Florida Legislature Archives - Page 7 of 39 - Florida Politics

Appellate court approves of controversial evidence standard

A state appeals court has upheld the retroactive use of a contentious evidence standard approved by lawmakers in 2013.

The 4th District Court of Appeal this week affirmed a trial court ruling against plaintiff Simona Bunin.

She’s one of the inventors behind a line of spray-bottle flavored olive oils. Bunin, based in South Florida, also holds a patent for a disposable women’s panty.

She wanted to use an expert to help prove her case that she lost her sense of smell after using Zicam nasal spray, a zinc-based cold remedy.

The company that makes it has denied a link between its product and loss of sense of smell, but also changed its formula so that the nasal spray no longer contains zinc.

Hundreds of reports similar to Bunin’s claim have been lodged against the product, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer advisory in 2009 not to use it.

Nonetheless, a judge sided with Zicam’s makers and the Publix supermarket chain and said Bunin’s expert’s testimony couldn’t come in at trial.

That’s because the state switched to the Daubert standard, which holds expert evidence to a higher scientific bar than the old Frye standard that had been used in Florida.

It’s generally considered easier for plaintiffs to get damaging expert testimony before a jury under Frye, and much harder to do so under Daubert, which is seen as more defense-friendly.

Bunin appealed, saying the Daubert standard “should not be applied retroactively to her case, which was filed in 2009.”

A three-judge panel of the appellate court disagreed. Its unanimous opinion said such changes to evidentiary standards are “procedural” and “are to be applied retroactively and … to pending cases.”

Last year, the Florida Bar’s Board of Governors voted to recommend that state trial courts not use the Daubert standard, which is favored by Republican Gov. Rick Scott and conservative lawmakers.

NFIB/Florida joins groups opposed to workers’ comp hike

The National Federation of Independent Business/Florida is adding its voice to the business groups decrying a proposed 17 percent hike in the cost of workers’ compensation insurance to employers.

The rate increase “is a $623 million tax on workers in Florida that will go primarily to workers’ compensation attorneys,” NFIB/Florida Executive Director Bill Herrle said in a statement.

“For the sake of Florida’s small businesses and the millions they employ, this cannot stand,” he added. “The filing is the tip of the iceberg.”

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) last week asked the state to consider a 17 percent rate hike in the cost of workers’ comp to employers. Workers’ comp is mandated by states to pay workers who get hurt on the job.

The council submitted its filing to the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) on Friday.

If approved, it would take effect Aug. 1.

That would collectively cost Florida businesses roughly $623 million and make the Sunshine State the costliest in the southeast part of the country to buy such insurance, according to the NCCI’s news release.

The council is “a licensed rating organization authorized to make rate filings on behalf of workers’ compensation insurance companies in Florida,” according to the OIR.

The organization directly attributed most of the increase to a Florida Supreme Court decision, Castellanos v. Next Door Company, which struck down Florida’s workers’ compensation law’s legal fee schedule as unconstitutional.

Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce also have come out in opposition to the increase.

Business lobby blasts workers’ comp rate hike

The state’s business groups are saying “we told you so” over the cost of workers’ compensation insurance.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) has asked the state to consider a 17 percent rate hike in the cost of workers’ comp to employers. Workers’ comp is mandated by states to pay workers who get hurt on the job.

The council submitted its filing to the Office of Insurance Regulation on Friday. If approved, it would take effect Aug. 1.

That would collectively cost Florida businesses roughly $623 million and make the Sunshine State the costliest in the southeast part of the country to buy such insurance, according to the NCCI’s news release.

The organization directly attributed the increase to a Florida Supreme Court decision, Castellanos v. Next Door Company, which struck down Florida’s workers’ compensation law’s legal fee schedule as unconstitutional.

Its 5-2 decision noted that the plaintiff’s lawyer was only paid the equivalent of $1.53 an hour for working on his workers’ comp case.

The schedule basically amounted to caps on how much lawyers could make: For instance, 20 percent of the first $5,000; 15 percent of the next $5,000 and 10 percent of the remaining amount of benefits they helped secure.

After the Castellanos decision came out on April 28, business interests and others cried foul on social media.

Tamela Perdue, general counsel of the Associated Industries of Florida business lobby, tweeted that workers’ compensation “rates will be significantly impacted by this ruling.” She sits on the state’s Workers’ Compensation Panel.

Friday’s filing serves as critics’ chickens-coming-home-to-roost moment.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce quickly sent out a statement “encourag(ing) the Florida Legislature to put small businesses and injured workers before personal injury trial lawyers through whatever means necessary.”

“We’ve led efforts for more than 10 years to help lower workers’ comp rates by almost 60 percent, and now that personal injury trial lawyers and an activist court are forcing rates to likely skyrocket, we’re not about to back down,” Mark Wilson, the Chamber’s president and CEO, said.

“The Florida Chamber will lead the charge to ensure small businesses aren’t crushed under the weight of increased workers’ comp rates, and that workers’ have access to quality health care so they can return quickly back to work,” he added.

Meantime, Associated Industries said the rate hike was “a threat to Florida’s continued economic growth (that) will quickly tarnish the state’s successful business climate.”

“Today’s workers’ compensation rate increase filing by NCCI comes as no surprise,” AIF president and CEO Tom Feeney said. “We warned that the unbridled hourly rate attorney fees the decision permitted would trigger a significant increase that directly hurts all Florida employers and will hamper continued job creation.”

The group also announced a “Helping Florida Work” town hall tour in Jacksonville, Tampa and Miami in June-July. The goal: “To foster ideas and initiatives that tackle the threats now facing Florida’s workers’ compensation system,” Feeney said.

Dominic Calabro & Howard Simon: Lawmakers must back criminal justice reform

As Florida residents continue to engage in this presidential election, Republicans, Democrats and independents are split on many pressing issues. But there’s one issue many voters are united on — criminal justice reform.

Nearly every American has a family member, loved one or neighbor who has — or who will — come into contact with the criminal justice system. This creates a huge financial burden on taxpayers across the country who shoulder an enormous $80 billion price tag to maintain a prison system in which recidivism rates remain stubbornly high. And the costs keep getting worse — nationwide, taxpayer spending on prisons has increased nearly 600 percent in the past 30 years.

Our bipartisan coalition, the U.S. Justice Action Network, came together to rally the growing support across the country for justice reform. We polled likely voters in Florida and five other key 2016 battleground states, and it’s clear there is a strong consensus on this issue. An overwhelming majority of likely voters in the Sunshine State, regardless of political affiliation, agree that the current criminal justice system imprisons too many for too long, that mandatory-minimum sentences should be replaced, and judges should have greater discretion in determining sentences.

At a time when our federal prison system houses more than 2.3 million Americans, it’s no surprise that 69 percent of voters in Florida agree that our prisons house too many individuals. Even less surprising is that 74 percent of our voters agree that we are spending too much tax money keeping those who have committed nonviolent offenses behind bars, and nearly 80 percent of voters say the main goal of our justice system should be rehabilitating those in our prisons and jails to become productive, law-abiding citizens.

Floridians also support specific policy recommendations that make our criminal justice system fairer. When it comes to sentencing reform, an overwhelming majority — 80 percent — favor giving judges the discretion to hand down sentences in a range versus a one-size-fits-all approach like mandatory minimums.

In addition, a 2011 Florida TaxWatch poll found that 84 percent of Floridians support major changes that would send fewer nonviolent offenders to prison and instead seek more cost-effective alternatives, while 73 percent agree that fewer nonviolent offenders should be sent to prison in the first place. And 86 percent of Floridians agree a candidate who is “tough on crime” can also support cost-effective programs such as community supervision and treatment that saves taxpayer dollars while reducing future crime.

These are levels of support any politician in office or running for office would envy. The good news is Washington is listening and already discussing how to fix our federal prison system using many of the same ideas from the states, including in the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act. The bill, which has bipartisan support and is currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate, would reform federal sentencing guidelines to give judges more options when trying individuals who have committed nonviolent crimes and give the formerly incarcerated better access to rehabilitation programs, so those who leave prison don’t go back.

This bill now has the backing of influential law-enforcement groups including the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Major County Sheriffs’ Association, who know that such reforms will help them do their job better and keep communities safe.

In Florida specifically, the 2016 Government Efficiency Task Force recommended smart justice reforms, such as the expansion of traditional work-release programs to reduce costs and improve offender outcomes, as well as the expansion of community-based alternative programs that focus on treatment and rehabilitation of mentally ill offenders while diverting them from jail.

If the Florida Legislature and our nation’s Congress adopt these criminal justice reforms, it could save taxpayers a significant amount of money, as well as reintroduce countless individuals into society who have a great likelihood of a successful re-entry.

Regardless of which side of the political aisle you sit on, the numbers in support of criminal justice reform can’t be ignored. Voters in Florida and across the country realize that we have to act smart, and we have to act now. In this divisive political climate, when Republicans and Democrats agree on both the problem and its solution, our leaders must take action now. It’s time for Congress and the Florida Legislature to move forward with these common-sense reforms that are both smart policies and smart politics.

___

Dominic Calabro is President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

Howard Simon is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

Curt Clawson is why we can’t have nice things

Judging by the expression on her face, Lizbeth Benacquisto appeared genuinely surprised — and touched — by the standing ovation given to her by her colleagues in the Senate upon her return to the Florida Legislature.

The date was April 23, 2014, and it was the day after Benacquisto finished second in the four-way Republican primary to replace Trey Radel, who had been forced from office after being arrested in Washington D.C. on drug charges. Radel represented Florida’s 19th Congressional District, which encompasses most of Lee County and includes Fort Myers and adjacent Cape Coral. CD 19 is a haven for retirees, wealthy and otherwise.

Almost immediately after Radel announced his resignation, Benacquisto was declared the front-runner to succeed Radel and restore dignity to the seat.

Then Curt Clawson entered the race, spent $4 million of his own money for his campaign — much of it in negative advertising directed at his opponents — and Benacquisto would be left wondering what happened.

Clawson received 38 percent of the vote to Benacquisto’s 25 percent and former state Rep. Paige Kreegel‘s 25 percent.

Benacquisto took time away from Tallahassee to campaign. The special election overlapped with much of the 2014 Legislative Session. Almost any other lawmaker would have been criticized for missing the committee meetings and floor votes which mark the sixty days of a legislative session. But not Benacquisto, one of the chamber’s most beloved members. Photographs from the day she walked through the double doors and onto the floor of the Florida Senate show her being applauded and embraced by both Joe Negron and Jack Latvala, two former rivals then locked in a bitter struggle to one day serve as president of the body.

Benacquisto returned to her post as Majority Leader and easily won re-election in the fall of 2014.

Despite how well things worked out for Benacquisto after her loss, she really should today be serving in Washington, D.C.

Lizbeth should be running for re-election to Congress.

Unfortunately for Benacquisto and the people of southwest Florida, that is not the case.

Instead, the situation is that Clawson is not running for re-election. He announced Thursday he wanted to be closer to his ailing father. Kudos to Clawson for being the dutiful son, but he should never have been in office in the first place.

Clawson was just another faux outsider with a real checkbook who bought himself a line on a resume.

So much of Clawson’s political story was the kind of gimmickry that should have served as a harbinger for what has transpired during the 2016 presidential race. His former basketball coach showed up in his campaign commercials, one of which Clawson paid tens of thousands of dollars to air during the Super Bowl. He challenged President Barack Obama to “man up” and compete against him a basketball shooting contest.

Of course, Clawson’s campaign was backed by Tea Partiers like Michele Bachman and Rand Paul, but those endorsements played well in a community home to, among others, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, himself an “outsider” who used his checkbooks to bludgeon his opponents.

The unending television ads Clawson was able to pay for during a compressed special election drowned out any real examination of his background.

The Naples Daily News posted an expose on the jobs record of Clawson and found that it included “an Obamacare bailout, layoffs for workers and outsourcing, a poor workplace safety record and even the death of a worker, Shawn Boone,” according to a story by then-Miami Herald reporter Marc Caputo.

Caputo asked Boone’s sister, Tammy Miser, what she thought of Clawson. This was her emailed response: “If Florida wants someone who will not respond to their needs, is in the habit of tearing down a community and does not act on the behalf of the public’s health and welfare then Mr. Clawson is the man for them.”

But if you have the kind of money Clawson has, that sort of damnation doesn’t really matter.

Once in office, Clawson was quickly revealed as less-than-ready for prime time.

During a House hearing in July of 2014, Clawson mistook Nisha Desai Biswal and Arun M. Kumar, two senior U.S. officials of Indian-American descent, for representatives of the Indian government, saying, “I am familiar with your country, I love your country. Anything I can do to make the relationship with India better, I’m willing and enthusiastic about doing so. […] Just as your capital is welcome here to produce good-paying jobs in the U.S., I’d like our capital to be welcome there. I ask cooperation and commitment and priority from your government in so doing. Can I have that?”

That was one of several “airballs,” Clawson heaved during his brief time in Congress. Allied with Reps. Bachmann, Marsha Blackburn, and Steve King, Clawson is one of those bury-your-head-in-the-sand-and-vote-against-everything conservatives who has gridlocked the nation’s capital.

Clawson voted against a temporary extension of a highway funding bill (which passed overwhelmingly) because he thought it relied on financing “gimmicks” that the government wouldn’t allow businesses to use, according to an analysis by Ledyard King of the USA Today. He also opposed the Student and Family Tax Simplification Act because he said it could have made undocumented immigrants eligible for tax credit refunds.

Clawson defied then-Speaker John Boehner. He was one of just ten Republicans not to support Paul Ryan as Boehner’s successor.

Meanwhile, it’s not exactly clear what Clawson accomplished in his first term, other than speaking some common sense on the issue of climate change.

No wonder Clawson is yet another politician stepping down because he wants to, as the cliché goes, spend more time with his family.

No matter how sick Clawson’s father is, the reality is Clawson is just another one of these rich guys who thought it would be neat to win an election, but found out how hard governing is once they are in office.

It’s telling that in the days that have followed Clawson’s decision to step away from politics, only one of his colleagues in the Florida delegation has released a statement to the press corps acknowledging his leaving.

With Clawson not running, Lizbeth Benacquisto has been given a second chance at possibly representing Florida’s 19th Congressional District. Several other candidates have already announced they will run or are considering it.

After the back-to-back disasters of Trey Radel and Curt Clawson, hopefully, the poor voters of southwest Florida will get it right this time.

Material from the Naples Daily News, Roll Call, and Wikipedia was used in this post.

Seminole Tribe trying to stop publication of financial info

The Seminole Tribe of Florida, owner of Florida’s largest casinos, is trying to get a federal judge to block the publication of information related to a trial that could upend their businesses and to seal a key deposition until it can be redacted.

Tribal attorneys this week filed an emergency motion seeking to seal a deposition of the chief executive officer of the company that runs the Seminole casinos in Florida. A hearing on the motion could be held as early as Friday.

A copy of the deposition of Jim Allen, CEO for Seminole Gaming, had been turned over to POLITICO by the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation through a public records request.

The state of the Florida and the tribe are locked in a dispute over whether the Seminoles’ casinos can continue to have blackjack tables at their casinos including ones located in Tampa and Hollywood in South Florida.

The tribe filed the lawsuit last year after portions of a five-year gambling deal with the state expired.

The Associated Press has requested a copy of the deposition that was released to POLITICO. Agency spokeswoman Chelsea Eagle said the request was “under review” because of the ongoing lawsuit and that the agency would redact the document before releasing it.

Barbara Petersen, an attorney and president of the First Amendment Foundation, said the state has no legal authority to withhold the records from other media organizations.

“They let the horse out of the barn, they can’t now deny access,” Petersen said.

The motion asks the judge to block any further release of information from the deposition until the tribe can decide whether the material contains trade secrets. It contends that attorneys representing the state agreed to keep material confidential ahead of the trial that is now scheduled for October.

“Allowing third-parties to receive pretrial discovery materials prior to the tribe’s review and redaction of trade secret or confidential information will do nothing to advance the litigation, and would likely cause the tribe annoyance, embarrassment, and oppression,” the motion states.

It also states POLITICO “refused to comply with requests by both the tribe and the state of Florida to return the transcript and to permit the tribe to replace it with a version that is redacted and is actively threatening to publish the contents thereof.”

Barry Richard, an attorney who represents the tribe, downplayed the tribe’s motion. He said the state “inadvertently released” a transcript that included financial information that he maintains is confidential under the trade secret law.

“This is not a major case,” Richard said in an email. “The tribe and the state both requested POLITICO to return it so the confidential info could be redacted.”

Petersen said that under current law financial information is not included under the definition of trade secrets although the law is going to change later this year.

POLITICO LLC, the publisher of POLITICO, late Thursday filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit in order to argue against the tribe. The court filing contends that the tribe’s motion is an “unconstitutional prior restraint on the news media.”

“The law is clear that the press cannot be punished for publishing information that was lawfully obtained and concerns a matter of public interest,” the motion states.

Gov. Rick Scott in December reached a new $3 billion deal with the tribe that would let them keep blackjack and add table games, such as craps and roulette.

The deal also allows for the addition of slot machines at a Palm Beach county dog track and also leaves an opening for another casino in Miami-Dade as well as create a path for existing tracks in that county and Broward to eventually add blackjack tables as well.

But the deal was rejected by the Florida Legislature during this year’s session that wrapped up in March as various interests – including the owners of existing tracks that compete against the Seminoles – pushed for changes that were not part of the initial deal approved by tribal officials.

The setback means that it could be the courts that ultimately decide what type of gambling will be allowed to continue in the state.

Reprinted with permission of The Associated Press. 

William Mattox: Let’s honor Mary McLeod Bethune with a K-12 scholarship program

Now that the federal government has decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, the state of Florida needs to find a good way to honor one of our own: Mary McLeod Bethune, the legendary educator who founded a school for African-American girls that grew into what is today Bethune-Cookman University.

As some have suggested, it would be a fitting stroke of poetic justice for a statue of Bethune to replace Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. (The Florida Legislature passed a measure earlier this year calling for Smith’s replacement.)

And while I certainly don’t object to this idea, my own hope is that Florida schoolchildren won’t have to travel to Washington, D.C. to see Dr. Bethune get her proper due.

Which is why I believe the most meaningful way to honor her legacy would be to name a new K-12 scholarship program after her, modeled after the recently adopted Gardiner Scholarship for special-needs children.

The Gardiner Scholarship is to 21st Century education policy what Bethune’s private school was to 20th Century educational practices — a much-needed departure from the status quo that elevates the unique worth of each child above the entrenched interests of the existing establishment.

Under Gardiner, per-pupil funds for special-needs students are placed into a “personal learning scholarship account” that parents can draw on to obtain educational resources tailored to their child’s unique needs. Importantly, these services can be bundled together at a single school or they can be obtained in an unbundled fashion from many providers.

As such, the Gardiner Scholarship expands the educational marketplace much like Bethune’s private school did a century ago. It gives new options to students whose needs are not being met by their local district school.

And by allowing parents to roll over unused funds for future educational needs (including college), the scholarship encourages parents to be resourceful and seek out educational programs offering the highest possible quality at the lowest possible price.

Rewarding resourcefulness in the pursuit of educational excellence is perfectly in keeping with Dr. Bethune’s legacy. For while she is best known for her courageous leadership elevating the lives of black schoolchildren, Dr. Bethune modeled resourcefulness in her work.

In the early days of her school, she and the members of her church made school desks and benches out of discarded crates, ink for pens out of elderberry juice, and pencils out of wood scraps. And throughout her educational tenure, Dr. Bethune made certain that her students gained both academic instruction that captured their imagination and practical skills that equipped them for the marketplace.

Adopting a universal Bethune Scholarship for all Florida K-12 students (modeled after Gardiner) would be a meaningful tribute to the legendary African-American educator. It would not only honor Bethune’s faith-informed belief in each child’s unique worth and dignity, but it would also signal that Mary McLeod Bethune’s pioneering work in education isn’t just a good lesson for an African-American history course.

It’s a legacy that ought to inspire Floridians of every background and color for years to come.

***

William Mattox is the director of the J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options at The James Madison Institute. He served on the Tallahassee Civil Rights Landmark Committee and has moderated a number of educational programs on the methodology of the civil rights movement.

William Mattox: Let’s honor Mary McLeod Bethune with a K-12 scholarship program

Now that the federal government has decided to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, the state of Florida needs to find a good way to honor one of our own: Mary McLeod Bethune, the legendary educator who founded a school for African-American girls that grew into what is today Bethune-Cookman University.

As some have suggested, it would be a fitting stroke of poetic justice for a statue of Bethune to replace Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. (The Florida Legislature passed a measure earlier this year calling for Smith’s replacement.)

And while I certainly don’t object to this idea, my own hope is that Florida schoolchildren won’t have to travel to Washington, D.C. to see Dr. Bethune get her proper due.

Which is why I believe the most meaningful way to honor her legacy would be to name a new K-12 scholarship program after her, modeled after the recently adopted Gardiner Scholarship for special-needs children.

The Gardiner Scholarship is to 21st Century education policy what Bethune’s private school was to 20th Century educational practices — a much-needed departure from the status quo that elevates the unique worth of each child above the entrenched interests of the existing establishment.

Under Gardiner, per-pupil funds for special-needs students are placed into a “personal learning scholarship account” that parents can draw on to obtain educational resources tailored to their child’s unique needs. Importantly, these services can be bundled together at a single school or they can be obtained in an unbundled fashion from many providers.

As such, the Gardiner Scholarship expands the educational marketplace much like Bethune’s private school did a century ago. It gives new options to students whose needs are not being met by their local district school.

And by allowing parents to roll over unused funds for future educational needs (including college), the scholarship encourages parents to be resourceful and seek out educational programs offering the highest possible quality at the lowest possible price.

Rewarding resourcefulness in the pursuit of educational excellence is perfectly in keeping with Dr. Bethune’s legacy. For while she is best known for her courageous leadership elevating the lives of black schoolchildren, Dr. Bethune modeled resourcefulness in her work.

In the early days of her school, she and the members of her church made school desks and benches out of discarded crates, ink for pens out of elderberry juice, and pencils out of wood scraps. And throughout her educational tenure, Dr. Bethune made certain that her students gained both academic instruction that captured their imagination and practical skills that equipped them for the marketplace.

Adopting a universal Bethune Scholarship for all Florida K-12 students (modeled after Gardiner) would be a meaningful tribute to the legendary African-American educator. It would not only honor Bethune’s faith-informed belief in each child’s unique worth and dignity, but it would also signal that Mary McLeod Bethune’s pioneering work in education isn’t just a good lesson for an African-American history course.

It’s a legacy that ought to inspire Floridians of every background and color for years to come.

***

William Mattox is the director of the J. Stanley Marshall Center for Educational Options at The James Madison Institute. He served on the Tallahassee Civil Rights Landmark Committee and has moderated a number of educational programs on the methodology of the civil rights movement. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Jack Edgemon: PRIDE Enterprises takes pride in reducing recidivism

April 24-30 is National Reentry Week, which provides a prime opportunity for communities across Florida to work together to reduce recidivism.

At PRIDE Enterprises, we believe it is vital to recognize this week because it aligns with our statutory missions and our role in the community. The Florida Legislature created PRIDE as a not-for-profit corporation in 1981. It works to make communities safer through a job-centered inmate training approach that lowers the number of repeat offenders and reduces criminal justice costs for all citizens, at no cost to the taxpayer.

Our role within the criminal justice system further contributes to Florida’s economy by creating jobs and stimulating the economy through the purchase of goods and services from local vendors.

PRIDE operates 41 work programs, as well as e-learning opportunities, which are used to train inmates with skills that are both transferrable and in demand in the workforce.

These programs combine on-the-job vocational training with real-world work environments inside correctional institutions, making it possible for inmates to receive training in diverse fields. These fields include manufacturing, graphics, sewn products, agriculture and processing services. Program participants were awarded 504 external certifications in 2015, which will help them stand out in their job searches.

PRIDE’s Transition Specialists work with inmates on an individual level to develop a plan for their release, which includes a portfolio of training certifications and a resume of job experiences.

Upon the release of PRIDE program participants, staff members strive to place them in full-time jobs and to assist them with basic life needs.  The most crucial part of the process is maintaining contact with  these ex-offenders for up to one year to help them stay on track in their jobs and to adjust to life outside prison.

We believe in training and rehabilitating inmates. This approach prevents individuals from falling into the “revolving door” of crime, and provides opportunity for them to come out on the other side as contributing members of society.

This method has proven to be effective. Almost 90 percent of PRIDE’s transition program participants do not return to prison within two years, and 77 percent are placed in full-time jobs.

We understand the importance of seeing the whole person, as well as their potential, instead of just their criminal justice record. During this National Reentry Week, we encourage everyone to consider doing the same.

***

Jack Edgemon is President of PRIDE Enterprises. Column Courtesy of Context Florida.

Jeremy Ring also floating run for governor in 2018

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham rocked the Democratic side of Florida politics with her announcement Thursday morning she’s “seriously considering” a run for governor.

But of course, she won’t be alone in seeking to take back the Governor’s Mansion for the Dems for the first time since Gov. Lawton Chiles held the state’s highest post in 1998.

Margate Sen. Jeremy Ring said Thursday morning he’ll throw his hat in the ring as well.

“No door is closed for me. I am considering it, yes, and am in an exploratory phase,” said Ring, a former Yahoo! executive and moderate-leaning lawmaker, though he added, “I can’t imagine having a decision in 2016.”

Ring came out of the gate criticizing Graham for saying she was “disappointed” in the congressional redistricting decision that split her 2nd Congressional District in half, essentially evaporating her chances at re-election in the 13-county Panhandle district.

“The redistricting was done by the courts, and it’s not a conservative court. To blame the legislature, was someone disingenuous when you think all the court battles out there,” said Ring. “The court pretty much did the Legislature’s job but in the video, she blames the Legislature.”

While it’s not clear Floridians have much sympathy for the Legislature — where Ring has a long record of backing Republican-sponsored initiatives — he does make something of a valid point.

Although lawmakers were responsible for bungling redistricting in 2011, which gave rise to the yearslong court battle we’re just now untangling, it was the courts who gave us the congressional and state Senate maps pols will run on in 2016.

Ring is not well known outside of his South Florida district, but in 2018, who knows what voters’ predilections will be?

“In 2016, it comes down to fundraising. I feel I have the best bio of anyone who could possibly run,” Ring told the Tampa Bay Times. I have the best message of anyone who could possibly run — bring the innovation economy to Florida. Can I bring people to support me?”

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