Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 6 of 106 - Florida Politics

Judge will decide on lifting ‘stay’ in smokable marijuana case

A Tallahassee judge on Monday did not immediately rule on whether to immediately make effective her ruling to allow patients to smoke medical marijuana in Florida. 

After a nearly hourlong hearing, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers said she’d take the plaintiffs’ request “under advisement” but added she would make a decision “as quickly as possible.”

Gievers also asked plaintiffs’ attorney Jon Mills if his clients would object to holding off for a short time before she lifted a ‘stay‘ on the decision. Mills said OK to a week’s delay.

His clients include Cathy Jordan, a woman with Lou Gehrig’s disease who had testified she wouldn’t be alive but for smoking marijuana.

The judge on May 25 overturned part of a law passed last year by the Legislature that prohibited patients with “qualifying medical conditions” from smoking medicinal cannabis.

She had agreed with the argument that the amendment “recognizes there is no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places.”

“It seems the constitutional argument is clear,” Mills told Gievers. “It’s simply not possible for a statute (and thus, legislators) to substitute its judgment for that of the constitution.”

Assistant Attorney General Karen Brodeen countered that there is no way now to get medical marijuana for smoking, and even if legal it would have to subject to rulemaking, “which could take several months.”

In other words, even if the stay was lifted, smokable medical marijuana wouldn’t be “immediately” available.

A state law, known as an “implementing statute,” aimed to carry out the 2016 constitutional amendment that legalized marijuana for a wide range of patients. Lawmakers, however, banned smoking. That quickly drew a legal challenge organized by Orlando attorney John Morgan.

He bankrolled the amendment and put together what he calls the ‘no smoke is a joke’ lawsuit. Morgan called on Gov. Rick Scott last week to drop the appeal. Morgan did not attend Monday’s hearing.

The Florida Department of Health, which regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, appealed Gievers’ ruling on allowing smokable marijuana, which led to an automatic stay of her ruling. The plaintiffs then filed a motion seeking to vacate the stay.

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Background contributed by The News Service of Florida. 

Lawyer with lupus sues Health Department for discrimination

A black attorney who has lupus is suing the state’s Department of Health for race and disability discrimination, saying she was wrongly forced to quit.

Sharmin Hibbert, 36, filed her lawsuit in Leon County Circuit Civil court on Thursday, court records show, seeking her rehiring.

Among other things, Hibbert said her supervisor—current General Counsel Nichole Geary—“reprimanded (her) for not walking to (Geary’s) office” to let her know she was not going to a meeting because of pain from a broken ankle, the suit says.  

Hibbert’s complaint says she started with the department in January 2009 and was promoted twice, reaching the position of Deputy General Counsel in 2015.

That’s also when Gov. Rick Scott hired Geary, who is white, the suit says. She soon “began to create a hostile work environment” for Hibbert, including criticisms about “failure within (her) unit” and not turning in timesheets.  

Hibbert also said she continued to work—including from home while on sick leave—through several injuries, such as the broken ankle, a broken nose and other complications from lupus, an autoimmune disease that causes the body to attack its own tissues and organs. It often causes debilitating inflammation.

Hibbert said she was “constructively terminated” in April 2016, having “resigned under duress,” her suit says.

She claims having suffered “significant emotional duress” while she worked for Geary, and then “severe depression” since leaving the department. Hibbert also says she’s had “significant financial loss” because of difficulty finding further employment.

A spokesman on Friday said the Health Department “will review the lawsuit.

Hibbert is represented by Tallahassee employment-law attorney Marie Mattox, known for suing state agencies for discrimination and retaliation cases.  

Flags at half-staff for John Morroni

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered flags at half-staff to honor the late John Morroni, a former House member from Pinellas County. Morroni died Sunday.

He represented House District 50, which covered parts of Pinellas County, from 1992 to 2000.

Morroni spent the last 18 years on the Pinellas County Commission, serving as chairman in 2005, 2012, and 2015.

“As a symbol of respect for the memory of former state Rep. Morroni, and his service to Florida, I hereby direct the flags of the United States and the State of Florida to be flown at half-staff at the Pinellas County Courthouse and County Administration Building in Clearwater, the City Hall of Treasure Island, and at the State Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset (on) Friday, June 1,” Scott said in a statement. 

Joe Henderson: State’s medical marijuana fight is past point of silly

At some point maybe 10 or 20 years from now, the contortions used by the state of Florida to stall the use of medical marijuana will probably seem pretty silly.

Eventually, the drug 72 percent of voters approved for use by people suffering such hideous diseases as HIV, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) will be loosened from political reefer madness.

Those suffering from terminal diseases or just chronic pain will be able to smoke it, or even inhale!

That goes for the federal government too, which still bans marijuana use for even medical treatments.

Thanks to some political parlor tricks in May 2017, medical marijuana is available only in processed forms like oil or edible.

Opponents, probably hearkening back to the days when they didn’t get invited to the cool parties back in college, attached a ban on smoking medicinal weed.

Why?

Because the Florida Legislature often doesn’t give a rat’s patootie what voters really want.

That’s still happening, by the way.

After Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers last week lifted that absurd ban, correctly calling it unconstitutional, Gov. Rick Scott quickly announced the state would appeal.

That opened the door for Orlando high-powered attorney and foremost MM advocate John Morgan to call on Scott to stop the madness.

“Rick this type of meanness will COST you the US Senate seat,” Morgan tweeted.

And for emphasis, he added, “Don’t be like the others. Grow some brass ones!!”

It shouldn’t take brass ones to deal fairly with this. After all, the soon-to-be-former Governor and U.S. Senator-wannabe be would be siding with 72 percent of voters.

I’m betting that when most of those folks voted yes on the medical marijuana amendment, they did so with the expectation that users in dire need of relief would be smoking the weed, which is said to be the most efficient way to obtain relief.

At some point, all this begs the question: Whose side is the Governor on?

The Legislature has done some pretty snarky things over the years, but this was essentially an upraised middle finger on an issue that should be about compassion.

I had an aunt die of Parkinson’s years before medical marijuana became a thing.

Ever seen somebody with that disease?

One of the last times I spoke with her, I could barely make out her words, but I sure understood the desperation in her voice. She was begging for something, anything, to help.

What would the Governor have said to her?

Sorry lady, but smoking medical marijuana might be bad for your health?

My grandmother died the most painful way you can imagine, her fingers curled up from rheumatoid arthritis. Every part of her body was in agony. She was begging for death to come.

Pain is always somebody’s problem until you personally experience the real thing.

We’ve seen the crisis in this state and nation from opioid addiction. It’s legal to prescribe potent painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin, and they work well; oh yeah, they work. But they carry a horrible risk of addiction that can kill.

Would smoking medicinal weed be worse than that?

This is past the point of silly.

There is a time to stop being a politician and start being human.

I think we’re there.

John Morgan calls on Rick Scott to drop medical marijuana appeal

Saying “this madness has to end,” Orlando attorney John Morgan called on Gov. Rick Scott to drop the hastily-filed appeal of a decision allowing medical marijuana to be smoked in Florida.

Morgan spoke at a Tuesday news conference that was streamed live on Facebook.

In a 22-page order released Friday, Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers said that the ban on smoking is “invalid because it conflicts” with the constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis approved by statewide voters in 2016.

Gievers agreed with the argument that the amendment “recognizes there is no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places.”

The state filed a notice of appeal within minutes of the decision’s release. 

“How much more money is the state of Florida going to spend chasing (its) tail?” Morgan said. He backed the amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters, and filed the lawsuit against the ban. 

” … I really believe that Gov. Scott is playing with political wildfire for something that he does not have to do.” The term-limited Naples Republican now is trying to unseat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson

Scott is “going to have to explain to veterans and really sick people and people who have really bad injuries why (he) kept this (case) going,” Morgan said. ” … Rick Scott is the boss and the buck stops there, with the man wearing the Navy hat.”

The state regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use, under the Department of Health, the named defendant in the case. It reports to Scott.

Last year, lawmakers approved and Scott signed into law an implementing bill for the amendment that does not allow marijuana to be smoked. It does allow edibles, oils and ‘vaping,’ among other uses.

That statute now must be “stricken,” Gievers said, as “unconstitutionally inconsistent.”

“Anybody that gets upset if he decided to drop this appeal, they’re not going to vote against him,” Morgan said. ” … I believe Gov. Scott has a political chance to make a huge dent … Imagine the headlines tomorrow: ‘Great Scott: Gov. Scott drops medical marijuana appeal.’ I think he gains five points overnight.”

Assuming the governor presses forward, “the fight goes on,” Morgan said. “They did not count on a person like me. Thank God I have the resources … Thank God I hate to lose.”

Judge strikes down ban on smoking medical marijuana

Quoting George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, a Florida judge has ruled that the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana is unconstitutional.

In a 22-page order released Friday, Circuit Judge Karen Gievers said that the ban on smoking is “invalid because it conflicts” with the constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis approved by statewide voters in 2016. A one-day trial was held last Wednesday. 

The ban “prohibits a use of medical marijuana that is permitted by the amendment: smoking in private,” she wrote. The suit is against the Department of Health, which regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use.

Health Department spokesman Devin Galetta said the agency will appeal the ruling, which will put an automatic delay on its effect. 

“This ruling goes against what the Legislature outlined when they wrote and approved Florida’s law to implement the constitutional amendment that was approved by an overwhelmingly bipartisan majority,” he said in an email.

The amendment, passed by 71 percent of voters, was spearheaded by Orlando attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan, who filed the lawsuit against the ban. 

“When I start something I finish it. Truth prevails!! The voters will be done!! #BELIEVE #ForThePeople #NoSmokeIsAJoke,” he tweeted Friday. 

Gievers agreed with argument from plaintiff’s counsel Jon Mills that the amendment “recognizes there is no right to smoke in public places, thereby implicitly recognizing the appropriateness of using smokable medical marijuana in private places.”

In an email to Florida Politics, Morgan called the decision “a huge win for Floridians.” He sat at counsel’s table but did not participate in last week’s trial.

“I hope and pray that Gov. (Rick) Scott and (Attorney General) Pam Bondi don’t appeal this win for the people,” he added. “I think this could be a major issue in the U.S. Senate race. It has all drug out long enough.

“…Let the people find compassionate care while they recover and also while they die in dignity,” Morgan said. Representatives for Scott and Bondi were not available Friday evening.

But Kim Rivers, CEO of Florida medical marijuana provider Trulieve, late Friday said her company “stands ready to provide Florida patients (with) full flower cannabis” that can be smoked: “We look forward to guidance from the Department of Health on next steps to approve this next form of medicine for patients.

*                    *                    *

Gievers began by quoting Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address that people have the right to “make and alter” their constitutions, which are “sacredly obligatory upon all.” She added a line from Jefferson that written constitutions should be not be made “blank paper(s) by construction.”

The Legislature’s ability to pass laws is not “unfettered,” the judge wrote, in that lawmakers can’t “overrule or ignore the ‘sacred obligation’ referred to by President Washington.”

“Just as no person is above the law, the Legislature must heed the constitutional rights Floridians placed in the Constitution in 2016,” Gievers wrote.

The judge noted that “no legislation is needed to implement the Amendment,” but that if lawmakers chose to pass laws related to it, those acts must be “consistent with” the amendment.

Because the amendment doesn’t require the “accommodation” of smoking marijuana in public, Gievers reasoned – as did Morgan and Mills – that “the ability to smoke medical marijuana was implied in this language and is therefore a protected right,” the order says.

Last year, lawmakers approved and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law an implementing bill for the amendment that does not allow marijuana to be smoked. House Republican Leader Ray Rodrigues of Estero, who sponsored the measure, has said “we don’t believe you smoke medicine.” Edibles and “vaping” are permitted, however. Rodrigues couldn’t be reached.

That statute now must be “stricken,” Gievers said, as “unconstitutionally inconsistent.”

Gievers also called “compelling” testimony from plaintiff Cathy Jordan, a Manatee County woman who has Lou Gehrig’s disease, uses a wheelchair and struggles to speak. She testified at trial that she’s been smoking marijuana since the late 1980s: “I figured, ‘what the heck, what’s it gonna do, kill me?’ “

“Qualifying patients,” including Jordan, “have the right to use the form of medical marijuana for treatment of their debilitating medical conditions as recommended by their physicians, including the use of smokable marijuana in private places,” the judge wrote.

Gievers, elected to the circuit bench in 2010 from private practice, also recently ruled in favor of Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner, whose lung cancer is in remission. He sued to be able to grow his own marijuana to make juice of it. The state is now appealing that ruling. 

Flags at half-staff to honor Daytona Beach police officer

Flags will fly at half-staff on Friday to honor a Daytona Beach police officer who died following a training exercise.

Thomas Coulter, 25, had been with the Daytona Beach Police Department for only one week.

He “suffered a heart attack while conducting physical training in front of Police Department headquarters” last Friday, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Coulter

“He was participating in a team job with other newly hired police officers when he began to feel ill and collapsed,” he site said. “He was transported to a local hospital where his condition worsened.” He died Monday.

To honor Coulter, Gov. Rick Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags at half-staff at the Volusia County Courthouse Annex in Daytona Beach, Daytona Beach City Hall, the Daytona Beach Police Department, and the Capitol in Tallahassee from sunrise to sunset on Friday.

New equipment should boost Lottery revenues, agency says

The Florida Lottery projects an increase in sales from new vending machines and other equipment provided through a new multi-million dollar agency contract.

Lottery representatives on Wednesday presented to the state’s Revenue Estimating Impact Conference, a roundtable of state economists. Lawmakers use their projections to craft the state budget each Legislative Session.

Details on the actual numbers should be available later Wednesday.

Agency officials said it was negotiating a deal with a “big-box retailer,” which it didn’t name, to sell even more Lottery tickets in the state.

That’s part of a push to increase the number of places where people can buy Lottery products, which now stands at 13,000 retailers and has been “stagnant” in recent years.

Lottery proceeds go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which helps pay for public education.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran had sued the Lottery last year, saying the Lottery was guilty of “wasteful and improper spending” and “signing a contract that spends beyond existing budget limitations.”

The contract is for new retailer terminals, in-store signage, self-service lottery vending machines, self-service ticket checkers and an upgraded communications network.

He won and the Lottery appealed. In December, the Lottery agreed to tweak the deal to require legislative oversight and approval. The appeal was later dropped.

The Lottery, which reports to Gov. Rick Scott, disclosed changes in what was originally a contract worth $700 million over an initial 10-year period, with three available 3-year renewal options.

Among others, the changes include reducing the number of “full-service vending machines” and requiring the vendor, International Game Technology (IGT), to “support the Lottery’s marketing efforts” by kicking back $30,000 a month.

Flags at half-staff for JSO officer killed in wreck

Gov. Rick Scott has ordered flags at half-staff to honor Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Police Officer Lance C. Whitaker, a 17-year veteran.

Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, City Hall in Jacksonville, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in Jacksonville, and the Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Wednesday. 

Whitaker, 48, “was killed in a single-vehicle crash on northbound I-295, near Alta Drive, at approximately 4:30 a.m.” last Tuesday, May 15, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page. “He was responding to another accident scene on the interstate when his vehicle left the roadway and struck a tree.”

“My wife Ann and I are heartbroken by the loss of Officer Lance C. Whitaker,” Scott said in a statement. “I spoke with Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams to express our condolences to him and everyone at the Sheriff’s Office.

“Everyday our brave men and women in law enforcement risk their lives to keep our communities safe and we must demonstrate our gratitude for their sacrifices. I ask every Floridian to join us in praying for Officer Whitaker’s family during this incredibly difficult time.”

Whitaker’s funeral service is today (Wednesday) at 11 a.m., Evangel Temple, 5755 Ramona Blvd., Jacksonville. A graveside service will immediately follow at Oaklawn Cemetery, 4801 San Jose Blvd., Jacksonville. A police vehicle procession will take place between the church service and graveside service.

Bill Nelson blasts government of Florida for not expanding Medicaid

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on Tuesday blasted “the government of my state, the state of Florida,” for not expanding Medicaid, during a speech on the Senate floor.

Nelson did not name names beyond that, but his reference to the government could be directed at his opponent in this year’s U.S. Senate election, Gov. Rick Scott, who once, briefly, supported the federal offer to expand Medicaid in Florida under the Affordable Care Act, then backed down, and then turned against it.

In 2015 Florida rejected the offer that would have provided billions of dollars to Florida on a matching and sliding scale, to cover an estimated 800,000 residents who make too much money to qualify for existing Medicaid programs and not enough to afford insurance.

“There’s almost $5 billion a year that is sitting on the shelf,” Nelson said, “that is Florida taxpayer money that is going elsewhere.

“In my state of Florida, that is 800,000 people, almost a million people, poor people, disabled folks that would be getting health care,” Nelson continued. “What do they do? They end up going to the emergency room.”

Nelson’s blast came in a friendly exchange with U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, the Alabama Democrat elected last fall in a special election, who began by criticizing his own state’s refusal to accept the Medicaid expansion.

Nationally, 18 states including Florida and Alabama turned down the federal expansion program authorized through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Kerri Wyland, spokeswoman for Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign, responded, “If Bill Nelson is truly concerned about healthcare services for Floridians, he should propose real solutions instead of campaigning from the Senate floor.”

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