Florida Senate Archives - Page 5 of 38 - Florida Politics

Lottery gambling warnings clear two more committees

Proposals to require gambling warnings about the Florida Lottery moved closer to the floors of their respective houses Wednesday as committees in both the Florida House and Senate approved the bills.

Senate Bill 1377 and Committee Substitute for House Bill 937 would require warnings to be printed on lottery tickets, and on signs posted in ticket retailers declaring, “WARNING: GAMBLING CAN BE ADDICTIVE.”

SB 1377 was approved Wednesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, its third of four stops, while CS for HB 937 was approved by the House Commerce Committee, with one stop to go.

Neither bill got unanimous committee approval, and some lawmakers used the opportunity to both defend the beneficiary of the lottery proceeds – education – and to question whether the lottery actually should be considered a form of gambling.

“I don’t consider lottery ticket sales as gambling,” said Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville, who voted against it.

Republican Senate President Pro Tempore Anitere Flores of Miami disagreed, declaring her support for the measure.

It is a reality that sometimes we don’t talk about in the state, when we talk about gambling and whether it is here in the state or not: the Florida Lottery,” Flores said. “I think most people would say it is a form of gambling.

The bills progressed despite inquires about warnings they would not require.

In the Florida House, Republican state Rep. Tom Goodson of Rockledge – who voted  no – wanted to know if the warnings would also be included in lottery advertising. No, Republican sponsor state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora replied, but that might make for a good amendment.

In the Senate, Gibson wanted to know why the warnings wouldn’t also include the state’s gambling addition hotline toll-free number. Republican sponsor state Sen. Keith Perry of Gainesville replied that, too, might make for a good amendment.

Responding to Democratic state Sen. Bobby Powell of West Palm Beach,  Perry said he did not know if any other states had provided similar warnings on lottery tickets, or if any studies had been done on warnings to show they did any good.

“It would be similar to anything we do, like warnings on cigarettes, just to warn the buyer that there can be consequences,” Perry said. “I do think in the cigarette instance we did, too late in the game, decide to put warning labels on cigarettes. And so we understand it can be addictive. And so for a state-sponsored lottery, we would also have a responsibility to inform people that it can be addictive.”

Black lawmaker seeks to remove Frank Artiles from Senate

Surrounded by fellow black and Democratic lawmakers, Sen. Perry Thurston announced Wednesday he had filed a complaint to remove fellow Sen. Frank Artiles from the Senate.

In a move sure to send chills through the Capitol’s lobbying corps, he suggested influencers who were within earshot when Artiles went on his tirade in the private Governors Club could be called to testify.

Artiles, a Cuban-American Republican from Miami-Dade County, created a national spectacle when news broke that he had accosted Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, and Sen. Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat, calling her a “b—h” and a “girl” in a dispute over legislation.

“This incident is not the first, nor do we believe it will be the last,” he told reporters. Thurston and Gibson are black.

Artiles ran into them at the club on Monday night, just a short walk from the Capitol. He also used a variation of the “N-word,” referring to her and to Republicans who supported Joe Negron as Senate President.

Thurston’s complaint was filed with Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto for the “expulsion” of Artiles, elected to the Senate just last year after serving in the House since 2012. He says Artiles violated a Senate rule on legislative conduct.

Rep. Kamia Brown, an Ocoee Democrat, said Artiles was “unstatesmanlike” and a “bully:” “As a woman … as an African-American, I have to speak out on this. (Artiles) has not shown leadership.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II called it “asinine” that Artiles said his use of the N-word was because he grew up in Hialeah, a “diverse community.”

He also dismissed Artiles’ claim that he was being politically targeted: “This isn’t a Democratic issue—this is a Senate issue, a people issue, this is a human being issue,” Braynon said.

But Braynon also mused whether the election of President Donald Trump, supported by a fringe element of white supremacists, “emboldened” the kind of language that Artiles used.

“The shadow he has cast over our chamber deserves the most severe punishment available,” Thurston’s complaint says. “His public comments were overheard by elected officials and citizens alike who were” in the club. The press coverage over the incident has brought “more disrepute” to the Senate, he added.

Under the Senate’s rules, Benacquisto must find that Thurston’s complaint “support(s) a finding of probable cause” or she can dismiss it.

Otherwise, she must appoint a “special master,” a kind of quasi-judicial officer, who will “conduct an investigation” and hold hearings, ultimately issuing a recommendation to Benacquisto and Senate President Joe Negron.

“The President shall present the (Rules) committee’s recommendation, along with the special master’s report and recommendation, to the Senate for final action,” the rule says.

Florence Snyder: Let’s hope someone loves Frank Artiles enough to get him some help

On a busy day of hearings in a busy week of the legislative session, a south Florida woman wanted a picture of herself and a friend and the rain pouring outside the Knott Building. She scanned the immediate vicinity for a friendly face, and held her iPhone out to Jacksonville’s Audrey Gibson.

Plainly the tourist had no idea that Gibson was a member of an elite, exclusive, and powerful club.

The tourist was utterly unaware that the elegant lady she approached is one of a tiny handful of Floridians upon whom the sun rises and sets in #TheProcess. Most definitely, the tourist had no clue that hundreds of people are paid hundreds of millions of dollars to catch a moment of the time of this woman and her 39 colleagues in the Florida Senate.

Gibson smiled, took the iPhone, and spent a stunning amount of time considering camera angles and composing multiple shots.

This is the gracious public servant that Frank Artiles refers to as a “fucking bitch.” To her face. At the members-only venue where people pay through the nose for a quiet place to eat, drink and do business, and pay extra for private lockers for their personalized cigars.

Artiles has a history of verbal violence toward women, African-Americans, and Muslims. His drunken diatribe Monday at the Governor’s Club is not the first time he has embarrassed himself in a bar. We now know that “pussy” is his go-to insult for a white male lawyer who outranks him in #TheProcess pecking order.

It has been suggested on the Sayfie Twitter Ticker, where some Floridians still get some information, that Artiles. a former Marine, may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Let’s put that one to rest. PTSD doesn’t cause bigotry, but alcohol makes bigots more likely to reveal their pre-existing prejudices.

Artiles didn’t much look like a Marine as he stood on the Senate floor to read an insincere, meaningless apology written for him by some hastily-assembled Committee to Save Artiles Career. The senator from a Diverse Miami Neighborhood shifted on his feet, looking like a rattled schoolboy as he rattled the pages of his prepared text.

When people can’t exercise the control and judgment we expect of a third grader, there is often a medical explanation. Let’s hope someone loves Artiles enough to help him find out.

Senate votes to allow beer ads in theme parks, ‘merlot to go’

Florida senators passed a bill Wednesday that would allow advertising by beer companies in the state’s theme parks.

The measure (SB 388), sponsored by Republican Sen. Travis Hutson of Elkton, received only one ‘no’ vote from Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican.

It eases the state’s “tied house evil” law by allowing ads, which could include a beer company sponsoring a concert or festival within a park. Universal Orlando has supported the bill.

Some beer industry representatives had privately complained. However, they “fear being extorted by the theme parks.”

“We do a lot of business (with them), and we kind of see a situation where they say, ‘We do such-and-such theme night, but now we’d like you to pay for it,’ by sponsoring it,” said one. “(W)e all feel like we’ll be put over a barrel.”

The bill also repeals a state law to permit wine bottles of all sizes to be sold.

That includes the “Nebuchadnezzar,” which hold 15 liters, or the volume of 20 standard wine bottles.

Further, it would repeal another state law that requires diners to order and consume a full meal — “consisting of a salad or vegetable, entree, a beverage, and bread” — before they can take home an opened bottle of wine.

It extends the “merlot to go” legacy of the late Senate President Jim King‘s 2005 measure that first legalized carryout wine.

The bill now heads to the House. Its version (HB 423) still has not been heard by the Commerce Committee, its last panel of reference.

Perry Thurston says ‘there will be consequences’ for Frank Artiles

Democratic Sen. Perry Thurston on Wednesday said “there will be consequences” for fellow Sen. Frank Artiles after he spouted insults and used a form of a racial epithet in front of Thurston and Sen. Audrey Gibson Monday night.

“We’ve got a (Legislative Black) Caucus meeting” later today, Thurston said. “After that, I’m sure there will be some actions taken.”

Thurston had been asked whether he planned to file a complaint with Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto as allowed under the Senate Rules, or whether he knew if anyone else planned to.

Senate Rule 1.43 permits “any person (to) file a sworn complaint with the Rules Chair … alleging a violation by a Senator of the Rules regulating legislative conduct and ethics … (A) Senator determined to have violated the requirements of the Rules regulating legislative conduct and ethics may be censured, reprimanded, or expelled.”

Rule 1.35 says that “every Senator shall conduct himself or herself to justify the confidence placed in him or her by the people and, by personal example and admonition to colleagues, shall maintain the integrity and responsibility of his or her office.”

Artiles, a Cuban-American Republican, hurled insults at Thurston and Gibson at the private Governors Club on Monday night, using a variation of the “N-word,” and calling Gibson a “b—h” and a “girl.”

In a public apology on the Senate floor, Artiles explained his use of the N-word as a result of growing up in a “diverse community.”

In comments to reporters later on Wednesday, Senate President Joe Negron said he’d done all he was going to do about the incident, adding that Artiles’s political future is “now a matter between him and his constituents.”


Booze bill ready for vote in Senate

A bill that would allow advertising by beer companies in the state’s theme parks is ready for a final vote in the Senate.

The measure (SB 388), carried by Republican Sen. Travis Hutson of Elkton, was heard on the floor Tuesday and placed on the third reading calendar.

It eases the state’s “tied house evil” law by allowing ads, which could include a beer company sponsoring a concert or festival within a park. Universal Orlando has supported the bill.

Some beer industry representatives had privately complained, however, they “fear being extorted by the theme parks.”

“We do a lot of business (with them), and we kind of see a situation where they say, ‘We do such-and-such theme night but now we’d like you to pay for it,’ by sponsoring it,” said one. “(W)e all feel like we’ll be put over a barrel.”

The bill also repeals a state law to permit wine bottles of all sizes to be sold.

That includes the “Nebuchadnezzar,” which hold 15 liters, or the volume of 20 standard wine bottles.

Further, it would repeal another state law that requires diners to order and consume a full meal — “consisting of a salad or vegetable, entree, a beverage, and bread” — before they can take home an opened bottle of wine.

It continues the legacy of the late Senate President Jim King‘s 2005 measure that first legalized carryout wine.

Amendment could limit the number of retail locations allowed to dispense medical marijuana

A proposed amendment to the Senate’s medical marijuana implementing could limit the number of retail facilities allowed to dispense medical marijuana.

Sen. Frank Artiles filed an amendment  to the Senate proposal (SB 406) Monday that appears to place a cap on the number of retail facilities from which medical marijuana treatment centers can dispense medical marijuana.

According to the amendment, medical marijuana treatment centers “may not dispense marijuana from more than 3 retail facilities.” The amendment does not limit “MMTC facilities that only dispense low-THC cannabis and sell marijuana delivery devices to qualified patients.”

The amendment could impact existing license holders, including ones that have already opened retail locations across the state.

There are currently seven dispensing organizations — similar to a medical marijuana treatment centers under the 2016 medical marijuana constitutional amendment — authorized to cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana in Florida.  But a bill set to be discussed during the Senate’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meeting could open the door to new licenses as soon as October.

Under the bill sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, the state would be required to add five additional medical marijuana treatment centers — at least of which must be a black farmer — by Oct. 3, 2017.

It then calls on the state to register four more medical marijuana treatment centers within “six months after each instance of the registration of 75,000 qualifying patients with the compassionate use registry” if a sufficient number of applicants meet the registration requirements.

A second amendment by Artiles would require the state to issue of the four remaining licenses to a “veteran business enterprise.” That amendment also calls on the state to “grant preferential and bonus scoring criteria for applicants that, at the time of the initial application, are veteran business enterprises … which meet the requirements to be awarded and registered as an MMTC.”

Senate records show Sen. Bobby Powell has filed an amendment meant to encourage minority participation in the in MMTC operations and subcontracting.

Bradley’s bill is scheduled to be discussed during the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee meeting at 4 p.m.

The House Appropriations Committee is set to discuss its version of the medical marijuana implementing bill (HB 1397) during its meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

House ‘assault’ derails Senate, budget chief Jack Latvala tells Tiger Bay

In the venue where newly qualified, but unlikely, candidate Rick Scott introduced himself to Tallahassee in 2010 and another potential gubernatorial candidate, John Morgan, came to visit in February, Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala paid a visit Monday to the Capital Tiger Bay Club.

While rumors swirl about Latvala’s possible 2018 run for Florida’s top spot and his fundraising apparatus runs full speed ahead, he played coy when asked about his future political ambitions.

“I’m not going to answer that specifically … I don’t think I’m finished,” he said. “I think if this session shows anything, it shows me that we still need the kind of approach that I bring up here — problem-solving and kind of a big-picture approach — the experience I have in all facets of government for 22 years.

“I’m not ready to hang it up, but I’m not ready to say what I’m doing, either.”

As the 2016 session speeds toward its planned May 5 sine die, Latvala predicted (only half in jest) it could drag on until July. And he puts the blame squarely at the feet of the House and its leadership.

After a three-and-a-half-year tug-of-war, Sen. Joe Negron was named Senate president and Latvala was given the powerful appropriations chairmanship.

“I’m very happy with the way that’s turned out,” he said. “I was hopeful we could come up here, and we could do some good,” with ambitious projects like beefing up Florida’s universities to compete for the nation’s best students, cleaning up Lake Okeechobee and other waterways, addressing a coming freshwater shortage, boosting “good-paying jobs,” and shoring up infrastructure.

“I came to Tallahassee ready to start working on these, and instead, unfortunately, we got involved in an all-out assault on Florida’s economic development apparatus …. from the House of Representatives.”

He spoke of the House’s efforts to defund Enterprise Florida completely, and dramatically slash the state’s contribution to Visit Florida, as well as an “unprecedented” attack on home rule.

Close to home for him, Latvala singled out a House bill that would preclude sports facilities or teams from getting funding from local governments or building facilities on government-owned land.

“They do that in the name of not picking winners and losers. This is the mantra,” he said. “That’s all well and good, except that that doesn’t apply to a lot of the other efforts that we’ve got going on out there.”

Latvala specifically mentioned the elimination of no-fault auto insurance and an attempt to allow Florida Power & Light, Florida’s largest electric company, to charge ratepayers to explore for gas.

During the Q&A portion, Latvala was asked whether it was “more fun” being on the inside or an outsider in the process.

“Maybe give me a couple more weeks to answer that one,” he quipped. “I generally try to cope with whatever the cards are that are dealt me. I’m on the inside now, I think, and I’m trying very hard to make the Senate successful with the team that we have in place.” The Everglades bill was one example. “Even though it wasn’t my issue, the president asked me to get involved and see if I could get it to a point where we could pass it out of the Senate,” he said.

He said he invoked a little “Latvala magic” to get the job done — an inside joke about him blowing his stack. “But it is almost unfailingly successful in getting people to compromise and getting people to get together and work toward a solution.”

About 200 people came to listen to Latvala talk, spending a half-hour before the luncheon greeting members as they walked in along with Sen. Bill Montford, who made his introduction.

Surveying the audience, Latvala got one of the biggest laughs of the day.

“I always wondered where old lobbyists went when they retired. And now I know — they’re at the Tallahassee Tiger Bay Club,” he said. “And this is probably not politically correct, but there’s actually a couple people here I thought had died. But I’m glad you didn’t.”

Public-records exemption for murder witnesses heading to the governor

The Senate met the two-thirds requirement Thursday to send Gov. Rick Scott a bill creating a public-records exemption for information that could identify murder witnesses.

The vote was 34-3 to accept CS/CS/HB 111, the House version of legislation sponsored in the Senate by Ocoee Democrat Randolph Bracy.

Exemptions to Florida’s stringent public-records laws require two-thirds votes in both Houses. The House overwhelmingly approved the measure on March 30.

Voting “No” in the Senate were Rob Bradley, Jeff Brandes, and Jeff Clemens.

Bracy opened by introducing about a dozen family members of murder victims who’d traveled to Tallahassee to lobby for the legislation.

“This is a group who have endured a terrible tragedy, in their kids being murdered,” he said. “They have been here through every hearing in the Senate and the House.”

The idea is to shield witnesses from intimidation or retaliation.

“It’s long overdue,” Hialeah Republican Rene Garcia said.

“Back in our community, the biggest problem we have is that people don’t want to speak up when they see a crime. This bill is going to go a long way to ensure that people’s voices are heard and their identities are kept private,” Garcia said.

“I talk a lot about senseless violence and things that happen in my community. This is one of those bills that will help the law enforcement find the perpetrators of these senseless acts,” Democratic leader Oscar Braynon said.North Miami Beach Democrat Daphne Campbell pointed out a constituent in the visitor’s gallery.

“She has only one son — only one son. And she got a phone call, and her son is gone,” Campbell said. “This bill really is just a little token of what this parent is going through.”

“I just want again to thank the parents of murdered kids for your advocacy,” Bracy concluded. “Our hearts and prayers are still with you.”

Senate votes to clear up ‘mistakes’ in self-defense law for homeowners

A bill clarifying that homeowners need not wait to be attacked inside their dwellings before resorting to defensive force passed the Senate Thursday.

CS/CS/SB 1052 would reconcile conflicting statutes involving self-defense, correcting drafting errors muddying the legal situation made in 2014 legislation, bill sponsor David Simmons said.

“Senators, this protects all of us in our own home. It’s rational. It’s reasonable. It brings us back to the way it was prior to the mistakes that were made in 2014, drafting errors,” Simpson said.

The Senate defeated efforts by Democrat Jose Javier Rodriguez to clarify that force would have to be used against an aggressor.

He cited the 2012 Trayvon Martin case, in which George Zimmerman shot the teenager after following him through a neighborhood.

“You do have a duty to retreat if you provoke and you do not stand down,” Rodriquez said.

A provision in existing law says one must wait to be attacked before using force. But other provisions hold that the right of self-defense begins when one “reasonably” believes it is necessary, according to a staff analysis of the bill.

“They must actually believe — not only reasonably, but subjectively believe — that their lives are in danger, and they must reasonably act,” Simmons said at one point in the debate. “How much more do you want to impose upon a homeowner?”

Democrat Audrey Gibson said she agreed with the bill in principle but couldn’t vote for it on the floor — even though she had in committee.

“So much negative has gone on in various communities, particularly as it related to people of color,” Gibson said. “And if I stand here today and support what I do believe is right within your bill, there will be newspaper articles in district and across the state that say, ‘Gibson supports stand your ground’ — and that could not be further from the truth.”

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