Gwen Graham Archives - Page 5 of 30 - Florida Politics

Gwen Graham blasts Rick Scott and DEP for delay in public records request on sinkhole spill

Six weeks after first requesting public records pertaining to the leak of contaminated water that occurred at a massive sinkhole at Mosaic’s New Wales Facility at the Hillsborough/Polk county line in August, U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham says she wants to know why Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection are “stalling” to release emails related to the controversy.

“Public records are the one tool we have to keep Gov. Rick Scott and his Department of Environmental Protection honest,” Graham said in a statement Friday. “They kept the sinkhole secret for weeks — and now they’re stalling on our public records request. Floridians have a right to know the truth, and if the governor won’t hold the Department of Environmental Protection accountable for this massive mistake, we will.”

Graham says her office has been told by DEP officials it has taken weeks for the department to complete a legal review of the records, and that the department’s communications team is also reviewing the public records before releasing them. In letters to Scott and DEP Secretary Jon Steverson, Graham said it may constitute a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law.

“As you are aware, Florida courts have ruled that an agency’s unjustified delay in producing public records constitutes an unlawful refusal to provide access to the requested records, in violation of chapter 119, Fla. Stat. The only delay in releasing public records permitted by law ‘is the limited reasonable time allowed the custodian to retrieve the record and delete those portions of the record the custodian asserts are exempt.’” Graham wrote in the letter. “Because this request does not involve an ongoing criminal investigation and the requested communications are unlikely to include exempt or confidential information (such as local residents’ Social Security numbers), there should be very little information to redact from these records. There is no excuse for this process to take longer than a few days — certainly not six weeks.”

“As we have told their staff, we are processing them through our standard procedures,” said Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for Governor Scott.

The DEP is making daily statements regarding the recovery process at the site, and said Thursday it has reviewed over 850 sample results from private drinking water wells, which have all met applicable federal Safe Drinking Water Act standards and showed no impacts related to process water from the sinkhole at the Mosaic New Wales facility. The agency says that they and the Department of Health are continuing to reach out to an additional 26 homeowners whose samples also show no impacts from the process water from the Mosaic sinkhole, but do have some some results above drinking water standards.

Graham has been aggressive in challenging Scott and the DEP to come forward with more information since the news about the massive sinkhole was finally disclosed to the media by Mosaic back in September. The agency has received criticism for waiting weeks after they learned about the toxic sinkhole before they took measures to alert the public.

Graham made her initial public records request to the DEP exactly six weeks ago. At that time, a spokeswoman for Scott said the governor has directed the DEP to expedite their investigation.  

Graham says she made a second public records request to Scott’s office on Sept. 29.

 

Mitch Perry Report for 10.31.16 —Tampa Bay Bucs owner bets big on Donald Trump

Edward Glazer, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers co-chairman and part-owner, has donated the maximum individual allowable contribution of $5,400 to the campaigns of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton this year. However, if one were to guess who he really supports, it should be noted Glazer also has contributed $50,000 to the Trump Victory joint fundraising committee. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) also reports that Glazer’s wife, Shari, also gave $50,000 to the Trump Victory joint fundraising committee.

Speaking of the Bucs, let’s flash forward to yesterday, where I attended the Bucs-Raiders penaltyfest masquerading as a football game. It was my first time in Raymond James Stadium since the team spent an estimated $100 million for a whole raft of bells and whistles improvements, including $30 million from local taxpayers.

The majority of that money went to build two giant video scoreboards, and I’ve got a question for Bucs management this morning: Why spend so much money on such a huge piece of technology if you’re not going to employ it when people want to see it?

There were numerous interesting plays that were not replayed on those video screens yesterday, frustrating myself and many of the fans sitting with me in Section 336 yesterday. I’d really like to know who makes the decision on what replays shouldn’t be shown, and what is their established criteria on doing that?

The reason teams like the Bucs and the Jacksonville Jaguars have spent tens of millions of dollars in recent years to build these gigantic scoreboards is to replicate the home viewing experience. In recent years, NFL executives have fretted that with the explosion of HDTV’s, fans are more comfortable watching the games in their home.

Now the big story this fall has been why NFL television ratings have dropped precipitously in the first couple of months of the season. The high interest in the presidential election has been considered one of the reasons for the lower ratings, but nobody knows for sure. I can say that yesterday’s three-and-a-half-hour game, which definitely had a lot of big plays and excitement, still felt unsatisfying to me — and I’m a Raiders fan! Maybe the NFL has really peaked ….

In other news …

Randi Weingarten, head of one of the nation’s largest teachers unions, was in Tampa yesterday, where she said a Trump election could “decimate” public education.

Waiting for Omarosa so you didn’t have to: “The Women For Trump” event ended with a little excitement last Friday afternoon.

Gwen Graham is going to run for the Democratic nomination for governor, it appears, and last Friday morning she gave a full-throated argument on why she’s what’s needed in Tallahassee.

Gwen Graham says she’s poised to run a 67-county strategy for governor

Emphasizing her centrist political persona while addressing a packed restaurant in South Tampa Friday morning, Gwen Graham said her potential candidacy for governor of Florida in 2018 would be a “transcending of the politics” that currently exists today.

“I have heard from so many people who say ‘you’re exactly what the state of Florida needs,'” Graham said at the weekly “Cafe Con Tampa” lecture series at Hugo’s Restaurant in Hyde Park. “I will commit to running the type of gubernatorial campaign that will excite the state of Florida from one end to the other, and if I run … I will run a 67-county strategy.”

The Democratic U.S. representative from Tallahassee announced months ago she would strongly consider a run for the governor’s mansion in 2018, after redistricting the already Republican-leaning district would have made it a virtual impossibility for her to earn a second term in 2016. Her appearance Friday before dozens of mostly Democrats in the state’s third-largest city seemed to be an important one for Graham, who spoke with her mother, Adele, sitting next to her (to her surprise), while her father Bob Graham was speaking live on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on the television monitors above her for part of her speech.

For the uninitiated, Bob Graham is perhaps the single most-popular Democrat living in the state of Florida. The soon to be 80-year-old former Florida governor and U.S. senator is still extremely active, making media appearances this week across the nation on behalf of a new edition of his book, “America: The Owner’s Manual” (co-written with Chris Hand). His reputation and legacy have redounded onto his 53-year-old daughter, Gwen, who never ran for political office until two years ago. While looking up at her father on the television, Graham herself brought up the issue of running on her father’s coattails, and embraced the notion.

“You know what, y’all? Those are the best damn coattails in the whole wide world,” she said, as the crowd heartily cheered. She added she was “honored” to have her father as a role model growing up to see what a true public servant could be.

Graham’s short record in office shows she is a centrist. She boasted about how she overcame the odds against her in 2014 when she ran in one of the most conservative congressional districts of not only the state, she says, but the country, in defeating the Republican incumbent, Steve Southerland, 51 percent to 49 percent.

In that campaign, Graham vowed to oppose Nancy Pelosi for the party leadership’s top slot in the House, where she ended up after being elected in early 2015. She repeatedly emphasized in her 45-minute appearance how she would in fact, transcend politics-as-usual if she were to become the first Democrat elected governor in two decades.

“I think the state desperately needs someone who is willing to reach across to anyone for good ideas,” she stressed. “I don’t believe this is a Republican question, or a Democratic question or an independent question. It’s a question for Floridians. What do we want our next governor to focus on? How can we make the lives of Floridians better?”

That centrist persona doesn’t mean that she doesn’t understand politics, however. She’s been relentless over the past six weeks in pestering the Rick Scott administration and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection into making more information public about what the DEP knew and when did they knew it when it came to the massive sinkhole that opened up in late August at a Mosaic phosphate processing plant near the Hillsborough/Polk County line. It was originally reported as being 300 feet deep — but in fact, may be larger.

 Graham said she was “horrified” by what happened at Mosaic, calling it an environmental, human health and, ultimately, a “transparency catastrophe.”

On growth management issues, she said she would bring back the Department of Community Affairs, abolished by Scott during his first year in office. “We’re booming” she said of the state’s growth, adding developers and environmental advocates need not be at odds.

Like many Democrats in Florida, Graham is strongly opposed to the utility-backed solar power initiative known as Amendment 1 on this year’s ballot. She said the amendment as written is a “manipulation of the voters in Florida,” and “flat-out deception,” before adding that it’s up to the voters to read up on amendments that could end up in the state’s constitution.

Regarding economic development, Graham is in the Richard Corcoran camp when it comes to opposing economic incentives Gov. Scott prefers. “I think it’s about growing Florida from within, not bribing people to come in from without,” she said.

In responding to questions from the crowd, Graham said she supports the automatic restoration of voting rights for ex-felons, said if the opportunity ever comes around for money for high-speed rail from the feds that she would take it, and that she would take a “hard look” at the Tampa Bay Express project if neighborhood groups remain virulently opposed to it.

As to when she will make an official decision about running for governor, Graham predicted it would be sooner rather than later, but will not be on Nov. 9, the day after the general election. That’s when Bob Graham turns 80, and she said she didn’t want any distractions on that day.

Though “Cafe Con Tampa” co-organizer Bill Carlson made it sound like the general election contest had already been decided when he said his group had hosted Graham and previously Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam (who addressed the same group a couple of months ago), there are plenty of both Republicans and Democrats in the state who aren’t ready to accept that conventional wisdom.

Other Republicans who could explore a run include the aforementioned Corcoran, former House Speaker Will Weatherford, and CFO Jeff Atwater. Other Democrats in the mix include state Sen. Jeremy Ring, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler, and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine.

Money keeps rolling in for Neal Dunn’s CD 2 bid

GOP nominee Neal Dunn likely has the win for the 2nd Congressional District in the bag, but that’s not stopping him from raising money.

Federal Election Commission “48-hour notices” show contributions this month from the Holland & Knight law firm’s Committee for Effective Government ($1,000) and the Action Committee for Rural Electrification ($2,500).

Such notices are required when the amount is $1,000 or more and is received within 20 days of an election.

His two-year summary shows $1.2 million in contributions and $565,000 he lent the campaign. Dunn now has $56,165 in cash on hand.

Dunn, a Panama City urological surgeon, faces Democrat Walt Dartland, Libertarian Rob Lapham, and a write-in.

Dartland, to compare, has raised $107,552, including a $50,000 loan, FEC records show. That’s 6 percent of Dunn’s haul.

The district was redrawn recently after a court-ordered redistricting into a heavily conservative seat.

Incumbent Gwen Graham, a Democrat, said she would not seek re-election after one term and is instead thinking about running for Florida governor in 2018.

Dunn specializes in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer and is an Army veteran, according to the campaign. He also is on the board of directors of Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development agency.

National Taxpayers Union gives Marco Rubio an A, Patrick Murphy an F

The National Taxpayers Union, a fiscal conservative organization, is out with its new grades of federal lawmakers, drawing a clear distinction in assessments of candidates for Florida’s U.S. Senate race: Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got an A, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy an F.

“Patrick Murphy’s F-rating from the National Taxpayers Union should come as no surprise after his years of casting liberal votes in Congress. Murphy supports higher taxes, a carbon tax, and wants to make it easier for the federal government to create new regulations. With a record like that, no wonder Murphy never actually worked as a CPA. Murphy’s liberal policies don’t work, and Florida families can’t afford them” Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens stated in a news release issued by Rubio’s campaign.

Both candidates are in good company within their parties. The taxpayers union’s annual Taxpayer Score also gave Fs to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and every other Democratic member of Congress from Florida except U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, who got a D. Among Florida Republicans, U.S. Reps. Curt Clawson, Ron DeSantis, Jeff Miller, and Ted Yoho also got As. The worst grades among Florida Republicans were the Cs that went to U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Letinen.

Murphy’s 25 percent score from the taxpayers union was in fact the second-highest among Florida Democrats, after Graham’s 33 percent. Nelson got a 17 percent score. Rubio got an 87 percent score, tied for best among Florida’s congressional delegation.

The National Taxpayers Union was founded in 1969 and calls itself the”The voice of America’s taxpayers.”

“The Taxpayer Score measures the strength of support for reducing spending and regulation and opposing higher taxes. In general, a higher score is better because it means a member of Congress voted to lessen or limit the burden on taxpayers,” according to the organization.

Al Lawson leads Glo Smith in CD 5 cash dash

Al Lawson, a former member of the Florida House and Senate and onetime the “Dean of the Legislature,” appears financially well-positioned down the stretch in his race in Florida’s 5th Congressional District.

As of the October quarterly report, Lawson had $79,309 on hand.

Lawson’s $79,309 is well ahead of the cash-on-hand of his GOP opponent, Glo Smith, who had $11,908 on hand as of the same report, and had little to show for that spend other than a few billboards.

In his pre-primary filing, Lawson had more cash-on-hand; $120,190 in August.

Between August and the end of September, Lawson raised $43,731 and spent $84,612.

The bulk of both contributions and expenditures were made down the stretch before Lawson’s primary victory against incumbent Rep. Corrine Brown.

Though many of Lawson’s donors were from the western side of the district, such as Rep. Gwen Graham, there were some interesting Jacksonville players in the mix.

The Pajcic family — lawyers and notable Democratic donors — came through with $5,400 of new money.

And though it was before the Democratic primary in August, the $1,000 donation of reliably Republican Peter Rummell was catalogued in the most recent report.

Former Education Commissioner Jim Horne maxed out for Lawson before the primary also.

The October finance reports of both Lawson and Smith suggest there isn’t much drama down the stretch in Congressional District 5.

Most of the action — and all of the intrigue — in this race wrapped up in August.

Gwen Graham again slams Rick Scott on Mosaic spill

Gwen Graham is again blasting Gov. Rick Scott about the massive sinkhole created at the Mosaic phosphate plant in Polk County last month. The Tallahassee Democratic representative specifically is challenging the claim made by Scott earlier this week that he wasn’t aware of the 215 million gallons of contaminated water going into the Florida aquifer until weeks after the incident.

“I don’t know which is worse. Either Gov. Rick Scott knew about the sinkhole and didn’t inform the public, or leadership at the Department of Environmental Protection is so irresponsible they didn’t alert the governor to a potential public health disaster,” Graham said in a statement. “Both scenarios are appalling, and the people of Florida deserve full accountability.”

The sinkhole opened up Aug. 27, pouring out an estimated 215 million gallons of water from one of the processing plant’s gypsum stacks. It took three weeks for the public to learn about incident. Scott’s office said he learned about it on Sept. 16. WFLA-TV NewsChannel 8 in Tampa has reported that, for 19 days, neither Mosaic nor the Florida Department of Environmental Protection alerted neighbors to the potential threat this sinkhole posed to their wells.

Last week Graham issued a public information request to the Department of Environmental Protection, calling on the agency to turn over all electronic communication relating to the toxic sinkhole. It came after what she said were “repeated requests” for more information about when the agency informed the public of the massive sinkhole, originally estimated to be 45 feet wide and 300 feet deep. However, an official with Mosaic said earlier this week it could actually have gone much deeper.

Scott was asked this week if the DEP had kept him in the dark, and if so, was he going to fire Secretary Jon Steverson.

Graham notes in her statement that Stevenson was “handpicked” by Scott and reportedly was the only person he “felt was worthy of an interview.”

The DEP has maintained the closest drinking water wells are three miles from the sinkhole site and that there is no indication of a threat to those wells.

Graham is a first-term Democrat elected in November of 2014. She did not run for re-election this fall, but has not discouraged talk about a run for governor in 2018.

Late Thursday afternoon, Gov. Scott’s office responded.

“The governor’s office was notified Sept. 16, 2016,” said spokesperson Jackie Schutz. “The governor then immediately directed DEP to expedite their investigation and also asked DOH [Department of Health] to assist DEP to ensure clean water. In addition, the governor asked DEP to evaluate ways to improve this process. And on Monday, Sept. 26, Gov. Scott directed DEP to issue an emergency rule that establishes new requirements for public notification of pollution to take effect. The rule will ensure the public, local governments, and DEP are notified within 24 hours by all responsible parties following a pollution incident. “

 

Mitch Perry Report for 9.26.16 – Keeping everything in perspective

I’m not about to be a spoilsport and say that presidential debates are overrated, but the history shows there have been very, very few since they began being held regularly 1976 that have significantly moved voters.

The first debate in 2000 between Al Gore and George W. Bush definitely changed some things. That’s the one, you might recall, where Gore was okay on substance but horrible on style (with his sighs and eye-rolling).The revelation about Bush’s DUI arrest that Fox News broke five days before the election might also have changed just as many votes, however.

More instructive is looking back at the first debates in 1984 and 2012, when the incumbents – Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, respectively – delivered horrid performances.

Reagan was stunningly out of it in his first Sunday-night debate against Walter Mondale in October of ’84. He looked completely out of touch and in over his head, and for a moment excited Democrats and the media that what looked like a blowout election could become competitive. Two weeks later, Reagan got his act together, made a self-deprecating remark about not making an issue out of Mondale’s youthful inexperience, and he was golden, going on to win 49 states.

Obama was terrible in his first debate against Romney four years ago, freaking out Democrats who suddenly contemplated that the president wasn’t very focused. If you’ll recall, it was Joe Biden who turned the momentum around when he went super aggressive against Paul Ryan in the VP debate a week or so later.

And yes, Jerry Ford’s infamous admission that Poland was not under the influence of the Soviet Union in the debate from the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco in 1976 was a major story that perhaps nullified Ford’s amazing comeback that summer from what had been a 33-point deficit to Jimmy Carter in the first election after Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace.

But there have been dozens of other debates that truly did not move the needle all that much. The fact that the race is close to tied (with Donald Trump ascendent) does raise the stakes, as well as the fact that historically the first of the three scheduled presidential debates is generally the highest rated on television.

And to think that Trump initially wanted to change the date of this event, because it was up against Monday Night Football. But tonight’s contest between Atlanta and New Orleans is a matchup of two relatively mediocre squads, so there’s no fear of losing too much of the national audience there.

In other news…

Matt Gaetz chose the death of Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez to blast athletes for kneeling for the national anthem.

Tim Kaine’s in Lakeland today.

Charlie Crist became the second prominent Democrat in two days over the weekend to plead to Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark to open an early polling site in South St. Pete.

We sat down with NY Times columnist David Brooks for about 17 minutes last week, and this is what we came up with.

Gwen Graham will be out of elected office in a few months. Until then, she’s keeping herself in the news, pressuring the Florida DEP about when they told neighbors new the Mosaic plant in Polk County about that giant spill from a sinkhole in August.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman laid out what she hopes to do if voters give her four more years last Friday in Tampa.

Gwen Graham wants a simple answer: When did the Florida DEP inform residents of the Mosaic spill?

Gwen Graham isn’t backing off in her quest to learn how proactive the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was in informing the public about the 45-foot-wide, 300-foot deep sinkhole which opened at Mosaic’s New Wales plant in Mulberry on August 27, emptying 215 million gallons of contaminated water into the Floridan Aquifer.

The Tallahassee-based Congresswoman on Friday issued a public information request to the DEP to turn over all electronic communication relating to the toxic sinkhole, following what she says has been “repeated requests” for more information on when DEP informed the public of the sinkhole and called for the department to conduct an investigation into their delayed response.

“Our office has repeatedly asked the Department of Environmental Protection when exactly they began to notify the public of the 300-foot-deep toxic sinkhole in Central Florida, and they have not yet answered this simple question,” Representative Graham said. “I’m hopeful this public records request will show the date on which the department notified the public of the sinkhole and why they made the decision to keep it secret for so long.”

Although Mosaic said it immediately contacted the DEP about the spill last month, nearby residents concerned that about the potential contamination of their drinking water say they were not contacted, and only learned about the spill when it was reported last Friday.

The New Wales facility produces fertilizer and ingredients for animal feed from phosphate rock.

“The health and safety of Florida’s families is no laughing matter. A giant toxic sinkhole is no laughing matter. Government transparency is no laughing matter,” Graham said. “I expect this request to turn over a large amount of communication regarding the sinkhole — if not, the DEP isn’t taking this issue seriously, or the administration is again trying to skirt our state’s Sunshine Laws.”

Mosaic and the DEP’s transparency regarding the spill has become a national story in the past week. On Wednesday, Hillary Clinton told Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS, “For goodness sake, people are entitled to clean water. People are entitled to know what is in their water and companies that profit off of common resources need to be held liable when something goes wrong. So I have a very clear view about this. Polluters should pay to help clean up the messes that they have created.”

And now Marco Rubio has joined with Graham in criticizing the DEP. In a statement given to the Tampa Bay Times, the Florida GOP Senator says,”There’s no question that residents should have been informed sooner. I understand that Mosaic is working closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to monitor and mitigate water that has leaked into the aquifer.”

The DEP responded on Thursday that Governor Rick Scott had directed the agency to expedite its investigation into the spill. The DEP says it is accelerating all water-quality tests to ensure safe drinking water for residents. Scott has also directed the Department of Health to partner with the DEP to ensure that the drinking water is safe.

The DEP also issued a detailed timeline on Thursday on their course of action since learning about the spill on August 28.

Meanwhile, three Florida residents have filed a lawsuit against Mosaic that seeks to hold the phosphate giants responsible for potential contamination of their drinking water wells.

DEP Secretary Jon Steverson responded later Friday to Graham’s request:

“As is the case with all public records requests, DEP will expeditiously process this request and provide the responsive records. DEP has been in communication with Representative Gwen Graham’s office throughout the week and has provided information as requested without hesitation.

“Contrary to the Representative’s claim that we have not answered her question, DEP yesterday released a detailed timeline of all of the agency’s actions including that beginning on Sept. 19, in coordination with Mosaic, DEP began reaching out to nearby homeowners for well testing.

“It is important to know that Deputy Secretary Gary Clark is over the department’s Land and Recreation functions and does not, in any way, oversee the department’s regulatory functions, especially in regard to water quality. DEP is absolutely committed to the safety of all Floridians and our environment, and our staff was on-site to investigate the issues at Mosaic’s New Wales facility less than 24 hours after being notified.

“Following Governor Scott’s call to expedite our investigation, we will hold all responsible parties accountable. To keep the public informed of the latest response activities and most recent monitoring data, DEP will continue to issue daily updates on this issue.”

Mitch Perry Report for 9.22.16 – The fire down below

In Charlotte last night, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory called for a state of emergency a night after violence escalated as residents continued to protest the fatal shooting of a black man by a police officer a day prior.

While in Tulsa, the Dept. of Justice is investigating officer Betty Shelby’s use of force in the shooting death of  40-year-old unarmed black man Terence Crutcher on Friday night.

Meanwhile, what about the shooting death of that unarmed black man in our neck of the woods that caused more than a week’s worth of civic unrest?

To remind you, Hillsborough County SWAT Deputy Caleb Johnson shot and killed 22-year-old Levonia Riggins while helping serve a search warrant on his home. Johnson has said that he thought that Riggins was motioning towards his waistband when he was apprehended in his bedroom, and fearing that Riggins was reaching for a weapon, shot him dead.

Like a similar incident that occurred in Seminole Heights a couple of years ago with the Tampa Police Dept., a lot of people have been wondering why law enforcement would send in a SWAT team to apprehend a low-level drug dealer (Riggins had reportedly sold pot on two occasions to from undercover Hillsborough sheriff’s detectives).

Well, presumably we have our reason now, as the Tampa Bay Times Dan Sullivan reported earlier this week that when detectives drafted an application for a search warrant of Riggins’ home last month, they learned of a 2015 incident in which guns were found on Riggins property.

I still don’t get how that justified bringing a SWAT team in to bust a man who had twice sold undercover deputies marijuana. Obviously I’m missing something, because I don’t get that at all. Wondering if that happens in other parts of town where law enforcement is aware of someone selling pot?

Of course, when it comes to pot, Hillsborough County law enforcement seems to be behind the curve in addressing the issue. After months of criticism for not following in Tampa’s path when it comes to decriminalizing those arrested with marijuana , the Sheriffs Department announced last month that they’ve begun a year-long pilot program with other local agencies that will offer an alternative to arrest for first-time offenders caught with marijuana between the ages of 8 to 17.

Meanwhile, the Riggins shooting is being investigated by  Sarasota State Attorney Ed Brodsky.

In other news..

We’ve got specific dates when the “Cross-Bay Ferry” running from Tampa to St. Pete will begin their daily runs.

Kathy Castor signs on to bipartisan legislation calling for drug price transparency.

Gwen Graham wants to know when the Florida DEP began contacting local residents about that Mosaic toxic sinkhole spill last month.

And an environmental group is trying to tie Mosaic’s issues with Representative Dana Young, the Tampa Republican running for the state Senate District 18 seat this November.

Vern Buchanan’s bill to Florida orange farms contending with citrus greening has passed the House of Representatives. 

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