Florida Supreme Court Archives - Page 4 of 47 - Florida Politics

Progressive groups sue over Rick Scott’s judicial appointment power

When Gov. Rick Scott appointed a conservative jurist to the state’s Supreme Court in December, he made clear he wasn’t done.

“I will appoint three more justices the morning I finish my term,” he said, referring to the mandatory retirement in early 2019 of the court’s liberal-leaning triumvirate of Justices Barbara Pariente, Peggy A. Quince and R. Fred Lewis.

Now, two progressive organizations are saying to Scott: Prove you can. They say he can’t.

The League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause on Wednesday sued Scott in the Supreme Court, saying he doesn’t have the power to name their successors—only the governor elected after Scott does.

They filed a petition for “writ of quo warranto,” a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action.

The upshot of their argument is that Scott can’t replace the justices in question because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day all three retire, and their terms last till midnight.

“The Florida Constitution prohibits a governor from making a prospective appointment of an appellate judge to an existing seat before that seat becomes vacant,” the writ argues.

It adds: “A prompt, final decision on this pure question of constitutional law … would preempt cynical complaints by anyone dissatisfied with the decision that the case was contaminated by political considerations.”

“Our office has not officially received the suit,” said Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis, declining comment.

Scott’s addition of former appellate judge C. Alan Lawson to the bench created a three-judge conservative minority, including Justices Ricky Polston and Charles Canady, whose name was on a list of then-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump‘s “potential Supreme Court picks.”

Assuming the Republican Scott appoints three more conservatives in 2019, the seven-justice court could tilt 6-1 to the right, with current Chief Justice Jorge Labarga remaining. His mandatory retirement is in 2023.

“The Florida Constitution establishes a mandatory retirement age for justices that occurs on or after their 70th birthdays,” the court’s website explains.

Three more conservative judges may well be appointed anyway, even if left to the next governor: Florida hasn’t chosen a Democrat for the Governor’s Mansion since Lawton Chiles was re-elected in 1994.

The lawsuit, however, sticks to a “constitutional question that has plagued this State for decades: When a judicial seat opens on a Florida appellate court due to an expired term coinciding with the election of a new governor, whom does our Constitution authorize to appoint the successor, the outgoing governor or the newly elected governor?”

In December 1998, days before Chiles died in office, he and then Gov.-elect Jeb Bush, a Republican, avoided a crisis by jointly appointing Quince to the court to replace Ben F. Overton.

In 2014, lawmakers placed a proposed constitutional amendment on the statewide ballot, backed by Republican state Sen. Tom Lee, that would have given Scott the power to name the new justices. But it failed to gain the required 60 percent approval.

“There may be many reasons voters rejected the amendment, there can be no doubt one reason was that a newly-elected governor is not only more accountable, but also better represents the will of the people who just voted than someone elected four years ago,” the writ says.

Ultimately, Scott “lacks authority because the expiring judicial terms run through the last second of the evening of January 8, 2019, by which time his successor will have begun his or her term or, alternatively, if the vacancies occurred earlier in the day, his successor’s term still will have already begun by that time,” it says.

“… (I)f any ambiguity existed in our constitutional scheme, it should be resolved in favor of allowing the incoming governor, who best represents the will of the people, to fill judicial vacancies arising the same day he or she is set to take office.”

The plaintiffs also include LWVF President Pamela Goodman, former LWVF president Deirdre Macnab, and Liza McClenaghan, the state chair of Common Cause Florida. They’re represented by Tallahassee attorneys John S. Mills and Thomas D. Hall, a former Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court.

Supreme Court sends Bessman Okafor sentence back, Rick Scott reassigns it from Aramis Ayala

The Florida Supreme Court has remanded another murder case death penalty from Orlando, that of Bessman Okafor, and Gov. Rick Scott quickly reassigned it away from Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala.

The move came with swift intervention from state Rep. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Springs, who asked the governor to keep the case from going back to Ayala, who has vowed to not prosecute death penalties. The governor concurred, reassigning it to neighboring State Attorney Brad King in the 5th Judicial Circuit, as he has done with 23 previous first-degree murder cases in the past three months.

“I am grateful,” said Cortes, a Republican who has been a stern critic of Ayala’s declaration and how she arrived at her decision.

Okafor’s murder conviction stands, according to the Supreme Court. The court threw out his death penalty and ordered another penalty phase trial.

He was convicted of murdering a witness who was expected to testify at Okafor’s upcoming armed robbery trial, and of trying to murder two others, who survived being shot, in 2012. However, during the penalty phase of his 2015 trial, the jury voted 11-1 to sentence Okafor to death. That was good enough for the legal standard of 2015, but that standard was thrown out in 2016, and Florida now requires a unanimous jury vote for a death sentence.

On Thursday the Supreme Court decided on the appeal of Okafor’s sentence, and sent it back to the 9th Judicial Circuit for a new sentencing phase.

Cortes then urged the governor to reassign it, declaring in a letter his “distrust that this case will not be given the attention it requires and deserves.” Scott then redirected it to King, using the same assertion he used for 23 other murder cases that have been diverted from Ayala.

“The unequivocal statements of State Attorney Aramis D. Ayala raise grave concerns regarding her silliness to abide by and uphold the uniform application of the laws of the state of Florida, and the ends of justice will be best served by the assignment of another state attorney to discharge the duties of State Attorney Aramis D. Ayala with respect to the investigation, prosecution, and all matters related to Bessman Okafor,” Scott wrote in his order.

Ayala expressed satisfaction that the court remanded the case, and no surprise at Scott’s executive order.

“I am very pleased that Bessman Okafor’s conviction for his horrific crimes was upheld today by the Supreme Court of Florida,” she said in a written statement. “Florida’s High Court was tasked with attempting to resolve the chaos surrounding Florida’s death penalty statute after being stricken down by the United States Supreme Court early last year. I am not surprised by the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling nor the Governors’ hasty reaction.”

That order, and Ayala’s authority to refuse the death penalty, will soon also be decided by the Florida Supreme Court.

Ayala filed in the Supreme Court in April to assert that she has full authority to refuse to prosecute death penalties under prosecutorial discretion, and that Scott does not have the authority to reassign cases from her just because he disagrees with her. Scott answered that Ayala overstepped her authority and her blanket refusal is a violation of her legal duties, and that he has the power to intervene when a state attorney is breaking the law.

The Supreme Court has received a dozen arguments from Ayala, Scott, and friends of the court, and has set oral arguments for June 28.

medical malpractice

Supreme Court strikes down limit on medical malpractice awards

In a 4-3 decision, the Florida Supreme Court on Thursday agreed with a lower court and said limiting certain damages in personal-injury medical malpractice lawsuits is unconstitutional.

The ruling split along the usual lines, with the progressive-leaning justices concurring, and the conservatives—now including new Justice C. Alan Lawson—in dissent.

The Legislature established $500,000 limits, or caps, on what are called “non­-economic” damages for such cases.

The Supreme Court previously ruled they don’t apply in medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death. The 4th District Court of Appeal had extended that decision to personal injury cases.

That court reinstated a $4.7 million damage award to Susan Kalitan, who sued North Broward Hospital District and others over complications from surgery, namely that her esophagus was punctured during the administering of anesthesia.

The majority of Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices R. Fred Lewis, Barbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince held that “caps in (state law) violate equal protection” in that some people are injured worse than others. 

“The arbitrary reduction of compensation without regard to the severity of the injury does not bear a rational relationship to the Legislature’s stated interest in addressing the medical malpractice crisis,” the opinion said.

“We further conclude … there is no evidence of a continuing medical malpractice insurance crisis justifying the arbitrary and invidious discrimination between medical malpractice victims,” it added.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican, called a Special Session in 2003 to overhaul the law governing medical malpractice lawsuits. Doctors said big-money jury awards were driving up their insurance premiums; some even stopped practicing in Florida.

The state eventually limited noneconomic damages, sometimes referred to as “loss of the enjoyment of life,” to $500,000 per plaintiff and no more than $1 million from all defendants in a single lawsuit.

In dissent, Justices Lawson, Charles Canady and Ricky Polston countered that the limit “easily passes constitutional muster.”

Moreover, “it is the Legislature’s task to decide whether a medical malpractice crisis exists, whether a medical malpractice crisis has abated, and whether the Florida Statutes should be amended accordingly,” the dissent said.

“For a majority of this Court to decide that a crisis no longer exists, if it ever existed, so it can essentially change a statute and policy it dislikes, improperly interjects the judiciary into a legislative function.”

Paul Jess, interim director of the Florida Justice Association, welcomed the ruling in a written statement.

“Today’s ruling by the Florida Supreme Court that state statutes establishing caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice personal injury cases are unconstitutional is a resounding victory for patients,” he said. “This is a step forward that will promote safer health care in Florida.”

But David J. Becker, M.D., president of the Florida Medical Association, said his group “is disappointed with the Court’s ruling, but given past decisions, it was not unexpected.”

The FMA “will continue to do all it can to ensure that the costs of the medical liability system do not unfairly impact physicians ability to practice medicine,” he added.

New deal? Gretna asks court to reconsider slots ruling

Lawyers for a North Florida racetrack have asked the state’s Supreme Court to rehear argument in a case over whether pari-mutuels can add slot machines in counties that passed referendums allowing them.

Gretna Racing‘s motion for rehearing was filed late Friday, court dockets show. The horse track, also known as Creek Entertainment/Gretna, is managed and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.

Last month, the court unanimously ruled against the track, meaning that gambling facilities in Gadsden County’s Gretna and in seven other counties that passed referendums allowing slots will not be able to offer them.

The court upheld a decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal that agreed with state gambling regulators who denied the track a slots permit.

The ruling was a blow for the state’s pari-mutuels and a win for gambling expansion opponents—if it had gone the other way, the decision might have led to the single biggest gambling expansion in the state.

The opinion, authored by Justice Charles Canady, found that “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.”

The track’s 12-page motion counters, in part, that the justices “misapprehended” case law on counties’ home rule authority.

Track lawyer Marc Dunbar, also a part owner, told justices in oral argument last June that the Legislature intended to allow for an expansion of slot machines in the state, saying counties were empowered under state law to decide whether to allow slots.

Lawmakers, many of whom have bitterly complained of judicial overreach into policy, failed to agree on a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s gambling laws this Legislative Session.

As of Monday morning, the court had not responded to the motion. Voters in Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington counties have approved slots.

Aramis Ayala defends death penalty position, asserts budget cut will hit key programs

Orlando’s reform-pledging yet controversial State Attorney Aramis Ayala defended her anti-death penalty position as “evidence based” and charged that the Florida Legislature’s $1.3 million cut to her budget will hamper anti-human trafficking and domestic violence prosecutions.

In a feature published Thursday morning by Orlando-Rising.com, a sister website to FloridaPolitics.com, the rookie state attorney representing Florida’s 9th Judicial Circuit also reiterated her earlier statements that she has had nothing to do with Democratic political rainmaker George Soros, who ran an independent campaign on her behalf last summer; and that she believes Gov. Rick Scott reassigned 23 first-degree murder cases from her “solely based on his own political beliefs.”

“I know the ‘death penalty’ is extremely controversial and evokes emotion from both people who are for and against it. As I stated on steps of Orange County Courthouse when I made my announcement, what is NOT controversial is the evidence that led me to my decision,” Ayala stated in a written interview with Orlando-Rising.com, part of the ongoing “OR Conversations” weekly feature, highlighting the thoughts and views of newsmakers.

The feature, which involved Ayala providing written responses to written questions, marks the most comprehensive public statements Ayala has made since her March 16 announcement that she had decided that Florida’s capital punishment laws are unjust to all, and she would not pursue them. That announcement had led to a firestorm of political, social, legislative, and legal responses, some of which she told Orlando-Rising.com she anticipated, and some of which she did not.

“What I did not anticipate is the governor overstepping his authority by inserting himself in a prosecutorial decision and removing 23 cases from my office,” Ayala stated. “I believe what Gov. Scott has done is an attack on the U.S. Constitution, the Florida Constitution, the rule of law, the separation of powers and our criminal justice system. Scott’s move is unprecedented and solely based on his own political beliefs.”

She and the governor are locked in litigation battles, in the Florida Supreme Court, and in U.S. District Court, over her decision to not seek death penalties, and his subsequent decision to reassign her first-degree murder cases to other state attorneys.

“I did not anticipate the Legislature cutting my office budget $1.3 million dollars and eliminating 21 positions from my office. This move will severely impact this agency’s ability to effectively prosecute crimes, threaten public safety and ultimately have an economic impact on the central Florida community.

“I also did not anticipate racist responses including someone sending a noose to my office because they disagree with how my administration will handle death penalty cases,” added Ayala, the first African American known to be elected to the position of state attorney anywhere in Florida, in history.

Ayala went into great detail on how she fears the $1.3 million cut in her 2018 budget could affect her office’s ability to prosecute human trafficking and domestic violence cases, two special programs she campaigned for, the first of which had received a special $1.4 million appropriation in 2017. Her response essentially included position statements she provided the Florida Legislature. For the sake of their newsworthiness, Orlando-Rising.com decided to publish them in their entirety, even though they went beyond the normal bounds of brevity the OR Conversations feature requests of its newsmaker subjects.

The Florida Legislature had argued that the $1.3 million should and will follow the reassigned first-degree murder cases to the receiving state attorney, which, in the case of the currently-reassigned 23 cases, is Brad King of Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit. But Ayala challenged that logic, arguing that money already automatically follows reassigned cases, so that what the legislature did was essentially charge her for those cases twice.

“My office will also be footing the bill for every single case Scott removed from this office,” she stated. “Florida Statute 27.15 requires all expenses and costs incurred by any gubernatorial re-assignment to be paid for by the circuit receiving the assistance. As such, the 9th Circuit will pay any and all costs and expenses as required by law from its existing budget appropriation.

“The impact of cutting $1.3 million and eliminating 21 positions will have a devastating effect on existing efforts to prosecute widespread human trafficking and domestic violence offenders in this circuit,” she added.

As for Soros’ help during her campaign, Ayala said she appreciated his involvement but that she had nothing to do with him. The New York-based liberal crusader set up an independent campaign fund that spent nearly $1.4 million in the last four weeks of the state attorney’s office primary election campaign, buying TV commercials and mailers blitzing her opponent, then-incumbent State Attorney Jeff Ashton.  The money Soros’ spent on that race through his Florida Safety & Justice political action committee was eight times as much as Ayala’s and Ashton’s official campaigns spent combined.

“I understand that Mr. Soros invested in around a dozen prosecutor campaigns across the country, both Republicans and Democrats as supporters and opponents to the death penalty,” she told Orlando-Rising.com. “He supported candidates like myself who were committed to bringing change and reform to prosecution. My values and goals were very clear before Mr. Soros ever supported my campaign. I appreciate the support he gave, but I never solicited it nor did it change my platform.”

Justices rejects Florida appeal over death penalty

The Supreme Court has left in place a lower court ruling that said imposing a death sentence in Florida requires a unanimous jury.

The justices on Monday turned away an appeal from Florida officials seeking to overturn the ruling last year from the state’s highest court.

The Florida Supreme Court had struck down a newly enacted law allowing a defendant to be sentenced to death as long as 10 out of 12 jurors recommend it. That ruling concluded that Timothy Lee Hurst — convicted of a 1998 murder at a Pensacola Popeye’s restaurant— deserves a new sentencing hearing.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court declared Florida’s death penalty sentencing law unconstitutional. State legislators responded by overhauling the law.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

slot machines

Pari-mutuels subdued on next steps after Supreme Court slots decision

With the state Supreme Court’s decision last week striking down the possibility of a slot machine expansion, what’s next?

A unanimous court ruled against pari-mutuels seeking to add slot machines in counties that passed a referendum in support of them: Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington.

Those concerns are holding their plans close to the vest, at least publicly.

That includes bestbet in Jacksonville, which unsuccessfully applied to the state for a slots license.

Spokesman Brian Hughes told the Times-Union’s Tia Mitchell last week that “the company was disappointed by the ruling but hopeful that the Legislature will pass new laws that negate its effect.”

“Something it clearly demonstrates is that the Legislature still has an opportunity to respect the will of the people at the local level,” Hughes told the paper.

But lawmakers have been sequentially unable to pass new gambling laws for years, the most recent attempt ending in impasse this Legislative Session.

The Senate declined to back down on its insistence that slots should be expanded to pari-mutuels in counties that approved them, while the House opposed such a move.

The track that brought the litigation, Creek Entertainment/Gretna in Gadsden County, said it was “disappointed” in the ruling, but didn’t hint what it might do.

“Because of this ruling, we are now unable to create new jobs,” spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said. “We are considering our options on how to proceed.”

Izzy Havenick, a member of the family that owns Naples Fort Myers Greyhound Racing & Poker in Bonita Springs, said he too will go back to the drawing board with lawmakers.

Lee County passed a slots referendum with almost 63 percent of the vote in November 2012; turnout that election was nearly 69 percent.

“What do we do? We go back to the Legislature next year and hope they honor the will of the people,” Havenick said.

And according to TCPalm, Fort Pierce Jai-Alai & Poker in St. Lucie “wants to invest $100 million to expand its facility into an entertainment complex (that) owner Casino Miami says would employ about 500 people, but only if it can add 1,000 slots.”

A representative for Casino Miami couldn’t be reached Friday.

Florida Supreme Court rules against Gretna track, slots expansion

A unanimous Florida Supreme Court has ruled against a North Florida racetrack seeking to add slot machines.

The 20-page decision, released Thursday, means that gambling facilities in Gadsden County’s Gretna and in seven other counties that passed local referendums allowing slots also will not be able to offer them.

In doing so, the court upheld a decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal that agreed with state gambling regulators who denied the track a slots permit.

In sum, the ruling comes as a loss for the state’s pari-mutuels and a win for gambling expansion opponents. If it had gone the other way, the decision might have led to the single biggest gambling expansion in the state.

“The good news is there will not be thousands of slot machines coming to Florida without further action by the legislature,” said John Sowinski, president of the No Casinos anti-gambling expansion group.

Sowinski also chairs Voters in Charge, a political committee trying to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the 2018 statewide ballot to give voters “the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling.”

Lawmakers, many of whom have bitterly complained of judicial overreach into policy, failed to agree on a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s gambling laws this Legislative Session.

*   *   *

At issue in the Gretna case was “whether local voters can authorize the operation of slot machines in counties outside of Dade and Broward.”

Statewide voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing slots at existing jai-alai frontons and horse and dog racetracks only in those counties and only if voters there OK’d it in referendums there.

Since then, voters in Brevard, Duval, Gadsden, Hamilton, Lee, Palm Beach, St. Lucie and Washington counties approved slots.

But the opinion, authored by Justice Charles Canady, found that “nothing in (state gambling law) grants any authority to regulate slot machine gaming to any county.”

Specifically, the “general power of non-charter counties to ‘carry on county government’ does not constitute authorization to conduct a referendum to approve slot machine gaming,” the opinion said.

(“Charters are formal written documents that confer powers, duties, or privileges on the county,” according to the Florida Association of Counties.)

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices C. Alan Lawson, Barbara Pariente and Ricky Polston concurred in the decision. Justice Peggy A. Quince had been recused.

Oral argument in the case was last June but Lawson, appointed to the court in December to replace retired Justice James E.C. Perry, “fully participated after reviewing all of the materials including the oral argument video,” spokesman Craig Waters said.

Justice R. Fred Lewis also concurred, but wrote separately to note “the confusion in this area of the law.”

“Because slot machines are generally prohibited, Gadsden County does not have and cannot assert home rule powers as a basis to support a referendum on slot machine gambling,” he wrote.

Any other construction of the law is “misplaced,” he added.

*   *   *

The horse track, known as Creek Entertainment/Gretna, is managed and operated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. Spokeswoman Sarah Bascom said they were “disappointed the Florida Supreme Court did not agree with our interpretation of the law.”

“Because of this ruling, we are now unable to create new jobs,” she said. “We are considering our options on how to proceed.”

Track lawyer Marc Dunbar, also a part owner, told justices in oral argument that the Legislature intended to allow for an expansion of slot machines in the state, saying counties were empowered under state law to decide whether to allow slots.

The track, about 30 miles west of Tallahassee, had asked the court to let it have slot machines because voters approved them in 2012.

Attorney Dan Gelber, the former House Democratic leader who represented No Casinos at argument, countered that lawmakers “would not have allowed slots but for that constitutional amendment.” He served in the House 2000-08.

“The idea that in implementing that amendment that they would, under the table, give 65 other counties that same right is sort of absurd,” he said. “If that had happened, I know a couple of my colleagues’ heads would have exploded.”

A decision the other way also likely would have broken the exclusivity to slots outside of South Florida enjoyed by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. That would have entitled the Tribe to reduce or stop paying money to the state.

“The Tribe is continuing to review the decision, but it looks like very good news for the State of Florida and for the Seminole Tribe,” spokesman Gary Bitner said.

And Stephen Lawson, spokesman for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling, said the agency was “pleased that the Florida Supreme Court agreed with us on this important issue.”

“We will continue to follow the law,” he added.

Chris Sprowls looks back on successful 2017 Session

Now that the 2017 Legislative Session is in the history books (for the most part), Florida lawmakers are beginning to take stock. And Palm Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls is no different.

Sprowls offers his own post-Session review, in an email to supporters highlighting some of his major legislative actions in the House over the past year.

At the top of the list is HB 221, the landmark ride-sharing legislation co-sponsored by Sprowls and recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

The measure creates a statewide standard for companies like Uber and Lyft, which Sprowls says “ensures safety, convenience, and consistency.”

“I am proud of this bill because it guarantees that anyone in Florida has access to this convenient transportation option should they choose it, in addition to providing an extra source of income for many Floridians looking to make ends meet.

Inspiring Sprowls to bring the bill were conversations with Floridians “who love driving for rideshare companies,” particularly for its flexibility in work times — perfect for people such as single parents, veterans, college students and others.

HB 221 opens the market for ride-sharing jobs, as well as offering a “convenient mode of transportation for Floridians and vacationers alike.”

Most notably, this bill can be a template for ride-sharing bills across the country, Sprowls says.

Another legislative success were reforms to Florida’s death penalty statute, ensuring the state has a “working death penalty law.”

In October 2016, the Florida Supreme Court ruled the state’s death penalty law unconstitutional — throwing the process into legal ambiguity, putting capital cases in a state of limbo.

Sprowls, a former state attorney, saw this legal instability as a disservice to all involved. HB 527 fixed the state death penalty statute, bringing the law in-line with Constitutional requirements.

Sprowls also introduced legislation to honor Officer Charles Kondek, killed December 2014 in the line of duty.

“Officer Kondek had a decades-long career serving our community,” Sprowls writes, “and it is only fitting that we rename a portion of Alternate 19 so that we always remember his service, sacrifice and legacy.”

The “Officer Charles ‘Charlie K’ Kondek Jr. Memorial Highway” is at U.S. 19A/S.R 595 between Tarpon Avenue and the Pasco County line in Pinellas County.

Sprowls was also among the lawmakers sponsoring a formal apology to the Groveland Four from the 1940s, as well as to the Dozier Boys who suffered torture and abuse at the Dozier School for Boys.

“It was an honor to have the families of the Groveland Four, and the remaining survivors of the Dozier School in Tallahassee a few weeks ago to hear their stories and witness the closure they have so long awaited,” Sprowls writes.

Other victories for Sprowls in the 2017 Session were in ethics and government spending reforms, including passage of sweeping ethics changes and a lobbying ban that is the strictest in the country.

Similarly, Sprowls takes sides in the fight over incentive program funding, touting his support for a state budget which puts an end to “state-funded corporate welfare.”

“Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers,” he writes, “and Enterprise Florida was using your tax dollars to subsidize the operations of large businesses.”

Sprowls, who is in line to be House Speaker in 2020-22, notes that Enterprise Florida has seen a $1.2 million increase in payroll without showing similar gains in job creation.

While Enterprise Florida was intended to be a public-private partnership, Sprowls says that it is indeed funded 90 percent by taxpayers.

“We as a Legislature are tasked with ensuring your hard-earned money is spent wisely and efficiently,” he writes. “Enterprise Florida’s use of your tax dollars was neither.”

Jax House member Jay Fant launches campaign for Attorney General

Jacksonville House member Jay Fant announced for state Attorney General Tuesday, promising to fight for the Constitution — especially the First and Second amendments — and against “big government.”

Fant said during a kickoff news conference in the state Capitol that “fighting big government, fighting for the Constitution, and fighting for free enterprise” were what drove him to seek his House seat in 2014.

“My zeal for protecting property and people has not abated. Today, because if this, I am announcing my candidacy for attorney general of the state of Florida,” he said.

“I highlight the First and Second amendments because they are the bellwether for our freedoms. And when you attack those freedoms, you attack America, itself.”

The legislator, little known outside his Jacksonville hometown, planned to travel the state extensively to build name recognition. Following his Tallahassee opener, he scheduled campaign events in Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville.

“I will be on the road. I will be in great cities across the state, starting today, through the Panhandle and down south,” Fant said. “This will be a grassroots campaign. This will be a campaign where people know who Jay Fant is because they have met him.”

Fant is a graduate of Washington & Lee University and holds a law degree from the University of Florida. He and wife Lauren have four children, whom they home-school.

Fant was chairman and CEO of First Guaranty Bank & Trust Co. of Jacksonville when it failed in 2012. Now he’s chairman of Caroline Family Office, a financial services company.

The bank failure inspired him to seek office, he said.

“The federal government bailed out big banks and left little, small, community, mainstream banks like mine out in the cold. Our company couldn’t make it. Big government is not about Main Street. And I vowed to never let that happen to anybody else.”

As A.G., Fant would “root out corporate scams that prey on the elderly and vulnerable.”

“There are bad guys out there, but I will find them,” he said.

He praised Florida Supreme Court justices Charles Canady and Ricky Polston as non-activist jurists. C. Alan Lawson, elevated by Gov. Rick Scott to the state high court, and Eric Eisnaugle, a House member named this week as Lawson’s replacement on the 5th DCA, also meet that test, Fant said.

“The way to fight judicial activism is to appoint good judges,” he said. “So a note to all the rogue judges and rogue agencies who promulgate rules and make rulings outside the bounds of the separation of powers — your future attorney general will have a cadre of lawyers watching you. I am running because I believe so strongly in defending our constitutional rights and protecting Floridians from the excesses of the federal government. But that can only happen if we make sure government is on the side of the people.

“We will fight to keep our business climate free and fair so entrepreneurs can pursue their dreams and create jobs. We will stand by our law enforcement community that works so hard to keep us safe.”

He promised to follow through with sitting Attorney General Pam Bondi’s programs.

“I will continue Attorney General Bondi’s fight against prescription drug abuse, human trafficking, and predators who target seniors and children. I will keep pushing back against the federal overreach that chokes our small businesses,” Fant said. “And the most vulnerable members of our society can count on me.”

Asked about Bondi’s decision not to pursue her political ally Donald Trump over alleged fraud at Trump University, Fant declined to second-guess the incumbent.

“Whether that rose to the level of warranting their investigation in that office, I’m not privy to those discussions, and I’ll have to honor her decision on that.”

He praised Bondi’s legal challenges to Obama administration programs.

“As attorney general, I’ll defend our states’ rights every step of the way,” he said.

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