which they can’t contact “any employee or officer of the executive or legislative branch concerning any aspect of this solicitation,” according to a state law.

“Violation of this provision may be grounds for rejecting a response,” the agency said. “… Due to the upcoming re-procurement, we will not have any discussions relating to the scope, evaluation or negotiation of those procurements.

For more information about the SMMC program, click here.

Report: Richard Corcoran raises $608K for new Watchdog PAC

House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s political committee brought in more than $600,000 in one month to a newly formed political committee.

The Miami Herald reported that Corcoran’s newly formed Watchdog PAC raised $608,000, half of which came from contributions from political committees run by Reps. Jose Oliva and Carlos Trujillo. The committee, the Herald reported, also received $100,000 from Norman Braman.

According to the report, Oliva’s political committee, Conservative Principles for Florida, gave Watchdog PAC $250,000; while Trujillo’s committee, Conservative and Principled Leadership for Florida, gave it $100,000.

The committee raised about $183,000, according to the Herald, before a fundraiser hosted by Orlando attorney John Morgan.

Corcoran is believed to be considering a 2018 gubernatorial run. He launched the political committee in May, and it could help fund a run for statewide office.

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