Influence Archives - Page 7 of 513 - Florida Politics

Order in the (Supreme) Court: Suit aims to short-circuit nominating process

Progressive groups now are suing to stop a state nominating panel from recommending candidates to the Florida Supreme Court, saying it “lacks the authority to make its nominations before the vacancies occur.”

The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause filed Friday evening to halt the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission (JNC).

Earlier Friday, that panel announced it still plans to interview 59 lawyers and judges who applied to be the next three justices on the state’s highest court.

That’s after the court itself, in an unsigned order earlier this month, said outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott cannot appoint the replacements for Justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis, and Peggy A. Quince. Scott, who favors conservative jurists, said he would name their replacements; the groups challenged him and won.

Here’s what’s at stake: The next justices will likely determine the ideological balance of the court. Pariente, Lewis, and Quince are regarded as the liberal-leaning contingent; Chief Justice Charles Canady and Justices Ricky Polston and Alan Lawson are the conservatives. Justice Jorge Labarga is sometimes a swing vote.

The organizations argued Scott shouldn’t be able to replace the outgoing justices because their terms don’t expire till the last minute of his last day in office, but the new governor will be sworn in earlier.

And the court’s order came with similar provisos, that “the justices do not leave prior to the expiration of their terms at midnight between January 7 and January 8, 2019, and provided that the (new) governor takes office immediately upon the beginning of his term.”

As it stands now, the next governor — almost certainly either Republican Ron DeSantis or Democrat Andrew Gillum — will have to pick from the JNC’s list of nominees.

The “proceedings underway create, at the very least, sufficient appearance of a tainted process that (Scott and the JNC) should be prohibited from any further actions other than alerting the public that applications will continue to be received at least through January 8,” according to Friday’s filing by attorney John S. Mills of Tallahassee.

It asks the court “to order the Commission to accept new applications … no earlier than January 8, 2019, prohibit the Commission from taking any other action on these vacancies until January 8, 2019, and prohibit Gov. Scott from taking any further action related to the Commission or its membership other than preserving all records related to the proceedings of the Commission generated at any time during his administration.”

The JNC “begins interviewing applicants November 3, and it is clearly poised to make its nominations by November 9,” the filing said. “The dispute will not become moot once interviews begin or even if nominations are made, but it would be far better to decide these issues before the Commission announced nominees.”

Of the 59 applicants, it added, “only 11 women applied, only 6 applicants identify as black, and only 6 identify as Hispanic. The list of applicants has been described in the press as including a ‘who’s who of conservative judges.’ ”

Jason Unger, who chairs the Supreme Court JNC, could not be reached Friday night.

In recent weeks, Scott tried to defuse the litigation by offering to confer with his successor on candidates, taking a page from the late Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, who reached a similar accord with incoming Republican Jeb Bush in 1998. Quince is the last justice appointed through such consultations.

Geoff Burgan, then the campaign communications director for Gillum, spurned the offer, saying: “In our understanding of the Constitution, the next Governor will appoint the next three Supreme Court justices.”

Margaret Good says hey, hey, don’t vote for NRA-owned Ray Pilon

Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good plans to stand her ground on gun safety, and said her Republican challenger Ray Pilon, a lifetime National Rifle Association member, shouldn’t attack her on her Parkland vote.

Pilon, who previously held Good’s Florida House District 72 seat, released a new attack ad featuring Andrew Pollock calling into question Good’s vote against the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act.

“Even though parents like me asked for her vote, Margaret Good said no,” Pollack said.

Good stands by her vote. She voiced from the start the bill did not go far enough to implement background checks and contained a poison pill provision allowing more school personnel to carry guns on campus.

“We deserve so much better,” Good recently told the Herald-Tribune. “Florida deserves so much better than the Marjory Stoneman Douglas bill. After a tragedy like that to provide this bill — how could anybody vote for it?”

A new press release says she did the right thing in pushing for more restrictions on gun purchases.

“Rep. Good stood up to special interests and the NRA by voting against arming educators and janitors,” reads a news release from her campaign. “She fought for a bill that would have provided funding for trained law enforcement officers to protect our children, required universal background checks for anyone trying to purchase a gun, and banned AR-15 style assault rifles like the kind used in the Parkland massacre.”

Further, she attacks Pilon for his lifetime NRA membership and for cozying up in the past to leaders of the pro-gun group.

She noted Pilon in 2015 voted in subcommittee to allow concealed weapons on college campuses, in 2014 voted to allows more guns on school grounds and in 2011 supported legislation prohibiting doctors from asking patients if they own guns. That last law later was ruled unconstitutuional.

She also linked to a notorious New Yorker profile on NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer. The piece quotes Pilon saying he called Hammer begging her to let him keep an A-rating even after he missed a vote on Stand Your Ground legislation.

Incidentally, Pilon doesn’t flatter Hammer in the piece, who told the magazine “Marion crucified me” over missing the vote.

And in response to Pollock weighing in, Good touted the endorsement of another vocal Parkland father, Fred Guttenberg. Yesterday, Guttenberg tweeted: “The NRA is viciously attacking her. They know she will fight for stronger legislation than previously passed in Florida as she has consistently expressed how limited that bill was.”

Pilon for his part suggests the defensive on the part of Democrats shows the ad hits a soft spot of Good’s record.

“You might of noticed the Dems don’t like our ad. Guess they either don’t like the truth or don’t understand he vote if prevailed would have meant 0 dollars for school safety,” Pilon wrote yesterday on Facebook. “There is more to be done. However doing nothing would have put our students at risk. I will stick by the ad because it is the truth. I will never compromise my beliefs.”

Liv Coleman focuses on red tide solutions in late ad

Democrat Liv Coleman, a candidate for Florida House District 73, focuses on fixing red tide in a new video advertisement released Thursday night.

With imaged of dead fish piled on area beaches, Coleman strikes a bipartisan tone in the campaign ad.

“Red tide doesn’t care if you are a Republican or a Democrat,” Coleman says in narration. “It’s destroying our beaches, our health, our wildlife and our businesses.

“But Tallahassee has not been listening. They are too busy doing the bidding of corporate lobbyists. But I hear you.”

Coleman faces Republican Tommy Gregory in the state House race.

While District 73 doesn’t touch the coast itself, the economy still relies heavily on tourism and a sustained red tide event deeply impacted the economy in the entire region this year.

Candidates running for all races this year say red tide has been the top voter concern in the region leading into the November election. The candidates are running to succeed Joe Gruters, who this year decided to run for an open state Senate seat.

As for District 73, the district tilts heavily toward the GOP. Republicans make up roughly 48 percent of the electorate, and Democrats a little more than 26 percent.

Still, Coleman has posted solid fundraising numbers, raising $52,745 through Oct. 12, and chipping in another $5,000 on her own.

Gregory has raised $156,685, but spent a great deal of it when he faced primary challenger Melissa Howard. In the end, Howard’s campaign imploded amid a scandal about her degree and she withdrew.

Gregory automatically won the party nomination, but since September, he’s trailed Coleman in cash on hand.

Advertisements like the one released Thursday night put that money to use. Coleman, a University of Tampa political science professor, makes nonpartisan appeals and attacks the status quo in Tallahassee.

“I won’t stop working until we make ending this crisis priority,” she says. “I’ll work with scientists and the state to come up with innovative solutions to clean up our beaches.”

State education board backs keeping Pam Stewart as Commissioner

With widespread changes likely coming to Tallahassee after the November elections, the State Board of Education on Thursday moved to keep Education Commissioner Pam Stewart in her post for another year.

The board, meeting in Citrus County, passed a resolution that invited Stewart to continue serving as Commissioner — an invitation Stewart accepted.

The board, made up of seven gubernatorial appointees, cited part of the state Constitution that says members serve staggered four-year terms and have the authority to appoint a commissioner.

Gov. Rick Scott will leave office in January and be replaced by the winner of the Nov. 6 election between Republican Ron DeSantis and Democrat Andrew Gillum.

The new Governor likely will make widespread changes in top levels of state government.

“The Florida Constitution charges the state board with supervising the state’s public education system, and we take seriously this immense responsibility,” board Chairwoman Marva Johnson said in a prepared statement Thursday. “Under Commissioner Stewart’s leadership, the Department (of Education) has implemented policies that have enabled Florida students to reach unprecedented levels of achievement. I am grateful for her willingness to continue serving the people of Florida in this role, and I look forward to continuing to work with education leaders throughout the state in promoting students’ ongoing success.”

Stewart has served as commissioner since 2013.

Smoke if you got ’em: Jeff Brandes will refile smokable pot bill

State Senator Jeff Brandes will revive an amendment he filed during the 2019 Legislative Session that would expand medical marijuana access and allow patients to smoke their medicine, he said during a dispensary opening in St. Petersburg Thursday.

Brandes’ 2017 amendment would have shifted Florida’s medical marijuana law from its current “vertical” structure that requires one company to facilitate all stages of marijuana growth, cultivation and distribution to a “horizontal” integration that would allow separate companies and contractors to engage in any part of the process.

The idea was for people who, for example, specialize in horticulture, to focus solely on growing the product while leaving the retail side of the business to entrepreneurs who have expertise in selling and customer service.

Making that change would accomplish a number of things within the emerging medical marijuana industry. It could drive costs down for consumers by spreading financial risk among multiple entities and by streamlining the industry by using the most qualified professionals in each step of the process.

It could also expand access by leaving the industry able to operate in a more free market.

Brandes’ legislation would also codify into state law a patient’s right to consume their medicine in the way they deem most appropriate for their health.

“Some patients believe that smoking is the best way to find relief,” Brandes said. “That’s what we’re hearing from medical marijuana providers.”

“We think this is what voters thought they were voting for,” he continued referring to the 2014 Amendment 2 that legalized cannabis use for medical purposes.

The Legislature through its rule-making process banned smoking in its implementing language. That issue is working its way through Florida courts in a case originated with Florida attorney John Morgan who bankrolled the Amendment 2 campaign.

The state is fighting that lawsuit and another brief that contends banning smoking is contrary to the amendment Florida voters overwhelmingly approved.

Brandes said his legislation would also likely include language pertaining to edibles, which has not yet been hashed out in the rule-making process. But he said the language must be careful not to allow candy-like edibles that could be mistaken by children for sweet treats.

Brandes said he has no plans yet to address the recreational use of marijuana and hypothesized that will be a future battle for Morgan.

Brandes’ bill is contingent upon him earning re-election. The Libertarian-leaning Republican is facing Democratic challenger Lindsay Cross for his Senate District 14 seat in St. Pete.

Cross’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment on her policy priorities pertaining to the medical marijuana industry.

Scratched: State says track can stop racing horses, keep slots

It’s big news in Florida’s gambling world: The pari-mutuel formerly known as Calder Race Course has gotten the OK from state gambling regulators to get out of the horse racing business.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering granted its petition for a declaratory statement on Thursday, records show.

“Calder may operate a full schedule of jai alai performances and maintain its ‘eligible facility’ status to operate slot machine gaming,” the ruling said. Also, Calder “is not required to conduct summer jai alai performances in the state fiscal year preceding operation of slot machines as a summer jai alai licensee.”

The decision could open the door for more pari-mutuels that want to get out of live racing.

Here’s how: Some operators have been trying to exploit a technical loophole, converting their licenses to offer gambling to what are known as ‘summer jai alai permits.’

Pari-mutuels, particularly in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, covet such permits because at a minimum they allow a facility to open a card room and offer simulcast betting. But for most if not all, offering slots has always been the end game.

Otherwise, tracks in Florida are generally required to continue running live dog or horse races to have slots and card games that make those facilities more money. A move afoot called “decoupling,” removing the live racing requirement, has failed in the Legislature in recent years.

With Thursday’s decision, pari-mutuel operators may find they can achieve with regulators what they can’t with lawmakers.

A request for comment is pending with the Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association, whose members’ livelihood could take a hit with this latest decision.

The Miami Gardens track, which no longer runs its own live horse racing, now does business as Calder Casino, offering slots and electronic table games. Gambling regulators allowed Calder to keep its lucrative slot-machine license after demolishing its grandstand.

Calder began tearing down the grandstand in 2015, about a year after its parent company, Churchill Downs, reached a deal with The Stronach Group, which owns Gulfstream Park.

Under the agreement, Gulfstream — about 8 miles away — runs 40 races a year at Calder, the minimum number of live races required for Calder to maintain its slots license.

As of now, it doesn’t have to.


Background from The News Service of Florida; republished with permission.

Ron DeSantis health care plan calls for more patient choices

Less than two weeks before Election Day, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis has released a plan that he promises would help transform Florida’s health-care system.

After weeks of criticism over his lack of a health-care plan, DeSantis posted the proposal online Wednesday shortly before his final debate with Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum. The plan calls for people to have the right to buy the health care they want; use price-transparency tools to shop for care; and get rebates from insurers when patient choices save money.

The plan said DeSantis would maintain quality care by “resisting any effort to ration health care” in Tallahassee.

“Floridians have more choices in picking out their cell phone plans than their health insurance plans. Every day in the grocery store, we make decisions about what we want to buy, weighing price, necessity, and quality, and deciding what’s right for us,” the proposal said. “But, when it comes to something as important as health care, we have fewer choices and less information.”

DeSantis and Gillum have tangled in two debates this week about health care.

Gillum strongly supports expanding Medicaid eligibility as allowed under the federal Affordable Care Act. Gillum has also expressed support for “Medicare for all,” a single-payer system championed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders that would require federal approval.

DeSantis, who resigned his Northeast Florida congressional seat last month to focus on the gubernatorial race, opposes Medicaid expansion and has lambasted Gillum over supporting “Medicare for all.”

While in Congress, DeSantis was a member of the House Freedom Caucus a group of conservatives who did not support President Donald Trump’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. DeSantis and others in the group maintained at the time that the efforts didn’t go far enough.

Some of the ideas cited in DeSantis’ new plan have already been percolating in the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature, including a House proposal that would have mandated insurers and health-maintenance organizations share savings with consumers who shopped for care. The 2017 legislation, which ultimately did not pass, would have opened up insurers for penalties or lawsuits if they failed to comply.

The DeSantis plans also calls for expanding what is known as direct primary care, a concept that the Legislature approved this year. Direct primary care involves contractual arrangements between doctors and patients for treatment, at least partially cutting out the role of insurers. It’s not clear how DeSantis would want the plans expanded.

Democrats, who have attacked DeSantis for his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, immediately blasted his new proposal. In part, they said it would allow the sale of what they consider “junk” health-care plans, or those that don’t meet minimum benefit requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Moreover, Democrats argued the DeSantis proposal would not help people with pre-existing medical conditions. A popular feature of the Affordable Care Act provides protections in purchasing insurance for people with prior health conditions.

According to the DeSantis proposal, the Republican gubernatorial candidate would “work to ensure hard-to-insure Floridians with significant health needs have access to coverage” through market reforms that will encourage people to buy policies “before they get sick.”

Johanna Cervone, a Gillum spokeswoman, criticized the plan.

“After 268 days without a health-care plan, Ron DeSantis finally released a sham of a proposal that puts special interests over the health of Floridians and denies coverage to people with pre-existing conditions,” Cervone said in a statement.

Florida Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi has joined 19 other GOP attorneys general in a federal lawsuit that, if successful, would overturn the pre-existing protections contained in federal law.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Florida has 3.1 million non-elderly people with preexisting conditions.

Central to the DeSantis health-care proposal is the idea that costs must be contained to expand access.

To that end, DeSantis said he would “aggressively” implement an all-payer claims database designed to provide more information about prices. Gov. Rick Scott pushed for passage of the database in 2016, a year after a bruising legislative battle over expanding Medicaid access for uninsured, childless adults. In lieu of expanding Medicaid, Scott said he would help uninsured Floridians by working to lower the cost of care and touted increased transparency as a key way to do that.

But some of the largest insurance carriers aren’t reporting the information, after the state awarded a database contract to the Health Care Cost Institute, which was founded in 2011 by four insurance companies, including three that do business in Florida: Aetna, Humana and UnitedHealthcare.

Another health-care move championed by Scott and supported by DeSantis is the state’s Medicaid managed-care program. Lawmakers and Scott in 2011 approved the program, which requires most Medicaid beneficiaries to enroll in HMOs or other types of managed-care plans.

DeSantis’ proposal said that as governor he would continue to “support Florida’s groundbreaking Medicaid managed-care model.”.

DeSantis in his proposal also said he would “finish implementing Florida’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment.” Voters in 2016 approved a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana, but the state has faced lawsuits and criticism about the way it has carried out the amendment.


Florida Retailers recommend bundle of new state representatives

The Florida Retail Federation PAC, the political arm of the state’s retail trade organization, endorsed more than two dozen candidates seeking to earn their first terms in the state House next month.

The bulk of the 26 candidates getting FRF’s seal of approval are seeking open seats in the state House, but a handful of the recommendations went to would-be state Reps. looking to oust incumbents.

“The diversity of these candidates includes some with a direct connection to retail, small business owners, and those new to holding public office, but all are focused on making Florida the most business-friendly state in the nation,” said FRF president and CEO R. Scott Shalley. “Meeting each of these candidates in person has us excited about working with them as members of the Florida House in support of the state’s retail industry.”

Challengers getting the nod: DeLand Republican Elizabeth Fetterhoff, who is seeking the HD 26 seat held by Democratic Rep. Patrick Henry; Orlando Republican Ben Griffin, who is challenging progressive Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith in HD 49; former Republican Rep. Ray Pilon, who is attempting to win back his old seat from Democratic Rep. Margaret Good; Miami Republican Rosy Palomino, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Nick Duran in HD 105; and Miami Republican Anthony Rodriguez, who is looking to send Democratic Rep. Robert Asencio packing in HD 118.

The other 21 endorsements went to candidates running against fellow fresh faces, and some of the races getting FRF’s attention are among the most hotly contested slated for the general election ballot.

In Orange County’s HD 47, the trade group recommended Winter Haven Republican Stockton Reeves over Anna Eskamani, one of the most promising Democratic state House recruits of the cycle. The pair are competing for the swing seat being vacated by Republican Rep. Mike Miller, who is running for Florida’s 7th Congressional District.

In South Florida, Florida Retailers are putting their weight behind Broward County Commissioner Chip LaMarca’s bid to keep HD 93 in GOP control. He faces a well-funded challenger in Democratic nominee Emma Collum. Additionally, the PAC is supporting Delray Beach accountant Mike Caruso, also a Republican, in HD 89. He faces Ocean Ridge Mayor Jim Bonfiglio.

The rest of the candidates earning a nod for the Nov. 6 general:

—HD 15: Republican Wyman Duggan

—HD 28: Republican David Smith

—HD 32: Republican Anthony Sabatini

—HD 33: Republican Brett Hage

—HD 37: Republican Adrian Zika

—HD 51: Republican Tyler Sirois

—HD 59: Republican Joe Wicker

—HD 61: Democrat Dianne Hart

—HD 66: Republican Nick DiCeglie

—HD 69: Republican Ray Blacklidge

—HD 71: Republican Will Robinson

—HD 73: Republican Tommy Gregory

—HD 79: Republican Spencer Roach

—HD 81: Democrat Tina Polsky

—HD83: Republican Toby Overdorf

—HD 103: Republican Frank Mingo

—HD 105: Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez

—HD 115: Republican Vance Aloupis

Judge clears way for challenges to gun law

A circuit judge has given a boost to more than 30 local governments challenging a 2011 state law that threatens stiff penalties for city or county officials who approve gun restrictions.

Leon County Circuit Judge Charles Dodson last week refused a request by Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office to dismiss three consolidated lawsuits that contend the 2011 law, which threatens penalties such as removal from office, is unconstitutional. Local governments challenged the law after the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, as at least some cities and counties looked at approving gun-related measures.

The Legislature passed the tough penalties in 2011 as a way of enforcing a decades-old law that gives control of gun regulation to the state rather than local governments — a concept known as state “preemption.” The 2011 law, in part, threatens removal from office and fines for city and county officials who pass restrictions that violate the older preemption law.

But in court documents, attorneys for the cities and counties argued that the penalties are unconstitutional on a series of grounds and have had a “chilling effect” on local officials considering gun restrictions.

“Plaintiffs have asserted a number of proposed regulatory and legislative actions that they wish to take,” said an August court document filed by attorneys for the local governments. “Regardless of how confident city or county officials are that they have the authority to take the proposed actions and that these actions would not violate the preemption law, they nevertheless have been prevented from pursuing them any further due to their fear that defendants or private parties may interpret their actions as violating the preemption law.”

Bondi’s office in July filed a motion on behalf of the state and several state officials to dismiss the consolidated cases, in part arguing that there was no “justiciable case or controversy” because the penalties have not been enforced.

“Plaintiffs do not allege that any of the defendants named in these actions (or any other state official) has ‘actually threatened’ them (or anyone else) with enforcement of the challenged provisions,” the motion said. “Instead, plaintiffs allege only that because they wish to enact and enforce ordinances that may be preempted … they are convinced that they may, at some indeterminate point in the future, be threatened with enforcement by some entity or individual they do not identify. Accordingly, these actions should be dismissed for lack of a judiciable case or controversy.”

But in a seven-page order issued last week, Dodson rejected the motion to dismiss the allegations against the state, Bondi, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Rick Swearingen and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Dodson granted dismissal against three other defendants — the state auditor general, the Broward County state attorney and the Broward County sheriff.

Dodson noted that Gov. Rick Scott has also been named as a defendant but was not part of the motion to dismiss by Bondi’s office. Bondi’s motion said Scott had other legal counsel.

“The attorney general, the FDLE commissioner and the agriculture commissioner are the state officials who administer and enforce the state’s regulatory scheme for firearms, which is protected by the preemption and penalty provisions,” Dodson wrote. “The relief sought in these cases … would have direct consequences on these defendants’ duties.”

The local governments involved in the challenges are primarily in South Florida but also include cities such as Tallahassee, Gainesville, Orlando and St. Petersburg. The National Rifle Association filed a friend-of-the-court brief in July supporting the motion to dismiss the cases.

Jimmy Patronis: Banks need to give a break to hurricane victims

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis urged financial institutions on Tuesday to waive late fees and charges for using ATMs in the Hurricane Michael impact zone, among other forms of disaster assistance.

“It is absolutely essential that financial institutions support those impacted by Hurricane Michael by waiving fees and penalties to aid the victims,” Patronis said in a written statement.

“Many financial institutions have already announced they are taking these steps to help families in the Panhandle, and I encourage all banks and credit unions to follow suit and help these communities recover.”

Areas suggested for leniency include late fees for credit cards, auto and personal loans, credit lines, and insufficient balances.

Patronis also suggested banks and financial institutions find other ways to assist customers with the recovery or limit financial hardship during the next 90 days.

Additionally, Patronis wants reports from all banks and credit unions about what they’re doing along these lines.

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