With Gov. RickScott speedily approving the 2018-19 state budget and issuing line-item vetoes just two days after it hit his desk, Florida TaxWatch was prevented from holding its signature event: The annual presentation of “Budget Turkeys.”
“This historically, exceptionally fast turnaround time did not allow Florida TaxWatch to fully complete the meticulous review of all appropriations required to produce our annual Budget Turkey Watch report before the governor exercised the constitutionally provided check-and-balance known as the line-item-veto,” said Dominic M. Calabro, TaxWatch President and CEO.
The group defines turkeys as “legislatively directed projects, usually local member projects, placed in individual line-items or accompanying proviso language that are added to the final appropriations bill without being fully scrutinized by the public and subjected to the budget committee process, or that circumvented established grant and other selection processes.”
The nonprofit organization, which bills itself asan “independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit taxpayer research institute,” usually holds a press conference every year at Tallahassee’s Press Center to roll out the report.
“We certainly hope the Governor’s hard-working staff had time to duteously review every expenditure of public dollars on behalf of the taxpayers statewide who will be funding these projects,” Calabro added in a Friday statement.
There was some good news, he added: “Because of good rules governing appropriations projects … , the vast majority of these projects do not qualify as Budget Turkeys under the established Florida TaxWatch criteria.”
Nonetheless, the roughly $88 billion budget “also contains a startling number of local transportation member projects—nearly 60 projects worth $120 million … for which there is no formal evaluation and selection process.”
Out of $64 million in budget vetoes issued Friday, Gov. RickScott killed $270,000 slated for the acquisition of the Florida Quilt Museum building in Trenton, the county seat of Gilchrist County.
That gladdened Rep. EvanJenne, a Dania Beach Democrat who inveighed against the money during debate on the state’s spending plan.
“I am pleased to see that Gov. Scott took appropriate action on this particular line item veto,” Jenne said in a text message.
“The State of Florida should not be doling out $270,000 for a quilt museum with a taxable value of $98,000 and no quilts. It was the height of fiscal absurdity and had no place in our budget funded on the backs of taxpayers.”
Earlier Friday, he tweeted: “It’s the little victories that keep me going.”
StephanieMetts, the museum’s founder and a board member, first learned of Scott’s line-item veto from a Florida Politics reporter.
“What a shame for this little community that is so struggling,” she said. Trenton’s population is a little over 2,000.
The museum is “not funded by anybody; my husband and I are the only ones putting any money into this,” Metts said.
She also denied the “no quilts” claim: “We have all kinds of quilts,” Metts said, mentioning there were over 100 now on display through loans. “We own very few quilts because it takes money to buy quilts, which we don’t have.
“There’s one traffic light here and not even a motel,” she added. “We’ll try to raise more money … We’re getting older and we can’t keep doing this.”
“It’s very important that Marsy’s Law becomes the law of the land,” Scott said.
Most states have taken steps to amend their constitutions to enumerate victims’ rights. Fifteen have not – including Florida.
Marys’s Law takes its namesake from Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas of California, who was stalked and killed by her ex-boyfriend in 1983.
Later, Marsy’s brother and mother were confronted by the accused murderer in a grocery store. The two had not been told the ex-boyfriend had been released on bail.
The amendment includes the rights “to refuse an interview, deposition, or other … request by the defense,” “to be heard in any public proceeding involving pretrial or other release,” and to “full and timely restitution in every case.”
State Attorneys Katherine Rundle of the 11th Circuit and Andrew Warren of the 13th Circuit said Monday they were in favor of the proposal.
It’s also supported by Sen. LaurenBook, a Plantation Democrat and child sexual abuse survivor who founded “Lauren’s Kids,” an organization to prevent childhood sexual abuse and help other survivors.
“Victims should be treated with respect and humanity,” she said Tuesday.
Now, the full CRC has to approve the proposal by no less than 22 votes out of its 37 members.
If cleared by the CRC, Marsy’s Law would be placed on the 2018 statewide ballot, where it needs 60 percent approval to become a part of the constitution.
The Commission meets every 20 years to review and propose changes to the Florida Constitution.
Gov. RickScott appointed four new judges Monday, including the assistant U.S. attorney who helped prosecute a South Florida eye doctor linked in a corruption case to Democratic U.S. Sen. BobMenendez of New Jersey.
Scott named CarolynBell to the 15th Judicial Circuit for Palm Beach County. She was one of the federal prosecutors to work on a case against ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen.
Prosecutors dropped a bribery case against Melgen and Menendez in January, Roll Call reported, but Melgen was sentenced a month later to 17 years imprisonment in another case on charges of “defrauding Medicare and stealing $73 million from the system.”
Bell, 56, of Palm Beach Gardens, previously served as Senior Trial Attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, a press release said. She fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Thomas H. Barkdull III.
In other announcements, Scott named:
— James “Lee” Marsh to the 2nd Judicial Circuit for Franklin, Gadsden, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, and Wakulla counties.
Marsh, 44, of Tallahassee, currently serves as Chief Assistant Attorney General in the Office of the Attorney General, and previously served as Judge Advocate in the United States Navy. He fills a vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Charles A. Francis.
— Chad K. Alvaro to the 9th Judicial Circuit for Orange and Osceola counties.
Alvaro, 41, of Orlando, is board-certified in construction law, and is a shareholder with Mateer & Harbert. He fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Christi L. Underwood.
— Tarlika Nunez Navarro to the 17th Judicial Circuit for Broward County.
Navarro, 35, of Fort Lauderdale, is currently in private practice. She previously served as an Assistant State Attorney for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit. Navarro fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Alfred J. Horowitz.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott still isn’t officially in the race for Florida’s U.S. Senate election this year but that’s not stopping Democrats from hammering him with two new digital ads being released Monday, raising questions about his financial blind trust and his missing nursing home voicemails.
“Rick Scott has only ever looked out for one person: himself,” David Bergstein of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee stated in a news release. “In order to advance his agenda, Scott’s shown he’ll mislead Floridians, abuse his position as governor to make himself richer, and help his political donors and cronies at Floridians’ expense. He’ll say and do anything to benefit himself, which is why Floridians just don’t trust Scott to look out for them.”
Scott is widely anticipated to be preparing a run for the U.S. Senate against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson this year, and most polls have shown the race to be fairly close. However, he has not filed yet, leaving a little of a gray hole on if and how he might respond. The governor’s office was asked if it would respond but has not done so yet.
The “Blind” ad cites media reports including one from the Tampa Bay Times and FloridaBulldog.com that suggest that Scott’s has handled his finances in a way as governor that would not be permitted if and when he runs for federal office, and raising questions about potential conflicts of interest.
“Is Rick Scott using the governor’s office to enrich himself? He’s had a close business partner manage his so-called blind trust, something prohibited for federal officeholders,” a narrator inquires. “He’s a walking conflict of interest, taking actions as governor to help entities doing business in Florida that he’s owned stock in. One company he owned just sold for $825 million, but he won’t tell us how much he personally made — hiding behind a secretive blind trust. Rick Scott: is he in it for Florida, or for himself?”
The other ad, “Truth,” questions three different instances in which the narrator contends Scott cannot tell the truth, including an oldie used against Scott in his first election run in 2010: a deposition video in which he appears to be unwilling to even acknowledge his own signature in a suit alleging Medicare fraud against his former company. The ad also cites the missing cellphone voicemails dating from his conversations last September with nursing home executives about Hurricane Irma and finishes again with questioning the source of his personal wealth.
“He refused to tell the truth 75 times under oath when he led a company that was fined 1.7 billion for committing the largest Medicare fraud in history,” the narrator states. “He hid the truth by deleting voicemails on his cellphone during the recent nursing home tragedy. He has avoided telling the full truth about how he’s increased his personal wealth by 46 million dollars while governor. Let’s face it, Rick Scott just can’t tell the truth.”
The 2018 Florida Legislative Session is over and all that messy lawmaking stuff is complete, so our representatives now can focus on their real jobs — raising money and plotting their next elected gig.
Um, not you Jack Latvala. Sorry.
For everyone else though, there are ELECTIONS coming SOON!!!
But hey, we can’t just say Sine Die without a proper goodbye.
Fair warning: This won’t be an exhaustive, comprehensive, encyclopedic look at What. Just. Happened.
WHO IS THAT IMPOSTER THAT LOOKS LIKE RICK SCOTT, AND WHAT HAS HE DONE WITH THE REAL THING? Gov. Scott broke with the National Rifle Associationand pushed for legislation that Madame NRA herself, Marion Hammer, labeled as an attack on the Second Amendment. I want anyone who can provide proof that they predicted that before the Session to fill out my NCAA Tournament bracket because they must be a prophet.
TONE DEAF PART I: State Rep. Elizabeth Porter of Lake City brought national mockery to the 2018 Florida Legislative Session when she dismissed demands by Parkland high school students for stricter gun laws with this pithy statement on the House floor: “We’ve been told we need to listen to the children and do what the children ask. Are there any children on this floor? Are there any children making laws? Do we allow the children to tell us that we should pass a law that says, ‘No homework’? Or ‘You finish high school at the age of 12’ just because they want it so? No. The adults make the laws because we have the age. We have the wisdom. And we have the experience.”
When 17 of their friends and teachers were murdered, that gave those children Porter blithely dismissed access to the floor and the “adults” in the room.
Wisdom? Don’t use big words you don’t understand, lady.
TONE DEAF PART II: No, Kelli Stargel, I didn’t forget you. During a debate about gun control on the Senate floor, the pride of Polk County noted, “When we say ‘thoughts and prayers,’ it’s frowned upon. And I take real offense at that because thoughts and prayers are really the only things that’s gonna stop the evil from within the individual who is taking up their arms to do this kind of a massacre.”
I’ll use small words to explain why her remarks were so offensive. People in her position often offer “thoughts and prayers” when they want to avoid doing tangible things like, oh, passing laws. As a Christian, I believe in prayer. But I also believe it must be accompanied by action when possible.
So, here’s a thought (and a prayer) for you, Ms. Stargel. From the book of James, Ch. 1, Verse 22: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”
Translation: You’re a lawmaker. You can make a difference. You can take a stand, cast a vote. Thoughts and prayers alone won’t stop school massacres. Sheesh. What part of that is confusing?
TONE DEAF PART III: You know that sweeping reform that was promised after sexual harassment charges flew all over Tallahassee at the start of the Session (see Latvala, Jack)? #nevermind
OMG! There is overwhelming evidence that distracted driving is dangerous. There also is overwhelming evidence that the Legislature doesn’t care. Once again, it failed to pass stronger restrictions against texting while driving. Freedom baby!
ON THE OTHER HAND …: The Legislature did pass the Sunshine Protection Act that would make Daylight Saving Time year-round in Florida. Gov. Scott is considering it, and Congress would have to approve. I hope it becomes law. Although I don’t have strong feelings either way about standard time or daylight savings, springing forward and falling back is a pain. Choose one. Stick with it.
NOW WE AWAIT …: The formal declaration by Richard Corcoran that he is running for something: governor, attorney general, whatever. His PAC keeps running commercials about doing away with sanctuary cities, but given recent events, that doesn’t seem like an issue that can propel him to the top of a crowded Republican field for governor. But the dude is going to run for something. Oh, and Gov. Scott is now free to officially announce he wants to be a U.S. senator.
And Tom Lee? If he really is going to run for Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, now is the time to say so.
The Florida Legislature during a rare Sunday session passed an $88.7 billion state budget — the largest one in the state’s history.
“This balanced budget includes unprecedented K-12 per student funding, targeted pay raises for state law enforcement, state firefighters, and Department of Juvenile Justice probation and detention officers, and $100 million for Florida Forever, while setting aside $3.3 billion in reserves,” said Senate President Joe Negron.
The Senate passed (HB 5001) on a 31-5 vote (the five opposed were Democrats) and the House pushed it through on a 95-12 vote (also all Democrats who voted ‘no’).
The upper chamber also passed a tax cut package with little debate and some last-minute changes.
Sen. Rob Bradley’s proposal that would treat certain workers who are hired to do a job through a mobile app or website was approved. The move would add a new section under the state’s labor law that would consider thousands of workers in the state independent contractors.
Gov. RickScott, at a press conference after the hanky drop, called the 2018 Legislative Session—his last as governor—”incredible,” saying “I couldn’t be more proud of this Session than all eight I have been a part of.” Scott is term-limited this year.
The Legislature also passed conforming bills to amend state law to provide for specific changes in the budget, or General Appropriations Act.
Much of the budget was already debated Friday, when the 60-day Legislative Session was supposed to end. Session had to be extended because legislative lawmakers could not reach a deal on time for the 2018-19 spending plan.
A constitutional provision requires a 72 hour “cooling off” period between a budget’s finalization and both chambers voting on it.
The budget takes effect July 1, the beginning of the state’s fiscal year. Now Scott will review the spending and no doubt issue a list of line-item vetoes, most likely of member projects. He has 15 days to complete his work.
The budget includes $400 million for the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act” that includes money for mental health services in schools, campus “hardening,” and demolition of the building on the Broward County school’s campus where a Valentine’s Day massacre left 17 dead.
“I’m going to fight for this bill,” Scott said, referring to a lawsuit the National Rifle Association has already filed against it in federal court. “I believe it does the right thing. We want to protect everybody’s rights but we also want to protect our kids and our grandkids at school … I want every child to be safe.”
Pay raises for juvenile officers, Supreme Court justices, state attorneys and public defenders are also part of the spending plan.
Other items that are expected to get final approval are $100 million for the Florida Forever program and $130 million to reimburse nursing homes.
Reporting contributed by Capital correspondents Danny McAuliffe and Jim Rosica.
In a surprise announcement Sunday from the dais of the Florida House, Gov. RickScott said he had appointed Republican Rep. LarryMetz as a circuit judge.
Metz, a Yalaha Republican and 62-year-old lawyer in private practice, applied for a judgeship in the 5th Judicial Circuit, covering Lake, Marion, and Sumter counties. He’s term-limited in the House this year.
“This caught me clearly off guard,” he said Sunday. “… It shows that (Scott) has very special trust and confidence in me … I’ll never forget this day and I look forward to being able to uphold the rule of law as a member of the judiciary.”
The former Marine is one of the House’s most reliably conservative members. He chairs the Public Integrity & Ethics committee under House Speaker RichardCorcoran, and has previously chaired the Justice Appropriations subcommittee.
He unsuccessfully applied for a seat on that same court in late 2016, for an opening that went to current Justice AlanLawson. During an interview for the position, Metz revealed he has Parkinson’s disease.
“I disclosed it in a context I thought I needed to,” he said in a 2016 interview. But the disease “hasn’t stopped me from doing what I want to do.”
Parkinson’s is a “chronic and progressive movement disorder, meaning that symptoms continue and worsen over time,” according to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.
The disease, which has an unknown cause, often manifests through trembling of the hands, legs and jaw. There’s no cure, although the symptoms can be managed through medication.
“I have a positive outlook,” he said in 2016. “This is not going to affect my future. I’m going to continue to work hard and do my job.”
The 2018 Legislative Session came and went, and Brian Pitts of the advocacy group Justice 2 Jesus was nowhere to be found.
One of the last times he was spotted was November at the Oversight, Transparency & Administration Subcommittee. It was the last meeting for former state Rep. Neil Combee and after he said farewell, Pitts came to the podium to scrutinize the Venezuela divestment bill.
“This really makes my day because this is my last committee,” Combee told Pitts. “I would have been heartbroken if Brian Pitts did not want to talk about a bill before the committee.”
“I love you too,” Pitts told Combee before hammering on the proposal.
Since that meeting though, the 46-year-old gadfly, who has long been a staple of the legislative process has been absent.
His last Twitter rant, in its usual all-caps matter, was sent out Jan. 2, a week before Session started.
He was disheartened, to say the least, and tweeted: “UNLESS MIRACLES OCCUR, THERES SIMPLY NO, OR VERY LITTLE, GOOD NEWS TO REPORT ON PRESENT FL LEG DEALINGS, THAT ITS NOT EVEN WORTH REPORTING IT.”
And as reporters and lobbyists inquired about the disappearance act, he favorited tweets of those who speculated that he might be out because of a “long flu” or “influenza.” Pitts, however, never confirmed why he’s been out.
After multiple attempts by Florida Politics to reach him, calls went unanswered and straight to voicemail.
“Our Lord is here, Jesus Christ … good day and God bless,” he says before the beep.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Ana Ceballos, Jim Rosica, Danny McAuliffe, Andrew Wilson and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Stoneman Douglas Act signed — Gov. Rick Scott signed the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas Act” Friday while parents who lost their children in the school shooting stood by him. The $400 million proposal creates unprecedented gun-control measures in the state, gives more funding to schools for security and mental health services and allows school staff to participate in a program that trains them to shoot active shooters. The bill defies the National Rifle Association, which is opposed to banning the sale of bump stocks, raising the legal age to buy assault weapons from 18 to 21 and a three-day waiting period for all firearms. The legislation does not include a ban on assault weapons despite outcry from Parkland shooting survivors.
Leaders close out budget — Legislative leaders reached a deal on a roughly $89 billion state budget early Thursday morning, setting in motion the 72-hour “cooling-off” period before lawmakers can vote on it. The spending plan for the 2018-19 fiscal year has nearly $90 million in last-minute funding including hurricane-related items that are contingent on federal reimbursements. The budget also has $67 million for arming school staff, $8 million in pay raises for juvenile detention and probation officers and a 36 percent pay increase for Florida Supreme Court justices who will now make more than $220,000 annually. Nursing homes will also get a $130 million bump in Medicaid payments.
Gambling conference surprise — Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran released a joint statement Friday night: “Despite the good faith efforts of both the House and Senate, a gaming bill will not pass the Legislature this session.” At last look, the House had offered five ‘limited gaming’ licenses in response to the Senate position for six new slots licenses in the state for counties that had OK’d slots expansion in local referendums. “Limited gaming” had meant slots or designated player games — a poker-blackjack hybrid — but not both. Another proviso from the House: Any new slots facility would have to be at least 100 miles away from the Seminole Tribe of Florida’s Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, and at least 25 miles away from any other Seminole casino, including the one in Hollywood. It’s not clear when lawmakers will get another shot.
Member projects janked for votes — Before the gun and school safety bill passed the House, rank-and-file members who strongly opposed the measure had project funding for their districts removed from the budget. A POLITICO Florida analysis found that at least $10 million in House member projects the House and Senate had agreed to were pulled. As legislative leaders wrapped up the 2018 session, the budget came in late, and according to the analysis it was “increasingly clear that the budget [was] used to whip members on the gun bill.”
Child marriage ban pushed through — Gov. Scott’s office said the governor intends to sign a measure that would ban all marriages under the age of 17. The “child marriage bill” was among the most-debated issues in the 2018 legislative session. Republican state Rep. George Moraitis was one of the toughest critics of the bill, saying that some minors should be allowed to marry with parental consent. He was the lone ‘no’ vote against SB 140. The bill would give Florida the strictest marriage law in the country in terms of age limits.
Scott talks school security with police chiefs
Gov. Scott headed to Orange Park this week to talk about his school security plans with police chiefs from South and Northeast Florida.
Scott’s proposals following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre last month include raising the minimum age to buy a gun in Florida to 21, increasing funding for school security and mental health, and giving law enforcement the ability to temporarily confiscate guns from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.
Scott said after the meeting that it was one of the things he didn’t propose — arming school employees — that ended up dominating the discussion.
Lawmakers added to the school safety plan a provision that would allow school employees who are not solely classroom teachers, such as coaches or support staff, to carry concealed weapons on campus after completing a training program.
Scott cheers bill blocking Venezuela investment
The Legislature got some praise from Gov. Scott this week for passing a bill that would bar the state from investing in any company that is doing business with the Venezuelan government.
Scott said the move would hold the Nicolas Maduro regime accountable and the bill was one of his announced priorities ahead of the 2018 Legislative Session.
“With the passage of this landmark legislation, Florida continues its commitment to the people of Venezuela who are fighting for freedom and democracy. This legislation will prohibit all state agencies from investing in the Venezuelan government and puts even more financial pressure on the Maduro regime by stopping any future state investment with them,” Scott said.
“I want to thank Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, as well as sponsors Senator Rene Garcia and Speaker Pro Tempore Jeanette Nunez, for their great work on this important bill.”
HB 359 cleared both the House and Senate with a unanimous vote.
Putnam names 2017 Forestry Firefighter of the Year
During a Wednesday Cabinet meeting, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and the Florida Forest Service presented Senior Forest Ranger John DeWolfe with the Forestry Firefighter of the Year award.
“Our wildland firefighters risk their lives daily to protect Florida’s wildlife and residents from wildfire, and last year they courageously battled one of the most severe wildfire seasons in recent history,” Putnam said. “I congratulate John on being named the 2017 Forestry Firefighter of the Year and thank him for his selfless service.”
DeWolfe has been on the job for 20 years and has worked nearly every job in the field, from training to emergency response to land management. He also mentors the next generation of wildland firefighters.
“John is a crucial asset to our agency as a wildland firefighter, instructor and leader. He repeatedly demonstrates his commitment to his job and the safety of Floridians,” said Florida State Forester Jim Karels.
Florida Commission on Human Relations — Maryam Laguna Borrego will succeed Clyde Daniel on the commission. The 30-year-old is the assistant vice president of public affairs at the University of Miami, Coral Gables.
Borrego received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Florida. Her term ends Sept. 30, 2021.
Samantha Hoare is the executive director of Teach for America, Miami-Dade. She received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University and her MBA from Florida International University.
Hoare, 36, will succeed Sandra Turner for a term ending Sept. 30, 2021.
Both appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.
St. Lucie County Board of County Commissioners — Anthony Bonna is a 30-year-old director of advertising and digital strategy for The Stoneridge Group LLC. He is also the founder of The Good Help Group LLC.
Bonna received his bachelor’s degree in finance from Georgetown University. He is appointed to a term ending Nov. 13, 2018.
Board of Employee Leasing Companies — Ron Hodge is the president and chief executive officer of Cornerstone Capital Group.
The 62-year-old fills a vacant seat on the board and will serve a term ending Oct. 31, 2019. His appointment is subject to confirmation by the Senate.
Southwest Florida CRC stop draws 300
More than 300 Floridians attended a March 5 public hearing held by the Constitution Revision Commission in Cape Coral.
More than 180 individuals filled out speaker cards to comment on proposals being considered by commissioners. All Floridians who attended the public hearing and wanted to speak were given an opportunity to be heard by the CRC.
The meeting was part of the CRC’s “Road to the Ballot” public hearing tour, which has already stopped in Fort Lauderdale, Melbourne, Jacksonville and Pensacola.
PIP repeal crashes
On Wednesday, Gov. Scott killed any hope for the newest attempt to repeal the state’s no-fault auto insurance system.
The PIP repeal bill, SB 150 by Thonotosassa Republican Sen. Tom Lee, had already stalled out at its most recent committee stop in the Senate, with Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier among those speaking out against the measure.
During a Wednesday Cabinet meeting, Scott praised Altmaier for his testimony, telling him he “did a good job on PIP.”
Lee intimated that Scott and CFO Jimmy Patronis weren’t behind his bill when it was in committee last week, pointing to Altmaier’s presence as evidence.
Tampa tweens take home Champion of Service Award
During a Wednesday Cabinet meeting, Gov. Scott and Volunteer Florida presented a Champion of Service Award to 12-year-olds Chase Hartman and Vance Tomasi.
The duo from Tampa founded read. repeat.,” an organization that collects gently used books from companies and individuals and distributes them to those in need. So far, they have collected more than 40,000 books and given more than 13,000 of them to public schools with high poverty rates.
“At such a young age, Chase and Vance have devoted their time to giving back and making a difference in their community. Their incredible work to deliver books to students across the state makes them worthy recipients of the Champion of Service Award today.”
Volunteer Florida CEO Vivian Myrtetus said it was “inspiring to see their commitment and dedication to helping others at only 12 years old.”
Legislature passes generator rule sans funding
A bill that would make Gov. Scott’s executive order requiring assisted living facilities to have power generators cleared the Legislature Friday, but it doesn’t carry an appropriation to help such facilities pay for upgrades.
Scott handed down the rule in the wake of a prolonged power outage at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills led to more than a dozen heat-related deaths after Hurricane Irma.
The rule would require such facilities to have 96 hours of emergency generator capacity to make it through power outages.
Lawmakers were never planning to cover the whole cost of the measure — experts estimate it will cost $280 million — but there were talks in the Senate of some funds to help smaller facilities make the change without a large capital outlay.
But that plan was not favored by the House, which passed SB 7028 with a 108-1 vote Friday.
Lawmakers back bill to incorporate Hobe Sound
The Legislature passed a bill this week to incorporate Martin County community Hobe Sound as a town.
HB 395 cleared the Senate with a unanimous vote Thursday and is now ready for a signature from Gov. Scott. If approved the residents of Hobe Sound would vote on whether or not to incorporate.
“This legislation includes the opportunity for the citizens of Hobe Sound to vote on whether or not they would like for their town to become incorporated,” said Senate President Negron, a native of Hobe Sound. “The people of this community have waited years for this legislation, and I am pleased to see it earn the favorable support of both the House and Senate, and move to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.”
The U.S. Census includes Hobe Sound in the Port St. Lucie Metropolitan Statistical Area and estimated the community had 11,521 residents in 2010.
Sexual assault victims bring shoes to Capitol
Hundreds of shoes were on display in the Capitol Monday, and each pair carried a message to lawmakers from survivors of sexual assault.
Pairs came in from women, men and children aging in range from 3 to 89. The event was coordinated by Lauren’s Kids and the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence.
The rotunda display was part of the annual “Walk in My Shoes” events hosted around the state by Lauren’s Kids, a charity started by South Florida Sen. Lauren Book.
The first of 15 planned walks all over Florida this month was held in Panama City Friday. A listing of the other walks is available online.
Identity theft bill gets NFIB stamp of approval
The National Federation of Independent Businesses cheered lawmakers for passing a bill that would alert business owners whenever their corporate filing information is changed and allow them to fix incorrect changes free of charge.
“NFIB applauds the passage of HB 661, which will protect small-business owners from becoming the victims of fraud,” said NFIB Florida director Bill Herrle.
“This bill requires the Division of Corporations to notify business owners when changes have been made to their corporate filings without their knowledge or approval. This will provide significant protections for small-business owners against fraudulent activities and will go a long way toward thwarting the rising problem of business identify theft.”
HB 661, sponsored by Orlando Republican Rep. Mike Miller, cleared the House with a unanimous vote and was approved by the Senate Tuesday.
Bill amendment sparks giggles
One of the more entertaining amendments of the 2018 Legislative Session was introduced last week, courtesy of St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes.
The one-line amendment to SB 1042 reads: “Where are you? Name everyone you know in the room with you.”
No, the bill is not about narcs, confidential informants or anything of the like. And no, even though this amendment came from Brandes, an unabashed technophile, it has nothing to do with his proposed regulations keeping Alexa or Siri from being creepy.
The amendment — which was approved — belongs to SB 1042, Brandes’ bill regulating online notaries public. It’s one of seven essential questions a notary would have to ask a customer when witnessing an electronic signature.
A couple of the others, which would be equally appropriate to ask before someone gets a tattoo or a marriage license: Are you of sound mind? Are you under the influence of any drugs or alcohol that impairs your ability to make decisions?
Registration open for 2018 Insurance Summit
Registration is now open for the 2018 Florida Chamber Insurance, set for Nov. 27 through Nov. 29 at the JW Marriott in Miami.
A ticket to attend the summit costs $325 for members of the Florida Chamber, while non-members can pick one up for $375.
The annual event features speakers from top companies in the insurance industry as well as question and answer panels on the most pressing insurance issues faced by the Sunshine State.
The Florida Chamber also said sponsorship opportunities for the 2018 summit are still available.
[Ed. Note — This story, first posted Thursday, was updated Friday.]
Lawmakers on Thursday included a provision to withhold more than $1.9 million in Department of Health salaries and benefits in the final 2018-19 state budget until regulators fully implement medical marijuana.
The full budget was released midday Thursday, to be voted on Sunday. The money will be “held in reserve,” with its release “contingent upon implementation,” the language says.
That means “solely and exclusively by adopting all rules required by statute and any other rules necessary to implement this constitutional provision.”
House Republican JasonBrodeur of Sanford, who first submitted the budget provision, on Friday clarified that the withheld pay applies to the department’s “executive direction entity.”
He defined that as including Health Secretary and state Surgeon General CelestePhilip, her chief of staff, legislative affairs director, and the Office of Medical Marijuana Use, including its director, ChristianBax.
The withheld pay is effective July 1, the start of the next fiscal year, but “wouldn’t have an impact until later in the year so it won’t cripple them right away,” Brodeur said.
“The (budget’s) implementing bill also provides some language to assist them in meeting that contingency so they can implement the will of the legislature more timely,” he added.
The budget would still be subject to line-item vetoes by Gov. RickScott, to whom the Health Department reports.
Lawmakers have long been irritated over the department’s delay in implementing medical marijuana under a 2016 constitutional amendment that voters passed by 71 percent.
They later approved and Scott signed an implementing bill, which gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.
Brodeur and other legislators, including Republican Sen. DanaYoung of Tampa, have been peeved over a backlog of applications for marijuana growing and dispensing licenses, and for state-issued patient ID cards, among other things.
Moreover, the Joint Administrative Procedures Committee, which ensures that agencies write rules that line up with statutes, has sent at least 17 individual objections to the department over medical cannabis regulation.
They range from the department’s issuing “contingent licenses” and requiring the submission of a $60,830 nonrefundable application fee, to its listing more than 40 distinct operations violations “with no standards or guidance … , thereby vesting unbridled discretion in the Department.”
Bax has told lawmakers of recent progress, however.
That includes regulations on advertising and signage, edible products, and addressing the use of “solvents and gases” used in marijuana processing that could be toxic to humans. And he has said the department has inspected over 100 medical marijuana treatment centers, some “multiple times.”
Bax also told legislators that a deluge of lawsuits and administrative challenges, most over denied licenses, was slowing down the works.
But at a committee meeting last October, Young shot back, “I’m not buying it that because there’s litigation out there you can’t fulfill your statutory duty to issue these licenses.”
Updated — The following statement in response to this post was sent by Health Department spokeswoman Mara Gambineri:
“We are appreciative of the Legislature for exempting the department from the ratification requirement, which posed a barrier to expeditious implementation of rules – specifically the department’s ability to accept applications for new Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers (MMTCs). As stated in the department’s letter to JAPC, we plan to move forward with accepting applications for new MMTCs this spring.
“In addition, the department has initiated rulemaking for 11 rules and next week are hosting two public rule workshops focusing on the standards for the production of edibles and dosing for both low-THC cannabis and medical marijuana. Additional public workshops have been scheduled in March and April.
“The department has put substantial effort into streamlining the Medical Marijuana Use Registry Identification Card program. Yesterday, we announced that we’ve further streamlined the application process for OMMU Registry Identification Cards through the deployment of online payments.
“This comes on the heels of completing the integration of photos from the Department of Highway Safety’s system. To date, there are more than 83,000 patients registered in the OMMU Registry with access to 29 dispensing locations and statewide delivery of low-THC cannabis and medical marijuana.
“The department has made – and will continue to make – significant progress in the implementation of Amendment 2 and section 381.986 Florida Statutes, despite the special interests involved in this new industry.”