Dana Young – Page 3 – Florida Politics

Sunshine State gambling #fails: A short history (updated for 2018)

Just as it always does in recent years, a legislative effort to revisit the state’s gambling laws tanked in the last week of this year’s Legislative Session.

Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran released a joint statement Friday night: “Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session,” they said.

It’s not clear when lawmakers will get another shot: A proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment will be on November’s ballot. It would give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida.

“The amendment could have a big effect,” Senate-President-designate Bill Galvano told reporters late Friday, mentioning the initiative was polling in the low 70 percent-range. It needs 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

“It could ultimately take off the table the opportunity for certain types of expansion,” added the Bradenton Republican, who’s president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States. “It has the potential of narrowing the issues.”

Failing again was an attempt to get a proposed new “Compact” – the gambling agreement between the state and the Seminole Tribe.

Then again, Florida has a history of failure when it comes to addressing gambling. The state’s inaction even caused the Las Vegas Sands Corp. to give up its efforts to build a destination casino resort in Florida.

The inertia is largely because of the fractured vote when it comes to gambling issues, split among anti-gambling-expansion lawmakers, those with a Seminole casino in their district, and those with other pari-mutuel interests among their constituency (i.e., dog or horse tracks).

In 2016, Nick Iarossi, the Sands’ Florida lobbyist, said he “understand(s) their perspective … We’ve been pushing this for six years with no success.”

Four years before that, former state Sen. Ellyn Setnor Bogdanoff pushed a measure to permit three destination hotel-casinos in South Florida. That effort died.

“Nobody wants to address a comprehensive approach to gambling in this state,” she said then. “It’s taboo but it still needs to be fixed.”

The next year, realizing they had likely bungled it, lawmakers hastily moved to ban Internet gambling cafés – only after a multistate investigation that netted dozens of arrests threw egg on the Legislature’s collective face.

Two years later, House Republican Leader Dana Young of Tampa sponsored her own sweeping legislation to permit two destination resort casinos in South Florida and allow dog tracks to stop live racing but continue to offer slot machines, among many other provisions.

It, too, died during the Legislative Session.

Last year, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, then the House’s point man on gambling, said an impossibility of compromise over slot machines killed a gambling bill.

“We were too far apart and the Senate wanted to bring it in for a landing during budget conference, and we were not going to be able to do that,” he said. “The timing was off.”

Slot machines killed the 2018 attempt as well. A conference committee melting down over an impasse related to expanding slots to eight counties that approved them in local referendums: Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington.

The House’s final proposal — five new “limited gaming” licenses for either 500 slot machines or the ability to offer a certain type of card game, but not both — was deemed “too cute” by Negron, according to one person in the industry.

“He was willing to extend gaming conference over the weekend, but the last House offer killed it. So we’re done,” that person said privately.

Negron, a Stuart Republican who leaves the presidency after this year, had long pushed to expand slots to referendum counties, including St. Lucie, which he represents.

And the House was intransigent on designated player games, a hybrid of poker and blackjack that’s proved lucrative to pari-mutuel cardrooms, being banned everywhere else besides those areas.

But, as another gaming lobbyist said late Friday, “The status quo isn’t all that bad.”


Parts of this post were published previously.

Legislature slashing Health Dep’t pay because of medical marijuana delays

[Ed. Note — This story, first posted Thursday, was updated Friday.]

Lawmakers on Thursday included a provision to withhold more than $1.9 million in Department of Health salaries and benefits in the final 2018-19 state budget until regulators fully implement medical marijuana.

The proviso language, which “qualifies or restricts a specific appropriation,” means certain Health officials will get a temporary pay and benefits cut until they “implement” medical cannabis as authorized under the state constitution and statute.

The full budget was released midday Thursday, to be voted on Sunday. The money will be “held in reserve,” with its release “contingent upon implementation,” the language says.

That means “solely and exclusively by adopting all rules required by statute and any other rules necessary to implement this constitutional provision.”

House Republican Jason Brodeur of Sanford, who first submitted the budget provision, on Friday clarified that the withheld pay applies to the department’s “executive direction entity.”

He defined that as including Health Secretary and state Surgeon General Celeste Philip, her chief of staff, legislative affairs director, and the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, including its director, Christian Bax.

The withheld pay is effective July 1, the start of the next fiscal year, but “wouldn’t have an impact until later in the year so it won’t cripple them right away,” Brodeur said.

“The (budget’s) implementing bill also provides some language to assist them in meeting that contingency so they can implement the will of the legislature more timely,” he added.

The budget would still be subject to line-item vetoes by Gov. Rick Scott, to whom the Health Department reports.

Lawmakers have long been irritated over the department’s delay in implementing medical marijuana under a 2016 constitutional amendment that voters passed by 71 percent.

They later approved and Scott signed an implementing bill, which gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

Brodeur and other legislators, including Republican Sen. Dana Young of Tampa, have been peeved over a backlog of applications for marijuana growing and dispensing licenses, and for state-issued patient ID cards, among other things.

Moreover, the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee, which ensures that agencies write rules that line up with statutes, has sent at least 17 individual objections to the department over medical cannabis regulation.

They range from the department’s issuing “contingent licenses” and requiring the submission of a $60,830 nonrefundable application fee, to its listing more than 40 distinct operations violations “with no standards or guidance … , thereby vesting unbridled discretion in the Department.”

Bax has told lawmakers of recent progress, however.

That includes regulations on advertising and signage, edible products, and addressing the use of “solvents and gases” used in marijuana processing that could be toxic to humans. And he has said the department has inspected over 100 medical marijuana treatment centers, some “multiple times.”

Bax also told legislators that a deluge of lawsuits and administrative challenges, most over denied licenses, was slowing down the works.

But at a committee meeting last October, Young shot back, “I’m not buying it that because there’s litigation out there you can’t fulfill your statutory duty to issue these licenses.”


Updated — The following statement in response to this post was sent by Health Department spokeswoman Mara Gambineri:

“We are appreciative of the Legislature for exempting the department from the ratification requirement, which posed a barrier to expeditious implementation of rules – specifically the department’s ability to accept applications for new Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs). As stated in the department’s letter to JAPC, we plan to move forward with accepting applications for new MMTCs this spring.

“In addition, the department has initiated rulemaking for 11 rules and next week are hosting two public rule workshops focusing on the standards for the production of edibles and dosing for both low-THC cannabis and medical marijuana. Additional public workshops have been scheduled in March and April.

“The department has put substantial effort into streamlining the Medical Marijuana Use Registry Identification Card program. Yesterday, we announced that we’ve further streamlined the application process for OMMU Registry Identification Cards through the deployment of online payments.

“This comes on the heels of completing the integration of photos from the Department of Highway Safety’s system. To date, there are more than 83,000 patients registered in the OMMU Registry with access to 29 dispensing locations and statewide delivery of low-THC cannabis and medical marijuana.

“The department has made – and will continue to make – significant progress in the implementation of Amendment 2 and section 381.986 Florida Statutes, despite the special interests involved in this new industry.”

Trauma centers

Bill could end trauma system battles

The legal dramas that have swirled around Florida’s trauma system in recent years would be settled under a bill that revamps rules and regulations and recognizes trauma centers at some HCA Healthcare facilities across the state.

The Senate on Tuesday voted unanimously to pass the bill (HB 1165), one day after the House voted 110-0 to approve it. The bill now heads to Gov. Rick Scott, who is expected to sign it into law.

Senate Health Policy Chairwoman Dana Young, a Tampa Republican who started meeting with various hospital representatives last summer on the trauma issue, said the bill ends years of legal wrangling and adds provisions aimed at preventing the litigation from ever occurring again.

Young told The News Service of Florida there were “hours and hours of meetings” with representatives of various hospitals, including Jackson Memorial in Miami-Dade County, HCA and “safety net” facilities.

“I asked them,” Young said, recalling the meetings, “how much do they really want to get this done?”

The Legislature for the past several years has grappled with the trauma system and whether to continue with current regulations or to allow a more competitive environment that would increase the number of trauma facilities in the state.

The debate has come after HCA moved to open several trauma centers, which drew legal challenges from hospitals that have long operated trauma facilities.

Under current law and regulations, Florida has a statewide cap of 44 trauma centers, with facilities allocated to 19 “trauma service areas.” It also includes different classifications of trauma centers based, in part, on levels of care they provide.

Supporters of the longstanding limits on trauma centers have contended that the facilities are expensive to operate and require highly trained doctors and staff members. But HCA and its backers say opening more trauma centers help improve access to care for severely injured patients.

The bill would change the number of trauma-service areas from 19 to 18 and make clear that no service area could have more than a total of five Level I, Level II, Level II/pediatric, and stand-alone pediatric trauma centers. A trauma service area could not have more than one stand-alone pediatric trauma center.

The bill would require the Florida Department of Health by Oct. 1 to establish an 11-member Florida Trauma System Advisory Council. The group would be required to meet no later than Jan. 5 and quarterly thereafter.

Moreover, the bill would put into statutes a new “need formula” for the approval of trauma centers. Under the new formula, it will be difficult to produce new trauma centers any time soon, said Mark Delegal, general counsel for the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida, which includes public, teaching and children’s hospitals.

Delegal said the bill will ensure a quality trauma system for the foreseeable future and bring to an end to years of litigation.

“Importantly, the bill recreates a trauma advisory council with leading experts to maintain and improve trauma care in Florida,” he said.

The bill “grandfathers” in three HCA trauma centers: Kendall Regional Medical Center’s Level I trauma center, which allows it to operate a pediatric trauma center; Orange Park Medical Center’s Level II trauma center; and Aventura Hospital & Medical Center’s level II trauma center.

A fourth HCA facility, Northside Hospital in St. Petersburg, would be prevented from moving ahead with a trauma center.

The agreement also gives Jackson South in Miami the ability to open a trauma center. Along with Young, the legislation was sponsored by Rep. Jay Trumbull, a Panama City Republican.

Email Insights: Dana Young a no-show on assault weapons vote

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young got slammed by her Democratic re-election opponent in a Saturday email for not voting on an amendment that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Tampa attorney Bob Buesing said the move was “not surprising” given Young’s “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, but still said the lack of a vote was “profoundly disappointing.”

“Last week, we witnessed an incredible outpouring of passionate testimony before the Senate Rules Committee by students, teachers, and others deeply affected by the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High. Still, the Republicans killed the amendment,” Buesing wrote in the email.

“Today, a similar amendment came before the Senate floor in a special Saturday session, and Dana walked right out of the chamber as the vote was called.

“Dana has made it clear: she will protect the NRA’s priorities at all costs, including the safety of our school children, and she’s not afraid to walk out on her responsibility as a Senator in the process.”

Buesing is currently Young’s only opponent for re-election to Senate District 18, which covers part of Hillsborough County.

Buesing also ran in the 2016 election and lost to Young 48-41, while two NPA candidates – Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove – received more than 10 percent of the vote.

Redner, a Tampa businessman, said he is not running for the seat in 2018 and would instead back Buesing’s candidacy.

GOP blocks Democratic attempts to change school safety bill

A win turned into a loss Saturday, as the Republican-controlled Senate first approved—then killed—an amendment on a school safety bill that would have mandated a moratorium on assault rifle sales in the state.

The legislation, called the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” (SB 7026), is in response to the Valentine’s Day shooting at the Broward County school that left 17 dead.

The defendant in custody – 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz – used a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, police say.

Mentioning other mass shootings in recent years, “what you can say about all of them is that (the shooters) had an AR-15, that’s the one thing that’s consistent,” said Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II of Miami Gardens, who filed the amendment.

His filing would have created a 2-year moratorium on the “sale, delivery, and transfer of all AR-15-style assault rifles” while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement studies the effectiveness of a permanent ban.

Surprising many in the chamber, Senate President Joe Negron ruled that a voice vote had OK’d the amendment.

Soon, however, Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley moved to reconsider that vote, with the chamber eventually killing it 21-17, with Miami-Dade Republicans Anitere Flores and Rene Garcia joining the chamber’s Democrats to vote for the moratorium.

Bradley later explained to POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon: “The president calls balls and strikes. He thought he heard more senators say yes than no. When we went to the board, it turned out he was wrong.”

Democratic outrage to the procedural move was swift.

“Just when you think the GOP is going to do the right thing, they go right back to do nothing to end gun violence,” Florida Democratic Party spokeswoman Caroline Rowland quickly vented in an email to reporters.

Democratic candidate for governor Gwen Graham also tweeted, “If I was Governor, I would veto any bill that puts more guns in schools & doesn’t ban assault weapons, and I’d call the Legislature back all summer to get this right.”

Plenty of other amendments from Senate Democrats were also voted down, including “a registry of all firearms sold in the state,” by Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami-Dade County, and an outright ban on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, by Orlando’s Linda Stewart.

In a lengthy speech, Altamonte Springs Republican David Simmons inveighed against a ban, mentioning Adolf Hitler, violent video games, the North Korean dictatorship, and alluding to Cuban strongman Fidel Castro.

“You think it doesn’t happen in a free society? It does,” Simmons said. “You never know when that day is going to come.”

But Stewart called them “killing machines” that “blow people up.”

“They need to be banned,” she said. “Let’s do what the kids asked us to do,” referring to Douglas High teens who have come up to Tallahassee to ask for a ban. After an hour of debate, that measure went down on a 20-17 vote against it.

Braynon also tried to remove a “school marshal” proposal from the bill. Commonly referred to as the “arming teachers” provision opposed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, it would allow willing teachers, administrators and staff to be trained and carry concealed weapons.

“No way, no form, no shape. This is a non-starter,” said Sen. Perry Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican, countered that a teacher could the first defense against a future school shooter: “A teacher with a firearm could be the only thing that stops them.” The amendment to delete the marshal program was defeated 20-18.

By late afternoon, senators were still debating amendments after agreeing to extend Saturday’s floor session to 9 p.m. And late-filed amendments were still being submitted as of nearly 4 p.m.

The latest form of the legislation includes a 3-day waiting period – with some exceptions – to buy any firearm; a waiting period now applies only to handguns. It also raises the age to purchase all firearms in Florida from 18 to 21. And it creates a commission to make recommendations on school safety. Its first meeting could be as early as this June.

A story from earlier Saturday is here. A summary of the bill’s provisions is below.

Dana Young withdraws from race for Senate President

Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, says she won’t be pursuing the presidency of the Florida Senate.

“As I’m completing my second session in the Senate, I’ve realized the commitment of pursuing and ultimately serving as presiding officer requires more time than I am willing to spend away from my family and my constituents,” she said in a text message.

The story was first reported Wednesday by POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon.

With Young out, the race for president for 2022-24 leaves Republicans Travis Hutson of St. Augustine and Kathleen Passidomo of Naples as the remaining contenders.

Young added she is not backing any other senator’s bid “at this point.”

Bradenton Republican Bill Galvano has already been designated president to succeed Stuart Republican Joe Negron after the 2018 elections, assuming the GOP retains control of the chamber.

Trilby Republican Wilton Simpson is expected to succeed Galvano as president after the 2020 elections.

Young, an attorney, was elected to the Senate in 2016, after serving six years in the House, where she rose to Republican Leader.

Her decision means she won’t be following in her grandfather’s footsteps: Randolph Hodges served 10 years in the Senate, including as President in 1961-63.

AFP-FL praises Senators who voted against film incentives

Americans For Prosperity-Florida on Tuesday thanked lawmakers who voted against film industry incentives bills sponsored Miami Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo.

SB 1606 would set up a “Florida Motion Picture Capital Corporation” to “encourage the use of this state as a site for scripted productions by providing financing to such productions,” but does not immediately fund it. SB 1604 provides a public records exemption for certain application information sent to the corporation.

“Floridians know film incentives are a bad deal for the state of Florida and taxpayers. The money we send to Tallahassee should be spent on core government services, and not used as handouts for Hollywood,” the group said in an email.

“We commend the Senators who stood with taxpayers and opposed padding the pockets of Hollywood with our tax dollars. We urge the legislature to vote against this reckless program and end the practice of special carve-outs for Hollywood.”

AFP-FL has consistently derided film incentive programs as corporate handouts that don’t positively impact the state, though proponents say Florida’s lack of film incentives funding forces it to compete on an uneven playing field for movie and TV projects than can bring jobs and significant investment to the state.

AFP-FL pointed to a 2015 analysis that showed a return on investment of between 25 cents and 43 cents for every state dollar spent on entertainment industry incentives programs.

AFP-FL said it’s commendation of senators who stood against SB 1604 will include a bit of advertising by way of a direct mail campaign within their districts.

The mailers say the individual senator “is fighting for taxpayers” and that they “voted NO to creating a taxpayer funded bank for Hollywood executives.”

The reverse side tells voters to call up the senator and thank them for “voting against taxpayer handouts” and to tell them to “keep fighting for Florida taxpayers.”

AFP-FL also said lawmakers votes on SB 1604 would be noted in their annual “Economic Freedom Scorecard.”

A version of the mailer featuring Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young is below.

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Campaigning: Democrats blast GOP after assault weapons ban fails

The politics of guns in Florida has rapidly changed since the Valentine’s Day shooting in Parkland.

Two Senate Republicans up for re-election this fall were hammered by their Democratic opponents Monday night following a Senate committee vote defeating a Democratic amendment to ban semi-automatic rifles.

Tampa attorney Bob Buesing has vowed to be more aggressive in taking the case to Senate District 18 Republican Dana Young. He attacked her following Monday’s vote by the Senate Rules Committee—which, by the way, Young does not serve on.

“In the twelve days since the horrific mass shooting unfolded in Parkland, Dana Young has done nothing, and her silence is deafening,” Buesing said in a statement. “An A-rated NRA politician herself, she would rather appease our state’s gun lobby than take action to protect its schoolchildren.”

Young spokesperson Sarah Bascom responded on Tuesday.

“Senator Dana Young does not sit on the Rules Committee and, therefore, has not had an opportunity to weigh in,” she said. “Bob Buesing is sadly making this tragedy a political issue, and it’s quite frankly disgusting that he is focused on political press releases right now.”

Gainesville Republican Keith Perry does sit on the committee, which voted down Miami Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez‘s amendment on banning assault weapons.

Dr. Kayser Enneking, one of the Democrats running to oppose him in Senate District 8 this fall, said afterward that Perry had “failed our community” by voting down measures banning assault weapons and bump stocks.

“As a parent, I am sick knowing that the door is left open for weapons of mass lethality to continue to threaten our children and communities,” he said. “As a doctor, I am horrified that Sen. Perry voted to allow the continued sale of weapons that are designed to leave no hope of survival.”

Since serving in the Legislature beginning in 2011, the Gainesville Republican has voted in support of 10 of 11 gun-related bills, according to the Gainesville Sun.

There are at least five Parkland-related bills set for consideration before the House and Senate appropriations committees Tuesday.

House advances proposed Water Street Tampa special district

On Monday, a House committee advanced Hillsborough County’s proposal to create a special district for funding some features of the $3 billion Water Street Tampa development in the city’s Channelside neighborhood.

The House Government Accountability Committee unanimously approved HB 1393 that creates the Water Street Tampa Improvement District. Advancing the proposal are Strategic Property Partners and Cascade Investments. Tampa Republican Jamie Grant is sponsoring the bill.

Water Street Tampa has become one of the most eagerly awaited private developments in Tampa ever. At completion, it will represent 9 million square feet and include the first new office towers created in Tampa in nearly 25 years as well as retail, educational and entertainment space.

The special improvement district allows an appointed board to levy special assessments on commercial properties. The five-member board could also levy a millage rate up to one mil — $1 per $1,000 of assessed value.

“The special district would consist largely one entity owning all of the property, having the ability with a board approval vote to levy an assessment only on commercial tenants, with an expressed exclusion of any residential tenant,” Grant told the committee.

When the bill came before the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation last November in Plant City, state Sen. Dana Young said that the developers of Water Street Tampa could use the taxes they levy to “install and operate and maintain upscale amenities and infrastructure within the district that are far above and beyond what the city of Tampa would be able to do.”

Young, a Tampa Republican, added that they would be able to do so at no cost to city taxpayers.

Amenities could include bus shelters, enhanced landscapes and bike paths.

Taxpayer money has been previously used to help pay for fixing infrastructure in the area around the development.

Tampa’s City Council voted in January 2015 for $30 million to reimburse Strategic Property Partners for realigning roads, adding sidewalks, improving drainage and burying power cables in Channelside. Half of the funds came from Downtown Community Redevelopment Area (CRA), which allows property taxes to be reinvested into the area they came from; the rest came from Hillsborough County’s share of those taxes by way of an agreement with the city.

Cut, print: Film financing proposal moves in Senate, stalled in House

A bill that would create a financing program to bring TV and film production back to the Sunshine State cleared a Senate panel Tuesday.

But with less than three weeks left in the 2018 Legislative Session, the effort could be for naught: A House companion measure has not yet been heard.

The Commerce and Tourism Committee OK’d the bill (SB 1606) on a 4-2 vote, with Republicans Dana Young and Kelli Stargel opposed.


Advocates of the measure, backed by Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami-Dade County, bristle at calling it “incentives.” The current proposal would offer funding up front to producers, rather than past programs, which provided tax credits after a shoot finished.

But the thought of any public money eventually flowing into the program gave pause to Young, a Tampa Republican.

The bill would set up a “Florida Motion Picture Capital Corporation” to “encourage the use of this state as a site for scripted productions by providing financing to such productions,” but does not immediately fund it.

“To me, a motion picture is a very risky undertaking and I’m uncomfortable with using taxpayers dollars … to invest in individual motion pictures,” Young said.

Taddeo countered that her aim was to entice productions—and their jobs—that have gone to other states with strong incentive deals, including Georgia.

“We want to send a strong message to the industry that we welcome jobs back to Florida,” she said.


And Jacksonville Democrat Audrey Gibson said the program could end up taking in more private dollars than public. She also pointed out the “Made in Georgia” logo at the end of many Tyler Perry productions, even singing the slogan.

The history of state help for TV and film in the state has a checkered history. In 2010, lawmakers set aside nearly $300 million for incentives to bring movies and television projects to Florida.

The problem, critics said, was that money was doled out on a “first come, first served” basis and quickly ran out. In fact, funds were sapped dry within the first year of the program.

Those enticements took the form of tax credits granted a production after it wrapped in the state and underwent a thorough audit, including being able to show it provided jobs for Floridians.

Chris Hudson, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida, continued to deride the plan.  

“Lawmakers should not support policies that pick Hollywood as the winner and taxpayers as the losers,” he said after the meeting. “Plumbers, electricians, and small business owners aren’t asking the state to be a bank. They just want to keep more of their money.

“Florida taxpayers are not a bank,” he added. “…We commend the House for not supporting a policy that risks taxpayer dollars, and hope the Senate follows suit.”

Hudson had more to say in an AFP-FL email that went out Tuesday afternoon.

“Senator Taddeo may win the Oscar for Corporate Cronyism for this bill, but Florida citizens have already rejected this failed practice. We commend Senator Young and Senator Stargel for standing with taxpayers and we will continue to work with the committee to ensure our hard-earned taxpayer dollars are not jeopardized by Hollywood handouts,” he said.

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