Influence Archives - Page 2 of 413 - Florida Politics

Senate committee OKs repeal of ‘archaic’ chastity defamation law

A 135-year-old law that makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to defame a woman for being unchaste would be repealed under a bill that cleared its first of three Senate committee stops on Monday.

“In our modern society these penalties are too severe for an issue that has mostly been handled among two private citizens in private proceedings,” said Sen. Daphne Campbell, a Miami Democrat sponsoring SB 1060.

A first-degree misdemeanor could be punishable for up to a year in jail or a $1,000 fine.

The measure would also repeal a provision that makes it a crime to make derogatory statements about a bank, building or loan association.

Members in the Senate Criminal Justice Committee praised Campbell for championing the effort to repeal these defamation laws and advanced it with a unanimous panel vote. Chairman Rob Bradley said Campbell’s bill is one of his favorite proposals this session, and joked that he wished he would have thought of it first.

“We should clear our state statute of these archaic and silly crimes,” Bradley tweeted after the committee vote.

While Campbell’s bill has two more stop before it can head to the full Senate floor for consideration, the trek for an identical bill in the House has proven more difficult.

State Rep. Al Jacquet, a Lantana Democrat, filed HB 6019 last October and it has yet to gain momentum in his chamber. His proposal has two committee assignments, but has yet to be heard in one.

Bills that would create state trafficking hotline have yet to gain momentum

Lawmakers want to put an end to “modern day slavery” by creating a Florida human trafficking hotline under two identical proposals that have yet to gain momentum in the state Legislature.

Those advocating for the measures, HB 159 and SB 596, urged lawmakers on Monday to back the proposals and give them hearings in their committee assignments. The bills would require the Attorney General’s Office to create and operate a toll-free hotline, which would be subject to funding approval.

Since 2012, Florida has received the third highest numbers of calls to the national human trafficking hotline, trailing California and Texas, according to the national hotline’s data.

“This is a glaring reflection of the magnitude of the problem in Florida, and shows why the state needs its own hotline, one that is capable of focusing specifically on the unique challenges experienced here,” said former Sen. Maria Sachs, who runs a human trafficking foundation.

Sen. Perry Thurston and state Rep. Robert Asencio are championing the bills in an effort to better identify areas in the state affected by human trafficking. Both of their bills have been referred to three committee assignments, but have yet to be heard.

Under the proposals, HB 159 and SB 596, the Attorney General’s Office would also be tasked with pushing education campaigns that would help people identify warning signs of trafficking.

Attorney General Pam Bondi has urged multi-state collaboration to combat human trafficking and has pledged to put a stop to human trafficking in Florida in the past by saying the state is taking a “zero-tolerance” stance on the crime.

Former U.S. Attorney Pam Marsh, who fought investigated human trafficking in the Northern District of Florida from 2010-15, said the state is “ground zero in the fight against human trafficking.”

“We must draw trafficking out of the shadows, and expose it to the full light of day,” Marsh said. “Only then can we eradicate it.”

Personnel note: CoreMessage promotes team members

CoreMessage on Monday announced the promotion of Carrie Patrick to Senior Manager of Advocacy and Operations, and Brianna Shoaf to Account Manager.

Patrick

Patrick has more than 16 years of experience in the communications, policy, legislative, state government and private industry arenas.

During her time at CoreMessage, Patrick has managed multiple state and federal public relation campaigns, leading multi-year efforts designed to influence public opinions and policies.

“Carrie is an extraordinary asset to our public relations team, and on many levels, to the continued success here at CoreMessage,” said Cory Tilley, the firm’s president and a former top communications aide to Gov. Jeb Bush.

Patrick has an undergraduate degree in communications, with a minor in political science, and a graduate degree in American Policy and Politics, both from Florida State University.

Shoaf

Before joining CoreMessage, Shoaf worked for a leading hospitality public relations firm and graduated magna cum laude from Florida State University with a certificate in the Principles of Public Relations from the Public Relations Society of America’s Universal Accreditation Board.

She “has shown exemplary professional growth during her time here at CoreMessage,” Tilley added. “Her forward-thinking public relations skillsets are a great asset to our client base.

“We are excited to see her continue to grow as a CoreMessage team member.”

Jared Moskowitz files bill to help retired military dogs

Rep. Jared Moskowitz has filed legislation creating the “Retired Military Working Dogs Program.”

“If enacted, the program would allow the Department of Military Affairs to contract with a not-for-profit to provide retired military working dogs with veterinary care,” according to a Monday news release.

The Coral Springs Democrat filed the bill (HB 1253) earlier this month; it has been referred to the Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and the Government Accountability Committee, records show.

The proposed program “would allow adopters of retired military working dogs to be reimbursed for annual exams, vaccinations, testing and treatment of illnesses, emergency care, and surgeries, among other services, up to $10,000,” the release said.

As it stands now, the military doesn’t offer benefits for bomb-sniffing dogs and other service canines after they come home, Moskowitz told Florida Politics. He didn’t know a precise number of dogs his bill would cover but offered it’s “probably in the hundreds.”

“We don’t want some veterans, after they come home, to have to choose between rent or taking care of their animal,” he said Monday.

“We’re learning more about the role of dogs who serve our military and then serve our vets, many of whom have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when they return. We give our vets benefits; we should help our vets’ animals.”

In a separate statement, Moskowitz said: “Retired military dogs who were deployed in the field of battle have dedicated their lives to the defense of this nation. It is only right that after their dutiful service we honor their valued contribution with adequate veterinary care.”

“…No veteran, but especially those who suffer from PTSD, should have to part with their service animal because they can’t afford the veterinary expenses.”

This Session, Moskowitz also filed a bill (HB 1257) to heighten protections for “domestic companion animals,” police animals and other service animals. He has also supported bills such as requiring injury reporting of racing greyhounds.

House ready to take up anti-tax constitutional amendment

In a priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott, the House next week will consider a proposed constitutional amendment that would make it harder to raise taxes and fees in Florida.

The House is scheduled during a floor session Wednesday to take up the proposal (HJR 7001), filed by Tom Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican. Under it, future tax and fee increases would require approval from two-thirds of the House and Senate.

If lawmakers approve the proposed constitutional amendment, it would go on the November ballot.

The House is expected to take up nearly two-dozen measures during the floor session Wednesday.

Others include a bill (HB 27), filed by Republican Heather Fitzenhagen of Fort Myers, that would end the controversial “certificate of need” regulatory process for approval of new hospital facilities and programs.

The House also is expected to consider a bill (HB 67), filed Miami Democrat Kionne McGhee and Port St. Lucie Republican Larry Lee Jr. that would lead to creation of a slavery memorial at the state Capitol.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Gaveling in: Rick Scott appoints new judges

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday announced the appointment of four new trial-court and appellate judges:

J. Andrew “Drew” Atkinson to the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland.

Atkinson, 44, of Tampa, is now the General Counsel for the Department of Management Services.

A native of the Tampa Bay area, he previously practiced with the law firm of Broad and Cassel. Atkinson, an Army veteran, also has extensive public-sector legal experience, including Deputy Solicitor General and Assistant Attorney General, General Counsel for the Florida Department of State, Assistant General Counsel for the Executive Office of the Governor, and Senior Judicial Law Clerk for the 4th District Court of Appeal.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Florida State University and law degree from Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law. Atkinson fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Douglas A. Wallace.

Christopher LaBruzzo and Frederick Pollack to the 6th Judicial Circuit Court.

LaBruzzo, 42, of Tampa, is an Assistant State Attorney for the 6th Judicial Circuit. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and law degree from Tulane University School of Law. LaBruzzo fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge John A. Schaefer.

Pollack, 45, of Clearwater, is a partner at Hunter Law. He has previously served as a Family Law General Magistrate and Child Support Hearing Officer for the Sixth Judicial Circuit. He received his bachelor’s degree from Alfred University and law degree from California Western School of Law. Pollack fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Mark I. Shames.

The 6th Circuit covers Pasco and Pinellas counties.

— Judge Spencer J. Multack to the 11th Judicial Circuit Court.

Multack, 42, of Aventura, is currently a Miami-Dade County Judge. He previously served as an Assistant State Attorney for the 11th Circuit.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and law degree from the University of Miami. Multack fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Rosa I. Rodriguez.

The 11th Circuit covers only Miami-Dade.

Personnel note: Beth Goldberg joins GrayRobinson

Beth Goldberg most recently has been Assistant Director for the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), capping a regulatory career spanning three decades.

Now, she’s taking that expertise to Florida’s GrayRobinson law firm as the newest member of its Nationwide Alcohol Industry Team.

“The alcohol business is one of the most heavily regulated industries in America, and trade practice issues at the federal, state and even local levels make it one of the most challenging industries in terms of helping clients operate in compliance with the myriad of laws that regulate their activities,” said Richard M. Blau, head of the practice team, in a statement.

“Our team is comprised of valued professionals with deep roots in the industry who not only understand the relevant laws that require compliance, but also the enforcement policies applied by the relevant agencies charged with administering those laws,” Blau added.

“Beth is the perfect example of a well-respected industry professional with extensive institutional knowledge and strong regulatory relationships to bring to the table for the benefit of our clients.”

Goldberg’s experience ran the gamut from field investigations to directing and overseeing the licensing, enforcement and administrative functions of 12 field offices, as well as specialized units in the California ABC’s Southern California division, according to a press release.

“She was involved in policy and procedure development and implementation, and ensuring its consistent statewide application,” it said.

Goldberg is the most recent addition to a team of “more than 25 lawyers, former regulators and licensing specialists who focus their professional skills on serving the legal and compliance needs of alcohol industry members throughout North America.”

Kathleen Peters bows out of contention for PSC seat

Rep. Kathleen Peters announced on Saturday morning she was withdrawing her bid to join the Public Service Commission (PSC), citing the need to fight St. Pete’s plan to pump wastewater underground.

Peters, a Treasure Island Republican, relayed her decision in an email.

“I felt that my experience in business, local and state government, and as Chair of the House Energy and Utilities Subcommittee would well suit me for the position,” she said.

“… Since submitting my application, I have learned that the City of St. Petersburg is seeking permission to pump sewage into the aquifer beneath Pinellas from which we draw our water,” she added. “Many of my constituents are very upset by this possibility and have urged me to fight this proposal.

“I believe I can best do that by continuing on the course I had previously set forth as a candidate for the Pinellas County Commission. With that in mind, I have decided to respectfully withdraw my application for the Public Service Commission and continue to focus first on the privilege of serving my constituents as a State Representative, and subsequently on my campaign for District 6 on the Pinellas County Commission.

“I believe I am uniquely qualified in so many ways to serve our residents, and want to devote my full energy to that endeavor.”

Peters, elected to the House in 2012, was one of 18 applicants to fill a seat on the PSC, which regulates investor-owned utilities.

Gov. Scott had picked former Rep. Ritch Workman to replace Ronald Brisé on the panel. But Workman, a Melbourne Republican, bowed out after a sexual misconduct allegation.

Remaining contenders include former Rep. Janet Adkins, a Fernandina Beach Republican; and former Rep. Ray Pilon, a Sarasota Republican.

Interviews by the Public Service Commission Nominating Council are set for Jan. 25 in Tallahassee. The full-time position, based in Tallahassee, pays $132,036 a year. Scott’s pick must get Senate approval.

Peters’ full statement is below:

Nursing home residents’ bill of rights wins approval

A modified version of a constitutional ‘bill of rights’ for residents of Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities won approval by its only review committee on Friday.

The Declaration of Rights Committee approved the proposal (P88) by a vote of 5-2, sending it to the full Constitution Revision Commission for consideration.

But the measure was immediately lambasted by the Florida Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, assisted living facilities and others who care for the elderly and people with disabilities, especially regarding getting paid by Medicaid, the joint federal-state program. It pays for nursing home care that Medicare does not.

“In reality it is nothing more than an avaricious ploy by trial lawyers to profit from increased lawsuits against nursing centers,” said Emmett Reed, the association’s executive director, in a statement.

The proposal, by Commissioner Brecht Heuchan, was filed after a South Florida nursing home lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma last September.

Up to 14 residents died, though not all those deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills have been linked to the lack of the building’s climate control. Still, Broward County authorities declared 12 of the deaths as homicides.

The measure includes a “right to a safe, clean, comfortable, and homelike environment,” which protects residents from “extreme climatic conditions and natural disasters,” for example.

It also contains a “right to know and hold accountable all persons or entities who either directly or indirectly own or operate the facilities.”

But Reed said the proposal “undermine(s) the hard work of thousands of health care professionals who provide outstanding care for some of Florida’s most vulnerable citizens. Existing state and federal laws guarantee the rights of nursing center residents, and these laws have been working well to support the advances in quality that are being made in Florida nursing centers today.”

He added that Florida “is among the best in the nation in nursing and Certified Nursing Assistants staffing ratios; that reforms in 2001 led to more systemic approaches to delivering care … and that new federal rules announced in November make major updates in residents’ rights, care planning, quality assurance, and assessments.”

After Friday’s meeting, Heuchan said he’s still open to tinkering with the language but called the current product “a step in the right direction.”

“People that live in nursing homes have (fewer) rights than people who don’t,” he told panel members. “It’s unconscionable.”

To be placed on the 2018 statewide ballot, the full 37-member Commission must approve the proposal by 22 votes. If so, 60 percent of voters must vote ‘yes’ for it to be added to the state constitution. The Commission meets every 20 years to review and propose changes to the Florida Constitution.

Crime victims’ bill of rights clears lone constitutional review panel

A proposed constitutional amendment to give equal rights to crime victims on Friday cleared its only review panel and heads to the full Constitution Revision Commission.

The amendment, if OK’d for the 2018 statewide ballot and passed by 60 percent of voters, includes the right “to refuse an interview, deposition, or other … request by the defense,” “to be heard in any public proceeding involving pretrial or other release,” and “full and timely restitution in every case.”

The commission’s Declaration of Rights Committee heard the well-known but harrowing story of Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, who was sexually abused for six years by her nanny. She has since created Lauren’s Kids, an organization to prevent childhood sexual abuse and help its survivors.

During a deposition in the subsequent criminal case, Book had been asked by the abuser’s attorney, “You wanted it, right?”

A staff analysis notes that “many of the constitutional rights established by the proposal currently exist under Florida law,” a point echoed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which called the measure “overly broad and unworkable in practice.”

The proposal creates a Marsy’s Law for Florida, named after Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, a California woman who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. Only one week after her death, the accused murderer confronted Marsy’s mother and brother, Henry T. Nicholas, at a grocery store. The family was not informed that the accused was released on bail.

The bill’s sponsor, Commissioner Tim Cerio, called it a “commonsense proposal that will bring the scales of justice into balance for Florida victims and their families.”

Now, the full CRC has to approve the approval by no less than 22 votes out of its 37 members.

In a statement, Book credited the “courageous voices of victims, survivors, and families from across the state who have opened themselves and their stories to this process to help us make things different and better for others.”

The Commission meets every 20 years to review and propose changes to the Florida Constitution for voter consideration.

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