Headlines Archives - Florida Politics

Florida prisons no longer under lockdown

Florida’s 148 prison facilities have returned to normal operations after a statewide partial lockdown and cancellation of visitation.

The Florida Department of Corrections announced Monday the restrictions at all of the state’s institutions have been lifted.

Last week the FDC announced the lockdown and that visitation was cancelled at all institutions Saturday and Sunday after officials received an unspecified threat of violence.

The lockdown at the facilities began Wednesday and continued through the weekend. During the lockdown guards searched cells, seizing a number of weapons and other contraband in the process.

Discussing Confederate monuments, Adam Putnam warns not to ‘sanitize history’

Adam Putnam said Monday he remains opposed to removing Confederate monuments, including the one situated in front of the Old Capitol in Tallahassee.

“The important thing is for our society to rise up and stand together and send a clear statement that (hate) won’t be tolerated in this country,” said Putnam, speaking to reporters after meeting with supporters at a Temple Terrace restaurant.

“It’s far more important to focus on eradicating hate today than focus on sanitizing history. The issues today are what we should be focused on. And when we see that type of ugliness in our society, whether it’s in Charlottesville, or Gainesville, or anywhere else, it’s important that we call it for what it is.”

Putnam was asked if that meant he disagreed with the Hillsborough County Commission voting to relocate a 106-year-old statue currently located in front of a county courthouse annex in Tampa.

“What it means is that I am entirely focused on sending a clear message that we don’t tolerate hate, and we don’t tolerate anti-Semitism, and we don’t tolerate white supremacy, and we don’t tolerate bigotry of any kind of any form,” he replied, declining to specifically address the situation in Hillsborough County.

“It’s also important that we apply the lessons of history today and the future,” he added. “If you don’t know your history you’re going to repeat the mistakes of the past. I think it’s important that people know the horrors of the Holocaust. I think it’s important that people know the horrors of what happened on 9/11. It’s important that we learn what happens to the world, when evil is allowed to prevail.”

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, a Democrat who is also running for governor, has called on Governor Rick Scott to remove the Confederate monument from the Capitol ever since the violence in Charlottesville occurred nine days ago. When Putnam was asked last week if he agreed with Gillum, he said he was not aware of the statue’s existence.

Gillum chided Putnam for that remark on MSNBC on Sunday.

“My response to that is, what a luxurious place to be,” Gillum told host Joy Reid. “The fact that you don’t have to be aware that these kinds of symbol of division and derision greet people as they enter the Old Capitol.”

The gubernatorial field has increased in the past week with Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala formally entering the race. Putnam declined to speak about Latvala and, instead, said he was focused on his “positive, conservative vision for the future of Florida and who believe that my agricultural experience and public service combined to provide the type of leadership that Florida needs.”

Latvala and others have been criticized Putnam for his rush to demonstrate his fealty to the NRA, including tweeting that he was a “proud sell-out to the NRA.” Putnam said Monday he wouldn’t back away from his strong advocacy for the organization.

“I’m a lifelong supporter of the Second Amendment,” he said. “I’m a life member. All my kids are life members. My son got a shotgun for his baptism present. It’s no secret to anyone that I’m a pro gun candidate and a pro gun individual. Even if I wasn’t running for governor, it’d be no secret that I support Second Amendment rights and the NRA.”

Putnam chatted with reporters following a 25-minute version of his basic stump speech at Lupton’s Buffet in what his campaign said was the 13th “Up & Adam” campaign breakfast since he announced his gubernatorial candidacy back in May. The speech again touched on his revised pitch about Florida being a “reward for a life well lived someplace else.”

“I think and I believe that with your help, if we put Florida first, we’ll make Florida the launch pad for the American dream, instead of just the Cherry on top,” he said.

Among those in attendance to hear Putnam included Attorney General Pam Bondi, House District 58 Republican candidate Yvonne Fry and former Hillsborough County State Attorney Mark Ober.

Andrew Gillum touring college campuses

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum announced he’s heading back to campus, with an 12-school “back to school” tour of college campuses and one high school, starting Tuesday.

Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, is starting his tour at his alma mater, Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, on Tuesday. From there he intends to visit the University of South Florida in Tampa on Wednesday and Stetson University in DeLand and the University of Central Florida on Thursday. Next week he’ll continue his tour in Miami and Jacksonville, and later in September in Gainesville, Tampa, Panama City and elsewhere.

“Our young people are the brightest lights of our future — they speak into existence things they haven’t yet built, and create community with other people they’ve never encountered,” Gillum stated in a news release issued by his campaign. “They have a powerful role to play in our state, and that’s why I’m thrilled to see them on the campaign trail over the coming weeks.

Gillum faces Democrats Chris King of Winter Park and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee in seeking the Republican nomination to run for governor next year. The leading Republicans seeking that office are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam of Bartow and state Sen. Jack Latvala of Clearwater.

“I did some of my first organized work in politics when I was an undergraduate at Florida A&M University, and from my earliest days I’ve seen young people take on the biggest issues facing them,” Gillum stated. “That’s why we’ll be talking about higher education accessibility and affordability, infusing our public education with SHOP 2.0 vocational training, creating an economy that puts people first, protecting and expanding access to quality and affordable healthcare, and confronting our climate change crisis.

“We’ll talk about the need for healing and unity across our country and especially on college campuses, and the need to be civically engaged in your community,” Gillum added. “I’m thrilled to be going ‘Back to School’ this fall!”

Ashley Moody endorsed by 10th Circuit State Attorney

State Attorney Brian Haas said Friday that Republican Ashley Moody is his pick to replace termed-out Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Haas, who serves the 10th Judicial Circuit covering Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties, said he was “proud” to support Moody, who faces Rep. Jay Fant in the Republican Primary for the Cabinet position.

“It is clear to me that Ashley’s record of prosecuting violent criminals and drug traffickers, combined with her commitment to the rule of law and support of our law enforcement community makes her the right choice to be our next Attorney General,” Haas said.

The Hillsborough County Republican thanked Haas for the endorsement and lauded him as “for all that he and his colleagues do to ensure dangerous criminals are kept off the streets and out of our neighborhoods.”

Moody is a fifth-generation Floridian and is a three-time alumna of the University of Florida, where she earned her law degree, as well as a bachelor’s and master’s degree in accounting. She also graduated with an LLM from Stetson University.

Moody’s kicked off her legal career working for influential law firm Holland & Knight before becoming a prosecutor on drug, firearm, and fraud cases with U.S. Attorney’s Office. In 2006 she became the youngest judge in Florida when she was elected Circuit Court Judge of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit.

She held the judgeship for more than a decade until resigning abruptly in late April, likely to finish laying the foundation for her AG run.

Since filingat the start of June, Moody has brought in over $600,000 in campaign contributions. She still has $592,000 of that money on hand, which dwarfs the $163,000 Fant has been able to pull in over the past three months.

Also in the race is Hillsborough County Attorney Ryan C. Torrens, who is running as a Democrat. He had $16,500 on hand at the end of July.

Andrew Gillum criticizes Adam Putnam’s ignorance of Old Capitol monument

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum showed up on the Sunday edition of MSNBC’s AM Joy to give his two cents on comments GOP rival Adam Putnam made on the Confederate monument in front of the Old State Capitol in Tallahassee.

“What a luxurious place to be, the fact that you don’t have to be aware that these kinds of symbols of division and derision greet people as they enter the Old Florida Capitol,” Gillum said of Putnam.

Gillum’s quote pokes at the Agriculture Commissioner’s admission that he was not aware of the monument in front of the old Capitol building, which now serves as the Florida Historic Capitol Museum.

The monument, which has been in place since 1882, is dedicated “to rescue from oblivion and perpetuate in the memory of succeeding generations the heroic patriotism of the men of Leon County who perished in the Civil War of 1861 – 1865.”

Putnam told about 160 Leon County Republicans at the county GOP’s barbecue dinner last week that he condemned white supremacists and the recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., and added that the country should not be fighting over the Civil War and erasing the nation’s history, a prime motive for many who oppose the removal of such monuments from public property.

“What’s going on in Charlottesville is just awful and it’s hate and it’s violent and it’s dark and it’s got no place in our society,” he said to the crowd. “And we ought to be focused more on eradicating hate today than eradicating yesteryear’s history.”

When asked about the monument at the old Capitol, he said “as much as I love history, I’ve never noticed it. Where is it? What is it?”

For his part, Gillum said he was not for the destruction of the monuments, or making them unavailable for public view. Instead he is advocating that they be placed in museums.

Putnam wasn’t his only target.

In Gillum’s two-minute MSNBC clip, he criticized President Donald Trump’s remarks on how the removal of  Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s statue from Charlottesville could eventually lead to the removal of statues of America’s founding fathers, such as Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, both of whom were slave owners.

Gillum said Washington and Lee “don’t deserve to be in the same sentence.” He said “one is a founder of this great country” while “the other sought to destroy, to tear apart, the United States of America.”

View the full clip below:


Vern Buchanan’s hearing aids bill signed into law

President Donald Trump has signed legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan that will make hearing aids more affordable for millions of Americans.

“This bill could help improve the quality of life for nearly 50 million Americans who struggle to hear everyday conversations,” Buchanan said Monday. “Many people who need hearing aids cannot afford the high price tag of $4,000 or more.”

The “Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act” was folded into a broader bill to fund the Food and Drug Administration that Trump signed on Friday. The bill could bring the cost of a pair of hearing aids down from several thousand dollars to only a few hundred dollars when it takes effect.

The bill will also reduce costs by simplifying the hearing aid purchasing process. Currently, a formal medical evaluation is required before seniors can purchase hearing aids. In most cases, consumers can only buy hearing aids from audiologists — professionals trained in treating hearing problems — or licensed hearing aid sellers after the evaluation. The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act would remove these requirements so the hearing aids could be purchased in a simple, over-the-counter fashion.

Mild to moderate hearing loss becomes nearly ubiquitous at older ages, affecting more than 60 percent of those in their 70s and nearly 80 percent of those over age 80. Yet only one older person in five currently wears hearing aids, according to the NY Times.

The bill had bipartisan support, with Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Iowa Republican Chuck Grassley among the sponsors in the Senate version.

Buchanan represents the fourth-highest number of seniors 65 and older of any district in the country. He noted that more than 48 million Americans have some degree of hearing loss — more than diabetes, cancer or vision trouble.

Paint companies, radio employees paint over racist slur

Two paint companies volunteered their services for free to paint over the exterior of a Florida home belonging to an African-American family after it was vandalized with a spray-painted racist slur.

The Citrus County Chronicle reports that workers from two local radio stations also came to the home of Dayna and James White to help remove the offensive graffiti.

Dayna White says she is overwhelmed with gratitude and appreciation by the support from the Citrus Hills community located about 85 miles north of Tampa, Florida.

The slur in large red letters was discovered on the house Friday morning.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

House sets schedule for September committees

Major policy committees will be first up when the House starts holding committee meetings in September to prepare for the 2018 legislative session, according to a tentative schedule posted online.

The House and Senate will hold committee meetings Sept. 12 through Sept. 14.

The House’s tentative schedule indicates the Commerce Committee, the Government Accountability Committee, the Education Committee, the Health & Human Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee will hold the first meetings Sept. 12.

The Appropriations Committee and the Ways and Means Committee are scheduled to meet on Sept. 14. Time also has been set aside during the three days for more than two-dozen other committees and subcommittees.

The 2018 session will start in January.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Court asks why it shouldn’t dismiss ‘pre-reveal’ appeal

An appellate court was on the verge of rejecting an appeal of a lower court’s decision that entertainment devices known as “pre-reveal” games are in fact illegal slot machines.

Dockets at the 1st District Court of Appeal show that Gator Coin IIthe Jacksonville company that distributes the games—was ordered to show “why this appeal should not be dismissed” because its filings weren’t in order.

An attorney for the company, Bryan E. DeMaggio, responded in a 21-page court filing—including exhibits—that lawyers “inadvertently neglected” to file a copy of Circuit Judge John Cooper‘s final order, filed on July 10.

DeMaggio further said they did not file the earlier order because it was “not … being appealed here.” He then attached a copy of Cooper’s final judgment. He said “the appeal should not be dismissed and the matter should be heard on the merits.”

Dockets accessed Friday show that the court has not yet acted on the filing. DeMaggio did not respond Friday to a request for comment.

Last month, Cooper reversed his previous ruling, saying he had “(gotten) it wrong the first time.”

In March, the judge issued a previous judgment that “pre-reveal” games weren’t slots because players had to “press a ‘preview’ button before a play button can be activated.” If the outcome of the game is known, it’s not a game of chance, he said then.

Cooper’s new order, in part, says 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,” his order says.

Cooper changed his mind after a hearing in which Barry Richard, a lawyer for Seminole Tribe of Florida, told him the machines violate the Tribe’s exclusive right to offer slot machines outside South Florida, imperiling the state’s future cut of its gambling revenue by “multi-billions of dollars.”

But Cooper said his reversal was “not based upon whether (the Tribe) likes the (original) ruling or dislikes the ruling,” but by further evidence on how the pre-reveal, or “no chance,” games—as its maker prefers to call them—actually play.

The case got started, records show, 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.”

Clock ticks toward deadline to resolve Lottery lawsuit

An Aug. 31 deadline looms for the House of Representatives and Florida Lottery to turn in a “status report” on their efforts to settle a lawsuit over a $700 million contract for new equipment.

House spokesman Fred Piccolo on Friday said there had been no resolution, and that “negotiations continue.” Barry Richard, outside counsel for the Lottery, only said the case was still on hold.

The 1st District Court of Appeal last month agreed to suspend the case while the sides work out their differences. “If the case has not been dismissed” by then, the parties have to report by the end of the month whether they see a “need for any further proceedings,” a docket order says.

In March, Tallahassee-based Circuit Judge Karen Gievers invalidated the Lottery’s 15-year deal with IGT (International Game Technology) for new equipment for draw and scratch-off tickets. It also provides for in-store signage, self-service ticket checkers and upgraded security in the communications network.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran had sued, essentially saying the agency went on an illegal spending spree when it inked the contract last year.

Gievers agreed with House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum, who had said the agreement broke state law by going “beyond (the Lottery’s) existing budget limitations.”

Because then-Lottery Secretary Tom Delacenserie “lacked the legal authority to enter into the IGT contract, (it) must, therefore, be found to be void and unenforceable,” Gievers wrote.

Delacenserie later left to head the Kentucky Lottery, and the department is now led by former Department of Economic Opportunity chief of staff Jim Poppell. Meantime, the Lottery appealed.

Gievers had faulted the agency for, among other things, not first seeking the Legislature’s permission to enter into a deal that committed the state to as much as two decades’ worth of funding.

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