Opinions Archives - Page 7 of 246 - Florida Politics

Richard Corcoran: Federal government needs to act now; mosquito season is here

As we celebrated Mother’s Day with our families this weekend, I could not help but think of all the moms in the U.S., and all over the world, who have been affected by Zika in the last year.

As a father of six, I know that all children bring challenges.  But a child born with microcephaly will present his or her parents with unique struggles.

As we enter into the warm summer months, the threat of another outbreak is looming. That is why I have and will continue to urge the federal government to quickly authorize new strategies that can be used to both curb the spread of the virus and prevent additional outbreaks.

 I believe we should be taking a multi-faceted approach to put an end to the threat of Zika. This must include spraying programs, education awareness efforts, and the search for a vaccine. But more importantly, we must also look at new and science-based solutions that can control the growing population of disease-carrying mosquitoes in Florida.

The mosquitoes that spread Zika are called Aedes aegypti. It is an invasive species in the U.S. and uniquely built to spread disease because it loves living in and around our homes and it loves to feed off humans rather than other mammals.

Besides Zika, it spreads a number of other diseases – yellow fever and dengue, just to name two. International travel and warm weather only increase the chance that these diseases are not only here to stay, but that we will continue to see more outbreaks. Because of the way it lives and breeds, the diseases the Aedes aegypti spreads are hard to control. It’s like a dry field of grass – just one spark can cause an out-of-control fire.

While ongoing research for a vaccine is imperative, we can’t only focus on a solution that will cost billions of dollars and that won’t be ready for years to come. I think we should be focused on the root of the problem – identifying new, innovative solutions to cut down on the population of Aedes aegypti. Some of those solutions already exist today.

One example of the technology I’ve advocated for is the Oxitec genetically engineered Aedes aegypti mosquito. When it is released into the wild, it doesn’t bite, it doesn’t transmit disease, but does transmit a self-limiting gene that makes its offspring die before reaching adulthood.

This technology is being used successfully in some countries already. If we had it available in the U.S., many expectant mothers might have one less thing to be anxious about.

Last year during a CDC briefing about the Zika outbreak in South Florida, former Director Thomas Frieden cautioned, “We also don’t yet have ideal ways to control the particular mosquitoes that spread Zika, and we need better methods and tools for mosquito control.” He added, “… aggressive mosquito control measures don’t seem to be working as well as we would have liked.”

What he means is that the insecticides that most cities use today to control mosquitoes do not work well for a variety of reasons, including the mosquitoes’ ability to be insecticide resistance. Even mosquito control officials have cautioned that insecticides are becoming less and less effective. This combined with the unseasonably warm winter we experienced has officials concerned

So as we enter into the summer months, I urge moms everywhere to take a few minutes to learn how to protect themselves from mosquito-borne diseases by going to the websites of the CDC or the Florida Department of Health.

Your health, and the health of your family, may depend on it.

___

Richard Corcoran is Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.

Dennis Ross: Dispelling the myths — real facts about the AHCA

Beyond any measure, the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare,” has failed in its promises to the American people.

As it stands, Obamacare is in a death spiral and collapsing under its own weight of broken assurances, imperiling tens of thousands of Floridians with ever-increasing premiums and fewer and fewer choices for their medical needs. Here are the undisputed facts about Obamacare:

– It was sold to the American people based on broken promises.

– People did not get to keep their doctors if they liked them.

4.7 million Americans have been kicked off their health care plans.

– Nearly 20 million Americans remain uninsured today.

– It increased taxes on Americans by $1 trillion.

– Deductibles will average more than $6,000 this year, and premiums have risen by 25 percent.

– More than one-third of all U.S. counties have only one insurance provider.

– In Florida, premiums are expected to increase by 19 percent this year.

49 out of 67 Florida counties are estimated to have only one insurance provider this year.

300,000 Floridians had their plans canceled under Obamacare.

– The Congressional Budget Office incorrectly estimated 22 million people would flock to Obamacare.

– Insurance providers are fleeing the exchange left and right, with Aetna announcing it will completely leave the exchange by 2018.

– Leading Democrats, like former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer, have admitted Obamacare was a mistake and has left Americans with less coverage.

Faced with these failures, doing nothing and watching more and more Americans be forced to pay higher premiums with unaffordable deductibles was not an option. The only responsible path forward was to repeal and replace the failures and broken promises of Obamacare.

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) that I voted for and passed in the House does just that:

– It establishes a health care system built upon free-market and consumer-driven principles that will revive competition, increasing quality, drive down costs and expand coverage.

– Cuts $1 trillion in burdensome Obamacare taxes.

– Congressional Members and staff are not exempt from the AHCA. The McSally Amendment made sure this legislation applies equally to everyone.

– Those with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. I have a pre-existing condition with my congenital heart defect, and I understand how important it is to maintain coverage for others.

– Low-income Americans are not losing coverage and will still receive coverage under Medicaid.

– The AHCA modernizes and strengthens Medicaid with the biggest entitlement reform in a generation.

– It honors the enhanced state match that beneficiaries have been receiving.

– Restores $79 billion to hospitals who provide a high proportion of care to the most vulnerable patients, including certain Medicaid and Medicare recipients.

– Establishes the Patient and State Stability Fund that provides $130 billion to help states lower the cost of care for patients in need.

– Sets aside $100 billion for states to help low-income Americans access affordable health care.

– President Donald Trump has agreed to give Florida hospitals $1.5 billion to help treat the poor and uninsured.

No changes were made to the benefits Medicare provides in its current form, and the elderly will not lose or face more expensive coverage under the AHCA.

– Children up to 26 years old can stay on their parents’ plans.

– The AHCA substantially lowers premiums and eliminates the individual and employer mandates that are crushing small businesses and families.

– It provides tax credits and health savings accounts to help all Americans purchase affordable coverage, and ensures there is a seamless transition so no one has the rug pulled out from under them.

Defunds Planned Parenthood by blocking more than $500 million of taxpayer money, and maintains the Hyde Amendment. This measure is supported by the National Right to Life Committee and the Susan B. Anthony List.

The AHCA is great a step in the right direction. After seven long years, we are finally putting patients first. We will continue working with the Trump Administration to further stabilize the health insurance market, increase choices, and lower costs for all Americans and families. We will fulfill our promises to those who sent us to Washington to help and protect them. I urge the Senate to quickly take up and pass this important legislation so we can provide relief to Americans across Florida and the entire nation.

___

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross represents Florida’s 15th Congressional District.

Joe Henderson: Richard Corcoran in the Governor’s race? Adam Putnam would be hard to catch

Well, I guess that is settled.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has emphatically ruled out running for the U.S. Senate, and I admit I’m a little disappointed. The thought of a bare-knuckle campaign between him and Gov. Rick Scott for the Republican nomination would have been immensely entertaining.

Not gonna happen.

“Those are the only two choices — (run for) governor or not run for office,” Corcoran told the Tampa Bay Times.

Well, that could work. The knuckles would still be bare between Corcoran and Adam Putnam for the GOP nomination to succeed Scott as governor if the Speaker decides to jump in that race. It would get even more interesting if state Sen. Jack Latvala decides to go for it.

Thinking about that potential matchup raises an important question Corcoran could force Putnam to answer.

While everyone has known for a long time about Putnam’s ambition to be governor, he will have to offer a clear explanation of why it’s so important to him — I mean, beyond the usual talking points of jobs, Florida’s future, yadda yadda yadda.

Corcoran is on a mission to change the way business is done in Tallahassee. He made that clear as soon as he became Speaker, even if it meant taking on a sitting governor in his own party. He would be able to clearly demonstrate how life would be different for the state with him in charge.

It will be Putnam’s challenge to do the same.

Putnam has been stashing away a considerable campaign war chest — more than $8 million in the bank. His Florida Grown PAC has raised about $2.5 million just since the end of March, but Corcoran has the blessing of the Koch Brothers if he runs raising money probably wouldn’t be a problem.

The thought of a fight wouldn’t scare off Corcoran or Latvala, though, and if that happens, Putnam probably would be forced to the right during the primary fight. Put it this way: Putnam is conservative, but compared to Corcoran he looks like a moderate. That could be a factor in the primary, where it’s important to appeal to the almighty base.

Things could get really interesting if there is a primary debate between the three. Corcoran is a lawyer and knows how to frame an argument, but I haven’t seen a potential Republican candidate who is better on stage and the stump than Putnam.

That’s getting ahead of things, though. Corcoran and Latvala have decisions to make, while Putnam is already off and running. Even with all the variables in play, I think he’s going to be hard to catch.

Ann W. Madsen: Where are the champions for women?

Ann W. Madsen

As this Mother’s Day approaches, I find it particularly ironic to be advocating for the same support for women as our founder did four decades ago. Helen Gordon Davis opened this nonprofit to help women who needed extra support just to survive — serious counseling, intense skills development, assistance to the homeless and domestic violence populations, legal advice, financial guidance and the restored confidence to lead independent lives. She advocated for and was successful in persuading the state Legislature to create a Displaced Homemakers Program and fund it with a Trust Fund comprised of fees from marriage licenses and divorce applications.

Just this week, a group of legislators in a late Friday afternoon session broke our trust and voted to terminate the Displaced Homemakers Program. What a cavalier and cowardly act. No one thought to speak with any of the eight organizations that work tirelessly to help women in need to see if that recommendation made any sense. No one appeared to consider what would happen to the hundreds of the most vulnerable “moms,” many of them single mothers with young children. No one apparently imagined that their mom, wife, sister, daughter or grandmother would ever need the kind of support that so many have found through this program for 40 years. Yet, wherever I go across Tampa, women from all walks of life, tell me about how the help they received through the Displaced Homemakers program helped them to survive and change their lives.

As I reached out to legislators about this, no one offered to help. I guess they are too focused on other priorities. It made me wonder whatever happened to the champions for women in our State Legislature?  Are there no longer those valiant few that will stand up for what is right? The whole sad episode reminds me of the commercial where a politician was throwing granny off the cliff.

We are not political at The Centre for Women. Our views are politically diverse and we intentionally do not get embroiled in the political arena. We simply concentrate on our day-to-day work of helping women to succeed both personally and professionally. We do it with limited resources because we know our work changes lives for the better. The impact we make is felt every day across Tampa Bay.

We hope Governor Scott will veto this ill-conceived amendment because that is the right thing to do. How anyone can think it is OK to take monies in trust to help vulnerable people and conflate that with support for tourism simply boggles the mind. Perhaps they thought women would not notice or would not speak up. I don’t pretend to know how government works. I am not sure anyone does.

Thankfully, many voices are joining in to encourage continued support for Displaced Homemakers. We hope you will too.

Speak up and ask the Governor to leave the Displaced Homemakers Trust in place so that the most vulnerable among us will have the support they need.

___

Ann W. Madsen is Executive Director of The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women, Inc. in Tampa.

Florence Snyder: Rest in peace, Bill Cooke, and thank you for your service

Pictures of the young Bill Cooke show a brooding, handsome, James Dean kind of guy who seems to belong in front of a camera. Lucky for us that he did not see himself that way.

Cooke died last week at age 70, leaving behind a sister, a heartbroken Florida journalism community, and a body of work that serves history and inspires the photojournalists who knew him well, and the ones who wish they could have known him better.

Among the latter is Colin Hackley, a highly-regarded photojournalist who has spent two and a half decades covering Real Florida, as well as UnReal Florida. Hackley had the advantage of a formal education at one of America’s elite journalism schools, and is well-equipped to explain the magic of Cooke, a self-taught newsman who was equally comfortable wielding a camera or a pen.

“You have to recognize what the story is and how to get to each of its component parts, ” said Hackley. “Photojournalists are called to record what is in front of you in a truthful, fair manner and put yourself into a position to get the picture that tells the story.”

News people like Cooke and Hackley could count on a modest but steady paycheck in the years when Old, Big Media could count on a double-digit ROI. “It always takes courage to tell a story,” said Hackley, and courage was easier to come by when news organizations sent reporters and photographers out in teams, with a license to kill, metaphorically speaking, anything between them and the news.

Hackley describes the ideal reporter-photographer dynamic as a true partnership of professionals “who can move easily between words and visuals. It’s a second set of eyes that are as interested in telling your part of the story as you are in telling theirs.”

When the ecosystem that supported those kinds of collaborations began to collapse, Cooke was forced to draw upon his personal reserve of courage. He had plenty of that. Cooke’s blog, Random Pixels, was appointment reading for people who care about Florida, and the people who tell Florida’s story.  Even as his health was failing, he never failed to inform and entertain.

Cooke was not the only source of stories headlined “Miami Herald continues to make staff cuts with no end in sight,” but he brought a ballsy outrage to the subject that was a comfort to journalists who had been tossed out with their notebooks and cameras and very little in the way of notice or severance.

Cooke served in Vietnam and died of pulmonary fibrosis in a VA hospice. In between, he was a valiant warrior for truth in a cold and cowardly world.

Blake Dowling: A new (politically incorrect) cyberthreat, linked to Big Macs

For better or worse, we live in a politically correct world. On one hand, efforts in that area have created increased awareness of sexism and other social injustices.

On the other, some PC speak is patently ridiculous.

I read somewhere that is politically incorrect to the word “fat.” I’m told we should say EWI — Enhanced Weight Individual (or stout, overweight, etc.).

So, you cannot say “fat-free?” If that’s the case, there’d be a lot of rebranding in the packaged food industry.

Where do we draw the line? Don’t get me wrong, society is obsessed with size. There are issues, indeed. But is this really the solution?

Isn’t the real issue being kind (or, more accurately, a lack of kindness)?

Are these PC people those who changed the name of the world’s largest cocktail party to something silly?

Where does the PC Council of What-You-And-I-Should-Say-Or-Not-Say hold their meetings, anyway? Is it in a clandestine annual retreat (like the Skull and Bones society?) If so, I would bet there are some non-fierce debates, since they really don’t do name-calling. Think British cops, who are not allowed to carry guns: “Stop, or I’ll say stop again!”

Rant concluded.

Well, guess who couldn’t care less about soft-bellied American PC nonsense?

Vodka-guzzling Russian hackers, that’s who. The latest cyberthreat has the (decidedly non-PC) name “Fatboy.”

Are they making fun of non-motherland swine who might be a little “big boned?” Nope.

It’s actually ransomware that charges different amounts, in different locations, depending on the Economist’s Big Mac Index.

At this point, you may be intrigued … or think I am blatantly creating fake news. No, It’s a real thing.

The Big Mac Index is now 30 years old, and shows how poor or wealthy a nation is based on the price of a Big Mac.

In 2017, you are looking at $5.06 for a Big Mac in Florida, and about $2.83 in China.

So, there you have it. Hackers of the world continue to innovate and surprise.

So, while they might charge $500 in the U.S., the charge would be closer to $250 in China?

That makes sense, right?

First, it was a Ugandan Prince with $10,000,000 U.S. just for you. Next were fake emails from UPS, followed by ransomware that gives you encryption keys if you infected two friends.

Then comes RAAS (ransomware as a service sold on the dark web), allowing anyone with basic computer skills to become a hacker. Now there’s Fatboy.

I can definitely see the PC crowd getting upset — not only do they say “fat,” but it’s gender specific.

Look out Russkies, the American Civil Liberties Union is gonna get ‘ya.

To them, it should be called “Fat-person” or “Fat-one” (referring to one who is fat; no medical marijuana jokes, please).

So, you get infected from an email, your IP address is confirmed and the price of the Big Mac is reviewed and you receive a notice of how much you have to pay to get the encryption keys to get your data back. And they usually ask for the money in iTunes gift cards or bitcoins.

As an information technology professional, I always give the same advice to anyone infected with ransomware — never pay cybercriminals. Payment only encourages them.

As a fan of good manners, I don’t call people fat, either, and always avoid being tacky. We have plenty of that in the world.

Be safe out there, and lay off the Big Macs, unless you wish to be classified EWI, that is.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com.

Darryl Paulson: President ‘Pants on Fire’

Although a Republican and a conservative, I was never able to support Donald Trump for president for three reasons. First, he has seldom been a Republican in his lifetime. Second, he is a pragmatist and populist, but not a conservative.

Finally, he has difficulty telling the truth.

So, what was so appealing about Trump that he won 30 of the 50 states and a majority of the electoral vote? His greatest appeal was being a non-politician in an era where Americans demanded political change.

Politics is the only occupation where experience is a negative. The next time you or a loved one needs major surgery, will you pick an experienced doctor or one who is doing his first operation? Only in politics do we prefer someone with no experience. We are now reaping what we have sowed.

How can you tell if Donald Trump is not lying? See if his lips are closed. Trump has changed virtually every major political position he has held. He then denies doing so, or says that changing positions is a sign of his flexibility. There is nothing wrong with a politician who changes their position, but it is not unfair to expect that person to remain true to their core values.

As New York Times columnist David Brooks has written, Trump is the “most dishonest person to run for high office in our lifetime.” Trump “is oblivious to accuracy.”

During the presidential campaign, Trump lied about President Barack Obama not being born in the United States; he lied about his own position on the Iraq War; he lied about NATO; he lied about Ted Cruz’s father being involved in the assassination of President Kennedy; he lied about the unemployment and crime rate; he lied about voter fraud in elections, and he lied about his groping of women. The list is far more extensive than this.

Once assuming the presidency, President Trump lied about President Obama tapping his phones; he lied about his winning the Electoral College vote by historic margins; he lied about his inaugural crowds being larger than Obama’s, and he even lied about the provisions of his American Health Care Act.

Trump’s constant inability to tell the truth led PolitiFact to call Trump’s misstatements during the 2016 presidential campaign to be the “lie of the year.” PolitiFact concluded that 76 percent of Trump’s statements were False, Mostly False or Pants on Fire.

Lest one concludes that PolitiFact is merely another liberal hatchet job by the left-leaning media, PolitiFact labeled President Obama’s statements that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep your plan,” and “if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor” to be the “lie of the year” after passage of Obamacare.

Trump’s latest lie is that he fired FBI Director James Comey because he mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Comey was in the third year of a ten-year term as FBI Director when fired by the president. The long-term was designed to protect the FBI Director from political interference from the White House and Congress.

During the last few weeks of the presidential campaign, Trump praised Comey for reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails against strong protests from the Democrats. Trump said, “it took a lot of guts” for Comey to reopen the investigation and, in doing so, Comey had “brought back his reputation.”

Comey was currently investigating potential ties between the Trump campaign and Russian influence in the presidential election. Five members of the Trump campaign have been found to have contact with Russian officials during the presidential race. The list includes former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, consultant Roger Stone, foreign policy adviser Carter Page, national security adviser Michael Flynn and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Corey’s dismissal puts the Trump-Russian investigation in jeopardy. Democrats are suspicious of the timing of Comey’s firing, but their position is weakened by their repeated called for Comey’s ouster.

Perhaps the most consistent aspect of the Trump campaign and presidency is Trump’s lies. As bad as those lies may be, what is worse is that Trump is attempting to place himself above the law.

Americans would not tolerate that behavior during Watergate, when both Republicans and Democrats joined forces to find out the truth. As Howard Baker said during the Watergate hearings, “what did the president know and when did he know it?”

That question is just as relevant as it was over 40 years ago.

___

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg specializing in Florida politics and elections.

Joe Henderson: Betsy DeVos pleaded for students to listen, but shouldn’t she do the same?

As students at Bethune-Cookman University turned their backs and lustily booed commencement speaker Betsy DeVos, the rattled education secretary pleaded, “Let’s choose to hear each other out.”

It’s ironic that DeVos chose those words to find middle ground, considering Republicans across the land, and particularly in the Washington establishment she now represents, have demonstrated no interest in hearing anything but the echo of their own voices.

The best leaders spend a long time listening before they speak. Perhaps DeVos should choose to hear the voices of those who believe we are seeing what may later be viewed as a historic assault on public education.

Republicans — including those in the Florida Legislature — are showing barely restrained glee at that prospect. As the highest-ranking agency leader in that charge, DeVos and many in her party have shown almost willful ignorance of the havoc this is causing.

A story in Thursday’s Tampa Bay Times quoted Hillsborough Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins warning the district, which services more than 200,000 students, may see a deepening financial crisis.

The budget passed this week by the Legislature cuts per-student funding by $27 at a time when Florida’s population is booming. Eakins said there may have to be a teacher hiring freeze. He also has to find a way to pay for about $3 billion total in new school construction, repairs for existing schools, and debt on previous construction.

It’s also odd that Republicans complain about the treatment DeVos received, many calling it rude and so forth. Yet, how many of them chanted “lock her up … lock her up” at the mention of Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, or even as late as March as President Donald Trump spoke at a rally in Nashville?

By that standard, I thought students at Bethune-Cookman were kind to the representative of a government that increasingly is turning its back on them.

DeVos at one point declared, “We can choose to listen, be respectful and continue to learn from each other’s experience.”

This is the same person who earlier declared that so-called historically black colleges represented the original school choice plan.

Choice, huh? The University of Florida didn’t admit its first black student until 1958 — the year DeVos was born, the daughter of billionaire Amway co-founder Richard DeVos. Florida State didn’t begin admitting black students until 1962.

The memory of that kind of school “choice” is still fresh for many of the parents or grandparents of black students today. Education was their path to a better life. They see a government trying to change that.

They see DeVos as someone who doesn’t understand them and doesn’t seem too interested in learning. Maybe what happened at Bethune-Cookman will change that, but I doubt it.

There was widespread anger across the campus when DeVos was originally announced as the commencement speaker. There was a petition drive to have the offer rescinded.

I would give her credit for showing up anyway, except I think she probably thought she could turn this into a photo op with smiling, applauding students endorsing what she has planned.

She got that photo op all right, just not the one she wanted.

The question is, was she listening to what all those booing students were really saying? Is anyone?

Joe Henderson: Rick Scott came to Tally as an outsider, and that’s just how he might leave

For as much as Gov. Rick Scott loves to deride what he calls “career politicians” – even those in his own party – those same people have forced him into what looks more and more like an inescapable trap.

Does he veto the just-passed $83 billion state budget and force lawmakers to return to Tallahassee to over-ride him, which they almost certainly would?

Risky.

Losing would continue the parliamentary butt-whipping Scott received during the Legislative Session at the hands of, er, um … his own party.

Does he continue to build on his bro-mance with President Donald Trump, whom, you may have heard, has made a few headlines lately? A story by Gary Fineout in the Associated Press pointed out that Scott’s good standing with the president won a payday that included $1 billion for the state’s mental hospitals as well as repairs on a federally owned dike that contributed to last year’s disastrous algae bloom from Lake Okeechobee.

Or does he cover his ears, hold his nose, and sign the budget so he can at least take that issue out of the headlines, while moving at least an arms-length distance away from Trump. That might help him avoid some of the splatter that seems ongoing with this president.

Or not.

While political fortunes can change with the next news cycle, Gov. Scott seems to be on a losing streak that rivals the Tampa Bay Rays’ bullpen.

The drubbing he took over his most-favored VISIT Florida and Enterprise Florida programs – from, er, um, as I think we mentioned, his own party – are sure to dog him all the way to the ballot box if he challenges Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next year.

Where does the governor turn now? He rode to Tallahassee on the tea party wave in 2011 only to adopt positions now his party’s leaders believe aren’t conservative enough.

How does he sell that in what still is a hypothetical run for his party’s Senate nomination in 2018? I mean, after state Republican leadership – especially House Speaker Richard Corcoran – took him on and won, they sure aren’t going to care what he wants in an election year.

He obviously doesn’t have enough allies in the Legislature to successfully challenge Corcoran, and his attempt to stir up a populist revolt by going on a statewide speaking jag to save his budget priorities was met with a resounding yawn.

All the while, his closeness to Trump was turning into a potential liability, and we can’t even judge the ramifications of that. If Scott is the Senate nominee and the president continues his current path, expect non-stop TV images of the governor and the president arm-in-arm, ad nauseam.

If things continue to deteriorate, it might even open the door for a serious challenge to Scott from the right.

As Yul Brenner sang in the King and I, which certainly seems apropos just now, it’s a puzzlement.

Here is some clarity though. Scott came to Tallahassee as an outsider. At the moment, it looks like that is how he will leave.

Samantha Pollara: In defense of my big brother Ben Pollara

For the last five years, my big brother, Ben Pollara, has fought to bring medical marijuana treatment to suffering citizens in the state of Florida.

He acted as campaign manager for United for Care, which was the chief facilitator of Amendment 2’s passage November, and has since worked tirelessly to craft and pass fair legislation to enact it.

His goal was a feasible plan for implementation that not only best represented the interests of sick patients, but also protected and encouraged diversity in the burgeoning medical marijuana market.

Currently, only seven companies have been licensed and approved by the Florida Department of Health to grow and dispense marijuana. In most states where medical marijuana is legal, retail dispensaries are required to be licensed individually.

However, some states, including Florida, permit multiple dispensaries to operate under a single license. Most other states impose caps on licensees, limiting the number of retail operations to either 3 or 4 on a single license, depending on the state.

My brother’s position has always been that setting caps on the number of retail operations is essential to ensuring a free and diverse market for medical marijuana in Florida.

Without these caps, the seven current licensees would be given carte blanche to overrun the market in cartel style, using massive funding capabilities to effectively shut out smaller operations at the outset. That’s basically equivalent to allowing the Wal-Marts and Targets of medical marijuana first entry into the market, without giving Mom and Pop operations a chance to gain a toehold in the industry.

Ultimately, a system of total control via these seven “cartels” would be harmful not only to the market, but to the patients as well, through artificially high prices and product homogeneity as a result of this lack of competition.

In the process of debating the bill, HB 1397, this also became the sticking point for legislators. A version of the bill passed by the Florida Senate would have allocated five dispensaries to each licensee, and allowed each one more for every additional 75,000 patients.  The bill put forth by the House of Representatives, however, contained no such restrictions. The Legislature could not come to an agreement on these terms, and the bill died in the final hours of Friday’s session.

While my brother was adamant that caps were in the best interest of both the market and the patients, he was not so uncompromising that he would have deliberately risked the passage of this bill in the Florida Legislature.

He would have done anything in his power to pass any version of it, rather than see the responsibility fall to the Department of Health, which will disproportionately favor the current licensees.

What ultimately killed the bill was discord and failure at the highest levels of legislature. It’s worth noting that the team of lobbyists working on behalf of the seven currently licensed “cartels” was headed up by Michael Corcoran, Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran’s brother. As a result of this connection, the House’s intractability on the issue of caps seems unlikely to be a coincidence.

To add insult to injury, despite having done everything he personally could to ensure the legislation’s success, my brother has faced a barrage of vicious personal attacks from his former partner and mentor, John Morgan, who places the blame entirely on Ben’s shoulders.

Mr. Morgan has repeatedly published harassing tweets directed at Ben, (one in which he even went so far as to refer to my brother as disloyal Fredo, from the Godfather, complete with the hashtag #FredoWillBeFishingSoon.) and has erroneously accused­­­ him of having an improper financial stake in attempting to pass a version of the bill that included caps.

No one has worked harder to ensure that sick patients in Florida have access to medical marijuana than my big brother, and no one knows that better than John Morgan.

Mr. Morgan ought to be ashamed of himself.

___

Samantha Pollara is a vice president of the Hillsborough Young Democrats.

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