Pam bondi Archives - Florida Politics

UF ready for white nationalist speech

University of Florida students arose Thursday to a campus outwardly expressing messages of love against the backdrop of a heavily armed law enforcement presence and the specter of a divisive mid-afternoon speech by white nationalist Richard Spencer.

Banners hung outside fraternity and sorority houses called for “Love Not Hate #TogetherUF.”

The Lubavitch Chabad Jewish Student Center had been open since Wednesday for a three-day “Good Deed Marathon,” which drew praise from University President Kent Fuchs.

Spencer, a self-described “identitarian” whose supporters chanted “Jews will not replace us” at a Charlottesville, Va., rally that turned deadly this summer, has been labeled an anti-Semite and white supremacist by groups such as the Anti-Defamation League.

“Another example of countering darkness with Light on Oct 19,” Fuchs, who has repeatedly called on students to Spencer and “his racist and anti-American message,” tweeted Wednesday night of the “Good Deed Marathon.”

Just before 11:30 a.m., the first of Spencer’s supporters, claiming they “like being part of a collective,” arrived. At the same time, the first protesters showed up, one carrying a sign stating “No Trump Nazis.”

Wary of clashes that have erupted on campuses elsewhere, Gov. Rick Scott declared a state of emergency for Alachua County Monday night, at the behest of county Sheriff Sadie Darnell.

The head of the National Policy Institute, Spencer was one of the key speakers at an August “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., that turned deadly when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters. Heather Heyer, 31, was killed, and dozens were injured.

Girding for the Thursday afternoon speech in Gainesville, streets near the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, where Spencer is to speak, were barricaded. Heavily outfitted law enforcement, some carrying riot helmets, marched along roads near the performing arts center.

Hundreds of journalists from around the globe inundated the campus of the state’s premiere university.

Some facilities near the center were closed, but the campus remained open, adding to the anxiety of students and faculty, many of whom strongly objected to the university allowing Spencer to appear.

While touring barricaded roads near the performing arts center and away from the heart of campus,  Jawamza Tucker, a 21-year-old telecommunications major from Miami, said that the university has been calm during the past week.

The emergency declaration issued by Scott “kind of set a precedent,” he said.

“A lot of my friends are telling me to be careful, and I’m not taking their words lightly, but I’m not worried,” said Tucker, who said he intends to “observe” the event. “I will proceed with caution. You never know what people have up their sleeves.”

Spencer, Tucker said, “feels threatened,” adding that the UF appearance won’t change things.

“This is, honestly, just one big event to get attention, to increase his platform, to increase his notoriety and infamy,” Tucker said.

The school had initially denied Spencer’s request to speak. But Fuchs has noted that, while Spencer’s appearance isn’t sponsored by any student group, the public university couldn’t lawfully prohibit the event based on the content or views expressed in the speech.

Security costs for the UF event have grown to $600,000, and an estimated 500 law enforcement officers, from the city, county and state, are said to be on campus.

It is unknown how many of Spencer’s supporters will attend the speech — organizers are distributing 600 tickets to individuals they view as friendly — or how many others will show up to protest his appearance and white ethno-state platform.

Antifa – anti-fascists – members from Atlanta and Orlando are expected to flood into Gainesville, even though they may not have access to the venue where Spencer will speak.

Organizers of the event decided to distribute tickets to the speech, instead of the typical process in which the center provides the tickets, after reports that ticket-holders could exchange the passes for free beer or even money.

A group called No Nazis at UF, which called for classes to be canceled and asserted that their mobilization kept “fascists” from marching Wednesday night, used Facebook to plan a demonstration for Thursday. More than 1,000 people expressed interest for the event.

University graduate U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is among state leaders, including Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, urging students to boycott Spencer’s event.

“#GatorNation not asking u to ignore his racist message.” Rubio tweeted Wednesday. “I am suggesting you embarrass him by denying him the attention he craves.”

Frank White gets endorsements from N.W. Fla. lawmakers

Three GOP lawmakers from Florida’s Panhandle are lending their support to fellow state Rep. Frank White to become the state’s attorney general, the campaign announced.

Reps. Brad Drake of Eucheeanna, Jayer Williamson of Pace, and Mel Ponder of Destin endorsed White, of Pensacola, on Wednesday.

White “will be the Attorney General Florida needs,” Drake said in a statement. “Frank has the work ethic, leadership skills, and values to make for an effective and outstanding Attorney General. I’m proud to endorse a consistent conservative in Frank White.”

Williamson added: “I couldn’t be more proud to endorse Frank White, a committed conservative and principled candidate for Attorney General. Frank has demonstrated an upmost dedication to the values we in Northwest Florida hold dear: The strongest commitment to family, faith and freedom.”

And Ponder said Florida “needs a conservative Attorney General with great character and integrity. I’m honored to endorse such a candidate in Frank White.

“I’ve had the privilege of working alongside Frank in the legislature, where he has exemplified exceptional leadership, character, and values,”Ponder said. “Florida couldn’t ask for a greater conservative champion for Attorney General than Frank White.”

After receiving the endorsements, White said, “I am honored to have the support of my fellow conservatives here in Northwest Florida.”

White, a general counsel and chief financial officer for a group of auto dealerships, was first elected to the House last year. He joins a GOP primary battle that includes state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody.

The Cabinet post is open next year because term limits prevent current Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Tampa Republican, from seeking re-election. Democrat Ryan Torrens, an attorney from Hillsborough County, also has filed to run for the seat.

Background from the News Service of Florida, republished with permission. 

State targets pharmaceutical company in stock case

In a rare move, Florida is considering taking on a large pharmaceutical company, alleging the state’s pension fund lost some $127 million in stock value because of federal security violations by the company.

The State Board of Administration, which includes Gov. Rick Scott and two Cabinet members, will decide next month whether to hire a New York-based law firm to pursue a “direct action” case against Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., rather than joining a class-action lawsuit against the company.

Valeant has been accused of violating federal securities regulations by marking up drug prices and then selling the drugs through a pharmacy network, without disclosing the full scope of the transactions to the stockholders.

“In my view, if the SBA files a direct action, the SBA may be able to enhance its recovery above the class action recovery by double-digit millions of dollars,” Ash Williams, head of the State Board of Administration, said in a memorandum to Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi and state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who also serve on the board.

Williams had recommended that the State Board of Administration hire the firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger and Grossmann to handle the Valeant lawsuit, which would be filed in federal court in New Jersey, where the company has its U.S. headquarters.

But Bondi on Tuesday asked for the decision to be delayed until next month while she reviews law firms that could handle the case. She said she did not disagree with the decision to file the suit but wanted to look at potential law firms “in a little more detail.”

In a report to the state, Bernstein Litowitz said Florida’s $154 billion pension fund “incurred significant damages as a result of the fraudulent misrepresentations at Valeant.” The law firm identified $127 million in “potential recoverable damages,” based on Valeant stock transactions between January 2013 and August 2016.

In a review of records at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the law firm said the Florida losses were “among the largest of any public fund investor.”

About $17 million of the Valeant transactions were on the Canadian stock exchange, which is not expected to be the focus of the lawsuit.

In an indication of how much Florida might recover from the litigation, Bernstein Litowitz said it recovered 37.5 percent of investors’ estimated damages in a securities lawsuit against the Cendant Corp. and 18.5 percent of investors’ claims against the Biovail Corp.

Both were class-action lawsuits and Bernstein Litowitz noted it “has achieved substantially higher recovery percentages when selectively representing prominent institutional investors (including the SBA) in direct actions.”

Williams said the state “very rarely” opts out of class-action lawsuits in favor of direct action claims. But he said the state pension fund has a clear set of guidelines that allows for direct claims, including cases of “egregious” behavior and where Florida wants to “make a statement for the benefit of the markets, that we don’t like this kind of thing and we’re not going to take it.”

In its report, Bernstein Litowitz said Florida’s lawsuit would allow the state to hold Valeant accountable for losses and also provide a forum “to insist on meaningful corporate governance reforms as an important component of any direct resolution with the company.”

“Given Valeant’s prominence in the pharmaceutical industry and the impact its practices have had on a strained American healthcare system, any corporate reforms achieved through this matter should have a lasting and meaningful impact,” the law firm said.

Valeant is facing numerous lawsuits, including an $80 billion claim filed in August by Lord Abbett & Co., a mutual fund company.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Pam Bondi: ‘I don’t know’ if we even need a ‘drug czar’

Attorney General Pam Bondi on Tuesday said she was unsure whether the country needs a ‘drug czar.’

“I don’t know,” she told reporters after a Florida Cabinet meeting. “I’m in D.C. a lot. I can tell you the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) is doing great, all the executive offices are doing great ….

“Everybody works well together,” she added. “Whether that exact position is needed? I don’t know.”

Bondi’s name has for months been in and out of play to head the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, established in 1988 and colloquially known as the drug czar. Its “principal purpose is to establish policies, priorities, and objectives for the Nation’s drug control program,” its website says.

U.S. Rep. Tom Marino, President Donald Trump‘s drug czar nominee, withdrew from consideration this week following reports that he played a key role in weakening the federal government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids.

The move came one day after the president raised the possibility of nixing the nomination following reports by The Washington Post and CBS News. The reports detailed the Pennsylvania lawmaker’s involvement in crafting a 2016 law, signed by President Barack Obama, that weakened the Drug Enforcement Administration’s authority to curb opioid distribution.

Bondi, however, has forged a drug-warrior reputation, especially with her battle to shut down the state’s pill mills, pain management clinics where drug users easily scored painkillers such as oxycodone.

Trump put her on his new President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis. She’ll be back in Washington for a commission meeting this Friday, she said.

“I’ll sure I’ll be talking about on Friday. I’m sure it’ll be a major topic of discussion,” she said.

“This fentanyl and heroin crisis is more than you can even comprehend now,” Bondi said. “We’ve got to help our addicts, but on the same hand, we’re not doing them a service if we’re not locking up the dealers. They’re murderers, in my opinion.”

She also said she and a bipartisan “working group” of other state attorneys general are considering a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

“We’re all over it,” the attorney general said. “We’re gathering documents and we’re doing it the right way. We’re just didn’t run out and hire (law) firms. We’re looking at it, multi-state, with the federal authorities. This is a crisis and I’m sick of it.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report, republished with permission. 

Sweeping measure addresses prescription pills

Doctors would be limited to prescribing seven days’ worth of opioids for patients with acute pain and would have to check a statewide database before ordering most prescription pain medications, under a proposal filed Friday in the state House.

The 114-page bill, sponsored by House Commerce Chairman Jim Boyd, a Bradenton Republican, incorporates proposals put forward by Gov. Rick Scott aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic that has engulfed the state.

Scott’s office issued a news release Friday announcing the filing of the measure, an indication of the importance of what will be one of the most pressing issues for the Legislature during the session that begins in January.

“Families across our state are struggling with pain and loss inflicted by the national opioid epidemic and today I am proud that Senator Benacquisto and Representative Boyd are filing important legislation to help combat this terrible crisis,” Scott said in the release. Senate Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican, is expected to file a companion measure to Boyd’s bill.

The proposal (HB 21) would limit doctors to writing prescriptions for three days’ worth of opioids, such as highly addictive oxycodone, unless the practitioner decides a seven-day prescription is “medically necessary to treat the patient’s pain as an acute medical condition.”

For the week-long supply, physicians would have to document the patient’s “acute medical condition and lack of alternative treatment options to justify deviation” from the three-day limit.

Some doctors, especially those who work in emergency rooms, have balked at a three-day limit and the requirement for documentation, which they say would take away time from patients.

Critics of a three-day limit also say that prescription-drug restrictions, while possibly stopping new patients from becoming addicted, won’t do anything to address the growing number of overdoses on heroin and fentanyl, a deadly synthetic opioid often mixed with heroin.

“In the emergency department, we see four to five overdoses a day,” Aaron Wohl, an emergency doctor in Lee County, told the Senate Health Policy Committee this week. “They’re not any using (prescription) medications. They’re using fentanyl and heroin.”

The limits are grounded in research that shows patients who took powerful pain medications for the first time had a higher chance of developing dependencies with longer prescriptions.

For example, new patients with a three-day prescription have a 3 percent chance of becoming addicted, compared to patients with a 30-day prescription, who have a 30 percent chance.

But Scott and his administration have indicated that the governor is open to increasing the three-day limit.

“The goal is to have a conversation and get everybody involved so as we go through this legislative session we have a bill that passes that is going to work to deal with the crisis,” Scott told doctors at a Florida Medical Association opioid summit in Tampa last week, after speaking about the prescription restrictions.

Shortly after Scott spoke, John Bryant, assistant secretary for substance abuse and mental health at the Department of Children and Families, expanded on the governor’s comments, saying Scott was offering an opportunity for doctors to “get it in a way that you think is something less than harsh.”

“We had this discussion in our shop and find that there are a lot of reasons … why three days may be more of a constraint than an aid at this point,” Bryant said.

The bill also includes a controversial component that would require doctors to look up patients on a prescription drug database, called the prescription drug monitoring program. The program has been aimed at keeping patients from getting multiple prescriptions for pain medications from different doctors.

Scott’s push to expand the use of the program is a dramatic departure from where he stood when he took office in 2011.

Then, the governor called for a repeal of the database, known as the PDMP. He reversed his opposition to it as Attorney General Pam Bondi lobbied heavily for the program to curb prescription-drug abuse.

State law now requires pharmacists to check the database before they fill prescriptions for controlled substances, but doctors are not required to consult it.

Many doctors and other health-care providers complain that the system is slow, difficult to use and takes too much time.

Even the state’s surgeon general admitted the database needs work.

“I have heard from many users that our current system is not that user-friendly,” Surgeon General Celeste Philip, who serves as secretary of the Florida Department of Health, told the doctors at last week’s meeting.

Philip said the department is working on updating the system and the revamped program “will be a lot less work.”

Law enforcement officials such as Bondi and some treatment providers view the PDMP as a critical tool.

Mary Lynn Ulrey, a nurse practitioner and CEO of Tampa-based Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office, called the plan released Friday “the beginning of the beginning.”

“I do think the problem is on multi-levels. If people can’t get prescription drugs for pain management, they will turn to other drugs, like heroin. So, it’s a start,” Ulrey told The News Service of Florida in a telephone interview. “I am glad to see discussion around the bill. I’m hopeful that they’re paying attention. They know it’s a crisis. And they’re trying to do something.”

The proposal would also require pharmacists to check photo identification of patients before handing over controlled substances. A Senate panel heard complaints this week about patients who use aliases as a way of avoiding being tracked in the PDMP.

The bill drew praise from Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, the president of the Florida Sheriffs Association, who noted that Senate President Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran of Land O’ Lakes, were also quoted in Scott’s news release Friday.

“I think that tells you that they understand what we’re all dealing with here. It’s that serious,” he said.

Republished with permission of The News Service of Florida.

GOP lawmaker Frank White runs for attorney general

Republican state Rep. Frank White, a general counsel and chief financial officer for a group of auto dealerships, announced Friday he will run for state attorney general in 2018.

White, a Pensacola resident who was first elected to the House in 2016, joins a GOP primary battle that includes state Rep. Jay Fant of Jacksonville and former Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Ashley Moody.

White touted his conservative credentials for the statewide seat.

“In our hometowns, our state, and across the nation, liberals in the courts and our government are working to erode the rights given us by the Creator,” White said in a prepared statement Friday.

The Cabinet post is open next year because term limits prevent Attorney General Pam Bondi from seeking reelection. Democrat Ryan Torrens, an attorney from Hillsborough County, has also filed to run for the seat.

Moody has raised more than $1 million for the race through her campaign account and a political committee known as “Friends of Ashley Moody.”

Fant has nearly matched Moody’s total by infusing his campaign with $750,000 of his own money. White’s announcement should open up the state House District 2 contest next year in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties.

White is the only Republican who had opened a campaign account for the seat.

Pensacola Democrat Raymond Guillory has also filed to run. White, who raised $83,600 for the re-election effort, defeated Guillory by more than 20 percentage points in 2016.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Debris removal firm says it will use pre-storm pricing

As the state looks into claims that debris-removal companies haven’t fulfilled post-Hurricane Irma contracts, one of three firms in the crosshairs of Attorney General Pam Bondi announced it will complete the work at pre-storm pricing.

Randy Perkins, chairman of AshBritt Environmental, told the Parkland City Commission on Wednesday night the company will perform all debris removal at prices that had been agreed upon before the storm.

“It has been our intention to serve our clients at the agreed upon pre-storm pricing since day one,” Perkins said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately, market forces created by back-to-back record-setting storms required debris haulers to contemplate and consider higher commodity pricing in order to serve these contracts in a timely fashion. Now that the market has settled, we are pleased to let all our clients know that AshBritt will stick to the lower, pre-storm pricing levels.”

On Oct. 2, Bondi issued investigative subpoenas to AshBritt, Ceres Environmental Services, Inc. and DRC Emergency Services. According to Bondi, the companies were not honoring pre-storm debris removal contracts with local governments.

“Sitting debris is a health and safety hazard and needs to be removed as soon as possible – but instead of doing their jobs and helping Floridians recover, apparently some contractors are delaying the work or requesting higher rates,” Bondi said when the subpoenas were announced.

Gov. Rick Scott has complained about slower-than-expected debris cleanup following Irma, which made landfall Sept. 10 in Monroe and Collier counties and then blew through much of the rest of the state.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Mike Pence to keynote Republicans’ conference in Orlando

Vice President Mike Pence is slated to be the keynote speaker at the Republican Party of Florida’s annual Statesman Diner during their November state conference in Orlando.

Pence – with “special guest” U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio –  is to highlight the dinner set for Thursday, Nov. 2 at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, kicking off the two-day conference.

Also billed for the kickoff dinner to the quarterly party meeting are three of the four members of the Florida Cabinet, though not Gov. Rick Scott. The other advertised guests include Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi,  Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, Florida Senate President Joe Negron, and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

General tickets are $200 for the dinner, with executive committee members and College Republicans getting discounts.

State seeks to scuttle marijuana smoking case

Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s office is asking a judge to toss out a challenge to a new law that bars patients from smoking medical marijuana.

A 39-page motion filed last week in Leon County circuit court argues that a 2016 constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana did not require smoking to be allowed – and that lawmakers had good reasons to approve a smoking ban.

Orlando attorney John Morgan, who largely bankrolled the medical-marijuana legalization drive, filed a lawsuit in July contending that lawmakers violated the constitutional amendment by barring smoking.

The disputed law was passed during a June special session, as the Legislature took steps to carry out the constitutional amendment.

The law allows medical marijuana to be used in other ways, including by allowing patients to vaporize, or “vape,” marijuana products. The motion to dismiss the lawsuit said lawmakers pointed to health reasons for approving the smoking ban.

“The Legislature considered several significant health-related factors and reasonably determined that the harms caused by smoking were ample reason to exclude smoking from the definition of `medical use,’” the motion said.

It also contended that the constitutional amendment did not specify that smoking would be allowed.

“Had the framers or the voters intended to legalize smoking by adopting the amendment, they could have done so,” attorneys in Bondi’s office wrote. “There was ample opportunity for smoking to be specifically provided for or required in the amendment. But however hard plaintiffs may look for it, a smoking requirement is not in the amendment.”

Circuit Judge Karen Gievers has not scheduled a hearing in the case, according to an online docket.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Election eve poll gives Lawrence McClure wide lead in HD 58 special election

A barrage of nasty direct mail campaigns in the HD 58 special election may have snookered Yvonne Fry’s chances in the Tuesday Republican Primary, according to a new survey from St. Pete Polls.

An automated phone poll conducted over the weekend surveyed 358 registered HD 58 voters and found the Plant City native trailed Republican businessman Lawrence McClure 54-36 percent, with another 10 percent saying they were unsure which candidate they would choose at the ballot box.

McClure polled 20 points better than Fry among whites, and did similarly well among both men and women. He also dominated among voters over 30 – voters aged 50 to 69 picked McClure over Fry by 32 points, with only 7 percent saying they were unsure.

Fry’s only wins came among the 18-29 crowd, 50-33, and among Hispanics, who preferred her 2-to-1 over McClure.

About 44 percent of those polled also said they had already voted in the special primary,

The prime timers have turned out for the election, too, with more than 55 percent of the 70-and-up crowd having already cast their ballot.

There’s still a day left before the door shuts on the primary, but even Fry’s wins don’t paint a pretty picture in a district where 64 percent of the electorate are non-Hispanic whites, and the median age is hovering around the late-30s.

Fry was the first-in candidate for the special election, which Gov. Rick Scott scheduled after former Rep. Dan Raulerson announced he would leave office due to health issues.

She amassed plenty of support from all levels of GOP leadership, too. In addition to Raulerson coming out in support of her once he became a “private citizen,” she won over all five current Plant City Commissioners as well as neighboring Rep. Ross Spano, Attorney General Pam Bondi and a host of others.

McClure picked up his support, and cash, from allies of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who found himself at odds with Raulerson more often than not.

With those deep pockets backing him, he has led in fundraising through most of the campaign. And his major foible – having never cast a ballot in a primary election until last year– was outshined by the rash of mailers branding Fry as a liberal in cahoots with “Obama, Clinton and Pelosi” when it came to 2nd Amendment rights.

The winner of the McClure-Fry battle is the odds-on favorite for the seat, but still must face Democrat Jose Vazquez, Libertarian Bryan Zemina and non-party-affiliated Ahmad Saadaldin in a Dec. 19 general election.

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