Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 6 of 109 - Florida Politics

Judicial candidate filed campaign paperwork too late, appeals court says

A state appeals court has blocked Clay County judicial candidate Lucy Ann Hoover from appearing on the ballot because she filed her paperwork too late.

“We recognize that the public policy of Florida generally favors letting the people decide the ultimate qualifications of candidates,” the 1st District Court of Appeal concluded Wednesday, in an opinion by Judge T. Kent Wetherell II. Judges Ross L. Bilbrey and M. Kemmerly Thomas concurred.

“However, absent special circumstances, public policy considerations cannot override the clear and unambiguous statutory requirement that all of the candidate’s qualifying paperwork must be received by the filing officer by the end of the qualifying period.”

The court upheld a trial judge in the 7th Judicial Circuit, who heard the case because it originated with a motion filed by incumbent Clay County Judge Kristina Mobley. Gov. Rick Scott placed her on the bench in 2015.

Record show Hoover arrived at the county supervisor of elections office at 11:55 a.m. on May 4, just shy of the noon deadline. She filed her qualifying check at 11:57, but her candidate oath came in at 12:01 and her financial disclosure form at 12:12.

The office accepted the late documents, and certified Hoover as a candidate, under a policy of requiring only that prospective candidates be physically present and filling out their paperwork before the deadline falls.

Mobley then went to court to have Hoover’s name stripped from the ballot.

Hoover, a visiting professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of North Florida, cited a 1st DCA precedent allowing a legislative candidate to appear on the ballot under a similar policy maintained by Florida’s secretary of state.

But that was because an aide to the candidate was misdirected inside a crowded and confused elections office, Wetherell wrote, and had the paperwork completed and ready to file. By contrast, Hoover was the only candidate inside the local supervisor’s office.

“Here, there were no special circumstances that would excuse Hoover’s failure to meet the qualifying deadline, but rather … this is simply a case of a prospective candidate missing the qualifying deadline because she waited until too late to complete the necessary paperwork,” the opinion says.

State seeks to uphold ban on smoking medical cannabis

Pointing in part to smoking-related health effects, Attorney General Pam Bondis office on Friday filed a 57-page brief arguing that an appeals court should uphold a decision by the Legislature to ban smoking medical marijuana.

The brief, filed at the 1st District Court of Appeal, came as the state challenges a May ruling by Tallahassee Circuit Judge Karen Gievers, who said the smoking ban violates a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

The Legislature in 2017 passed a law to carry out the constitutional amendment and included the smoking ban.

Prominent Orlando lawyer John Morgan, who heavily bankrolled the constitutional amendment, filed a lawsuit last year challenging the smoking ban. Bondi’s office Friday filed an initial brief in its attempt to overturn Gievers’ ruling.

The brief raised a series of issues, including arguing that the Legislature “considered important health and safety factors” when deciding to ban smoking.

“Notably, the Legislature considered evidence of the health hazards of smoking and concluded that smoking marijuana constitutes a harmful delivery method,” the brief said. “Time and again during debate, elected members of Florida’s Legislature emphasized that the amendment is exclusively about medicine, and that smoking is antithetical to good medicine.

“In considering these health-related factors, the Legislature reasonably determined that the harms caused by smoking — including harms to patients and those exposed to secondhand smoke — were ample reason to exclude smoking from the statutory definition of ‘medical use.’

“The Legislature therefore acted under its general authority to regulate public health, safety, and welfare when it drew a reasonable line between the smoking of medical marijuana, and other delivery methods.”

But in her May ruling, Gievers found that language in 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 consistent with the amendment.”

The “ability to smoke medical marijuana was implied” in the constitutional language “and is therefore a protected right,” Gievers wrote.

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Republished with permission of The News Service of Florida. 

Flags at half-staff for Fort Myers officer

Gov. Rick Scott ordered flags at half-staff for Officer Adam Jobbers-Miller, late of the Fort Myers Police Department.

Jobbers-Miller, a three-year veteran of the force, was killed in the line of duty on Saturday, July 28.

Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Lee County Courthouse in Fort Myers, Fort Myers City Hall, the Fort Myers Police Department and the Capitol in Tallahassee from sunrise to sunset next Monday.

“Our hearts are heavy to learn of the passing of Officer Jobbers-Miller,” Scott said in a statement.

“Police officers like Adam Jobbers-Miller put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe. My wife Ann and I are praying for his family and everyone in the entire Lee County law enforcement community.”

Personnel note: Mark Kruse named Rick Scott’s new Legislative Affairs Director

Mark Kruse has been elevated from Policy Coordinator to Legislative Affairs Director for Gov. Rick Scott, replacing Kevin Reilly.

As Legislative Affairs Director, he will be Scott’s chief liaison to lawmakers as the term-limited governor prepares to leave office in January.

“Kevin Reilly was instrumental in so many of Gov. Scott’s outstanding legislative achievements over the past two sessions and the governor appreciates his service,” Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis said.

“Mark Kruse has been on our team since 2012 and he will continue to serve the families of our state in his new role.”

As Policy Coordinator in the Tourism and Economic Development Unit of the Governor’s Office of Policy & Budget, Kruse advised Scott on issues related to the Department of Economic Opportunity, Enterprise Florida, VISIT FLORIDA, Space Florida, CareerSource Florida, and the Department of Transportation, according to his LinkedIn page.

Before that, Kruse was an attorney for the Florida House of Representatives and also was a lawyer and lobbyist in private practice.

He graduated from American University with a degree in International Affairs, and later got a law degree from Florida State University. He was admitted to practice law in Florida in 1999, The Florida Bar records show.

Andrew Gillum: Rick Scott should suspend ‘Stand Your Ground’ law

Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for governor Andrew Gillum Monday called on Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency and suspend the state’s “stand your ground” law by executive order.

In a news conference in Tallahassee, Gillum said the law has become an “opportunity for vigilantes to agitate conflict” from behind the legal shield of the self-defense provision.

The July 19 shooting of Markeis McGlockton in Clearwater has sparked another debate over the controversial measure. The stand your ground law, enacted in 2005, allows people who are attacked to counter deadly force with deadly force in self-defense without any requirement that they flee.

As Jacob Sullum of Reason explained in a Monday blog post, “Michael Drejka told police he shot McGlockton, who had just shoved him to the pavement in the parking lot of a convenience store in Clearwater, because he was afraid (McGlockton) was bent on continuing the attack.”

A spokesman for Scott later Monday said the governor “expects that every Florida law be enforced and applied fairly by law enforcement and state attorneys, who are elected by Floridians.”

Indeed, “several prominent Florida Republicans have criticized Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri‘s misrepresentation of (the) law, (saying) Gualtieri was simply wrong when he claimed the standard for using lethal force is ‘largely subjective,’ ” Sullum also wrote Monday.

Gualtieri declined to pursue a case against Drejka.

“If the Legislature wants to make any changes to clarify Florida’s laws next Legislative Session, they can do so,” added Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis in an email.

That’s not good enough for Gillum, who wants action now: “I don’t believe that ‘stand your ground’ has a place in civilized society,” he said.

Gillum pointed out that surveillance video of the incident, “which began with a dispute over a handicapped parking spot, shows McGlockton backing away when Drejka draws his pistol,” as Sullum put it.

Gillum said if elected governor he would press to repeal the ‘stand your ground’ law “so that no more life is senselessly lost, particularly among people of color.”

McGlockton, 28, is black; Drejka, 47, is white, and has a concealed carry permit.

A Periscope video of Gillum’s remarks are below.

Christian Bax quits as state’s top medical marijuana regulator

Christian Bax, director of Florida’s Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU), has stepped down after a controversial three-year tenure that frustrated patients, angered lawmakers, and witnessed an explosion in litigation.

His resignation is effective Aug. 10. Deputy director Courtney Coppola will serve as interim director, Department of Health spokesman Devin Galleta said Friday.

Bax’s resignation letter, released later Friday (see below), did not reveal his future plans.

News of Bax’s departure stoked an angry denunciation from Tampa strip club owner Joe Redner. In April, he won a court battle, only to be appealed by the state, allowing him to grow and make juice of his own marijuana to keep his lung cancer in remission.

“If they worked for me, I would have fired them in a minute,” Redner said, referring to Bax and Coppola. “They have no idea how a free market works … We can only hope the next governor believes in the fee market and not in cartels who gain marijuana monopolies.”

The state’s system of licensing scheme of cannabis providers, known as medical marijuana treatment centers (MMTCs), has resulted in a stream of legal and administrative challenges.

At least 11 are still pending, though some relate to matters other than licensing, including Orlando attorney John Morgan‘s constitutional challenge of the state’s ban on smoking medicinal cannabis. Plaintiffs backed by Morgan won, and that case too is now under appeal.

Morgan bankrolled the 2016 state constitutional amendment allowing medicinal cannabis, passed by a little more than 71 percent of voters as a ballot question. And Morgan leveled heavy criticism of Bax.

“He was so inept that it had to be intentional. Anyone would be better and more capable,” Morgan said. “He was to health care in Florida what Barney Fife was to law enforcement. This is a great day for the sick and injured in Florida.”

Ben Pollara, campaign manager for Amendment 2’s political committee, said it was “a shame it’s taken this long” for Bax to leave. “

“His tenure has been marked by repeated failures to meet the needs of patients throughout Florida. I sincerely hope the office’s new leadership will learn from those mistakes and act quickly to get Florida’s medical marijuana program fully functional,” said Pollara.

Bax also faced reports he “had little experience when he won a high-profile job that state officials refused to publicly advertise,” relying on his family connections with Gov. Rick Scott, including father James Bax, described as “a wealthy, wired Tallahassee insider.”

Gary Stein, a medical marijuana historian and advocate, acknowledged that Bax “had a Herculean task, made infinitely harder by his lack of experience and probable pressure from above.”

The system “created for him to manage had a flawed application process that forced him to spend far too much time in litigation and far less time in the mandated tasks of regulation and rule-making,” said Stein, a former employee of the Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“I was very critical of him because of the high importance of his position and the great needs of hundreds of thousands of patients that relied on the efficiency of his department for critical access to medicine.

“There was no room for the kind of errors and snail’s pace of the OMMU that occurred,” Stein added. “I wish him well, but he didn’t belong there, and he didn’t get the support that he needed … Rather than giving him more infrastructure, they gave him more lawyers.”

But Dr. Jeffrey Sharkey, founder and head of the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, said he “always had a very productive working relationship with Mr. Bax.”

“… It is not surprising that he and his office have faced a lot of challenges over the last two years in trying to implement a brand new, highly regulated, fast-growing and dynamic medical cannabis industry in one of the largest states in the country, with all of its diverse players, politics and pressures,” Sharkey said.

“To his credit, he managed it professionally and the young industry is in better shape for his efforts. We wish him well.”

Patty Nelson, Bax’s predecessor and now an industry consultant, said the post is one that will draw criticism and scrutiny.

“There’s no denying it’s a hard job. It sometimes feels like an impossible job,” she said. “And you face critics from every direction, which makes it difficult to navigate.”

Coppola, Bax’s successor, began in state government as a 2013 member of the Gubernatorial Fellows Program, working for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation when she was a graduate student at Florida State University.

Kim Rivers, CEO of medical marijuana provider Trulieve, said in a statement Coppola “has a deep working understanding of the medical marijuana program in Florida, and we do not anticipate any issues or interruptions during the transition.”

Coppola appeared before lawmakers earlier this month to ask a special budget panel for another $13 million for operating costs. Legislators have been vexed over the slow-going of the office, including delays in issuing medicinal cannabis patient identification cards, though they granted the request.

They finally pushed back earlier this year when they included a provision from House Republican Jason Brodeur in the 2018-19 budget to withhold more than $1.9 million in Department of Health salaries and benefits until regulators fully implement medical marijuana.

“I can only add to the chorus of voices hoping the office will get going on the rule-making, in accordance with the clear direction given from the Legislature, to ensure people appropriately have access to the drug,” Brodeur said Friday in a text message.

One detail that troubled some lawmakers: $1.5 million of the extra money requested will go to outside lawyers hired by the office to represent it in ongoing litigation.

“Let’s stop wasting taxpayer dollars” on suits the state shouldn’t be appealing, House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz told Coppola. “Please start taking this seriously,” she added, calling the office’s actions part “intentional ineptitude” and part “simple sabotage.”

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Joe Henderson: Judge rules for college voting rights over incumbent privilege

Voting in Florida is a right, not a privilege.

And since life today doesn’t run at the same pace as it did back when Ozzie met Harriett (look it up, kids), the government should make it as easy as possible for citizens to exercise that right.

So yes, it was, as League of Women Voters of Florida President Patricia Brigham noted in the following statement: “ … truly a victory for the citizens of Florida” Tuesday when U.S. District Judge Mark Walker granted a preliminary injunction against the state’s prohibition on early voting at college and university campuses.

Why would the state try to prohibit early voting in such locations?

Oh, let’s take a wild guess.

College students generally skew toward more progressive ideas and candidates.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who needs every vote he can get to unseat Democrat Bill Nelson in the race for the U.S. Senate, is not progressive.

Republican gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Adam Putnam are not progressive.

Ergo, logic. 101 would tell us that Republican candidates will lose votes if students can cast early ballots at the place where they go to school and spend most of their time.

It’s not always easy for them to track down a regular polling place, so that’s where the GOP made its stand.

Tacky.

As the judge noted in his ruling, “This Court can conceive of fewer ham-handed efforts to abridge the youth vote than Defendant’s affirmative prohibition of on-campus early voting.”

The hammy hand began its subterfuge in 2014 when Secretary of State Ken Detzner ruled that a building the University of Florida planned to use as an early-voting site didn’t meet guidelines to qualify as a polling place. That led to what Walker called “a stark pattern of discrimination” designed to suppress on-campus voting.

If the injunction becomes permanent, it has the potential to tip statewide elections. Scott twice won the Governor’s race by about 1 percent.

“Across Florida, more than 1.1 million young men and women were enrolled in institutions of higher learning in 2016; nearly 830,000 were enrolled at public colleges or universities,” Walker wrote.

“Almost 107,000 staff members worked at these public institutions. Put another way, the number of people who live and work on Florida’s public college and university campuses is greater than the population of Jacksonville, Florida — or the populations of North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Vermont, Wyoming, and the District of Columbia.”

Trying to hold down the turnout from voters likely to support the other candidate is becoming a pattern for Tallahassee Republicans.

In 2011, for instance, Republicans cut the number of early voting days in the state from 14 to eight and eliminated the option of casting a ballot on the final Sunday before Election Day. Black voters were particularly affected because that final Sunday has become known as “Souls to the Polls” in their churches.

Under withering pressure, Scott relented and signed a law in 2013, restoring much of what had been taken away.

The judge did it for him this time, and it has big implications in a year where students, in general, are registering to vote in large numbers, likely as a response to the mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

It strains credibility to suggest the state’s resistance to on-campus early voting has nothing to with what kind of building that might be used as a polling place. It has everything to do with the fear young people might get motivated in a way that might not bode well for the incumbents.

Well, as I’ve said before, I’m not a lawyer.

In this case, though, I think it’s possible to succinctly summarize what the judge felt about the state’s argument: Seriously?

And here’s the knockout punch: Students rights proved more important than incumbents’ privilege.

whiskey Wheaties

It’s back: Costco’s weapon to win ‘whiskey and Wheaties’ war

Give Costco’s lawyers some credit: They may have a found a way to finally be able to sell tequila and turkey burgers in the same store.

The answer may involve its food courts — turkey provolone sandwich, anyone? — and repealing the state’s obscure, 24-year-old “Restaurant Rule.” And already, Costco’s critics are calling it an “end-around” of Gov. Rick Scott.

Still, if the membership warehouse retailer persuades the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to strike that rule, it could finally win the “whiskey and Wheaties” battle.

Costco, which does “not have a PR or Media department,” did not respond to a request for comment.

Bills have been filed since 2014 to remove the 82-year-old requirement, enacted in Florida after Prohibition, that hard liquor be sold in a separate store. Beer and wine already are sold in grocery aisles in the Sunshine State.

Costco, along with Walmart and Target, has pushed to remove the ‘wall of separation.’ Publix, for it because of its investment in its many separate liquor stores, and independent liquor store owners have fought to keep the status quo.

Last year was the closest that supporters got to a victory, with legislation barely passing both chambers.

But Scott vetoed the measure, saying it’d be a job killer for small businesses, many of whom would likely get bulldozed by the big-box stores’ superior selling power.

Now, the GrayRobinson law firm, which represents Costco, thinks it’s found the Achilles heel.

Costco “is licensed as both a retail alcohol dealer and restaurant at over 100 locations throughout Florida,” wrote its lawyer, GrayRobinson’s D. Ty Jackson, in a letter to regulators.

The state held a workshop last month in Orlando to “update and clarify the items permitted to be sold.”

State law says licensed vendors “can sell anything … that is ‘customarily sold in a restaurant,’ ” but doesn’t define what that means “despite being in use for more than 80 years in the Florida Beverage Law,” Jackson wrote.

DBPR’s Restaurant Rule does define items “customarily sold,” including “ready to eat entree items” and “hot or cold beverages.”

That’s not fair, Jackson wrote, saying the rule “impermissibly purports to limit the items that can be sold” and should be repealed.

In fact, the department isn’t even following its own guidance, he suggested, having granted liquor licenses meant for restaurants to “entities that sell items beyond those identified in the (restaurant) rule.”

They include “golf country clubs, casinos, movie theatres … bowling alleys and senior living complexes.” GrayRobinson also said the vetoed bill involved package store licenses and not the “consumed on premises” licenses used by eateries and bars.

In contrast, William Hall, a Jones Walker attorney representing Publix, ABC Fine Wine & Spirits, and the Florida Independent Spirits Association (FISA), told regulators that Costco’s effort “is nothing less than an end-around of the governor,” referring to his veto last year.

“Now, Costco seemingly wants the (state) to believe that (last year’s bill) and all of the other legislative wrangling on that issue was meaningless,” he wrote in his own letter. “Costco asserts that, by simply repealing the Restaurant Rule, the (state) can allow what the governor’s veto precluded.

“The purpose of rule-making is to interpret statutes, not to get around laws that a party does not like. The (state) should reject this attempt to use rule-making to usurp the legislative process.”

FISA President Chris Knightly — who represents small, independent liquor stores — added that “Costco’s true intent for these actions are to sell hard liquor on their grocery shelves,” according to a transcript of the Orlando workshop, held by DBPR’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco.

The big chains are trying to do through “legal loopholes … what their previously failed legislative efforts have not been able to accomplish. This is another attempt to bypass the appropriate governmental process,” said Knightly, co-owner of Knightly Spirits in Central Florida.  

“Allowing big-box stores to sell liquor would decimate the viable industry of independently owned liquor stores,” he went on. “ … The greed of a few corporations should not demolish these small businesses, which are the backbone of America.”

DBPR, however, reports to Scott. Though he is term-limited this year, he’s still in charge till the next governor is sworn in on Jan. 8. 

The department “is going through the rule-making process and receiving public input on this topic,” Scott spokeswoman Mara Gambineri said in an email. “The Governor expects them and every agency to follow Florida law.”

Lawmakers grudgingly OK more money for marijuana regulators

The Legislature opened the state’s wallet again Thursday, granting a request from the state’s medical marijuana regulators for another $13 million in operating costs.

The approval from the Joint Legislative Budget Commission didn’t come without some grousing, however. The Department of Health, under Gov. Rick Scott, regulates the drug through its Office of Medical Marijuana Use (OMMU).

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa told department officials she had “lost some sleep over this,” mentioning her and other lawmakers’ frustration over the slow-going of the office, including delays in issuing medicinal cannabis patient identification cards. 

Legislators had pushed back earlier this year when they included a provision from House Republican Jason Brodeur in the 2018-19 budget to withhold more than $1.9 million in Department of Health salaries and benefits until regulators fully implement medical marijuana.

Moreover, $1.5 million of the extra money requested Thursday will go to outside lawyers hired by the office to represent it in ongoing litigation.

For example, the state is appealing two high-profile cases: Tampa strip club mogul Joe Redner’s circuit court win to grow and juice his own medicinal cannabis, and plaintiffs backed by Orlando attorney John Morgan who won a decision allowing them to smoke medical marijuana.

“Let’s stop wasting taxpayer dollars” on suits the state shouldn’t be appealing, Cruz said. “Please start taking this seriously,” she added, calling the office’s actions part “intentional ineptitude” and part “simple sabotage.”

Other OMMU needs include covering the cost to review applications for four new provider licenses now that the number of medical marijuana patients is over 100,000, and to procure “a computer software tracking system that traces marijuana from seed-to-sale,” according to the request. (Details from the request are here.)

The Commission, which acts as a joint committee of the Legislature, is charged with reviewing and approving the equivalent of mid-course corrections to the current year’s state spending plan. The budget went into effect July 1. 

But Sen. Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who chaired Thursday’s meeting, said lawmakers “should have dealt with these issues” during the 2018 Legislative Session “while the budget was being prepared.”

“I’m disappointed that we are dealing with this now,” added Bradley, the Senate’s Appropriations Committee chair. “But we’re dealing with it. And we need to get these things done.”

In other action, lawmakers:

— Approved a request from Secretary of State Ken Detzner for authority to distribute $19.2 million from the feds for heightened elections security. All 67 counties have applied for funds, he said. The money may be spent on “cybersecurity” needs, among other things.

— OK’d a request from the Department of Emergency Management to dole out $340 million from a federal grant to farmers and grove owners to aid the citrus industry’s recovery from recent hurricanes. The money will go toward “purchasing and planting replacement trees,” ” repair of damages to irrigation systems,” and to repay growers for “economic losses.”

— Agreed to nearly $3.2 million more for the state Office on Homelessness to “support local homeless agencies in their efforts to reduce homelessness throughout Florida.”

Personnel note: David Mica Jr. named CEO of Volunteer Florida

Volunteer Florida announced two recent changes to the organization’s leadership:

— Gov. Rick Scott appointed David Mica Jr. to serve as Chief Executive Officer of Volunteer Florida.

— The Volunteer Florida Commission unanimously voted Autumn Karlinsky to preside as Chair for the 2018-19 year.

“Volunteer Florida is always ready to support our local communities, especially in times of need,” Scott said in a statement. “During last year’s devastating hurricane season, they coordinated with countless local organizations to make sure that families had what they needed.

Mica

“I know that David will work every day to build on these accomplishments by continuing to focus on helping our communities and everyone that calls Florida home.”

Mica served as chief of staff of the Florida Lottery since December 2016, stepping in as interim secretary between Tom Delacenserie and current Secretary Jim Poppell.

He also was director of legislative affairs for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and was a Gubernatorial Fellow in 2013-14.

*                   *                    *

Karlinsky

As a former Chair of the Volunteer Florida Commission, Karlinsky re-assumes the role with eight years of experience.

She maintains philanthropic positions in the Broward County community benefiting Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies, Temple Dor Dorim and Imagine Charter School at Weston. Karlinsky also serves on the Board of Trustees for Florida House on Capitol Hill.  

She and her husband, insurance lobbyist and Scott confidant Fred Karlinsky, endowed the Florida State University College of Law Karlinsky Family Scholarship and the Karlinsky Family Student Lounge in the school’s Advocacy Center in Tallahassee. They live in Weston with their two children.

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