The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13 campaign on Tuesday announced endorsements from LaraTrump, President DonaldTrump‘s daughter in law, as well as Attorney General PamBondi.
Trump and Bondi also are listed as “special guests” at a fundraiser for the campaign set for Thursday in Connecticut. It’s trying to garner votes for a proposed constitutional amendment ending commercial dog racing in Florida.
Other endorsements announced Tuesday include Republican state Rep. JackieToledo of Tampa, as well as House candidates, businesses and lawyers.
“Greyhound racing is nothing more than outdated, legalized animal cruelty,” attorney MaryStewart of Longwood said. “Floridians will be on the right side of history and vote ‘yes’ on Amendment 13 in November to end live dog racing in Florida.”
Though a Tallahassee judge recently ordered the amendment off the ballot, the state appealed, which automatically delays the effect of that ruling.
The measure had been slated for the ballot by the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), of which Bondi was a member. Amendments need no less than 60 percent approval by voters to be added to the state constitution.
The other endorsements announced are:
— Candidates Debra Bellanti for Florida House (District 60), Jessica Harrington for Florida House (District 64), Robert Joseph for Florida House (District 84), Rebecca Koelzer for Florida House (District 4), Sally Laufer for Florida House (District 65). Also, the Sarasota-Charlotte Democratic Progressive Caucus.
— All Dogs Hair Haven; Concrete Analysis And Testing Laboratories; Cynthia Davis, MD, P.A.; Flow Carpets; Heartwired Technical Solutions; Hip Dog Canine Hydrotherapy; I Nails and Spa; Insurance Time; Jupiter Dive Center; Madeira Public Relations; Pasco Signs; Salon Roxy; Six Ten Brewing.
— Almost Home Rescue; Canine Castaways; DARE Dachshund Rescue; Diamonds in the Rough Farm; Gulf Shore Animal League; Moonracer Animal Rescue; Leader of the Equine Community; IngridTaskin of Red Fences Farm; MichaelDodane.
— Maria Kazouris, Esq.; Pamela Polani, Esq.; Mary M. Stewart, Esq.; Andrew Smith, P.A.; Welt & Rheaume, P.A.; Rick Ruhl, Esq.
A new poll of the Republican primary for Attorney General shows Pensacola Republican Rep. Frank White an 11-point lead over former circuit court judge Ashley Moody.
The St. Pete Polls survey, conducted Friday and Saturday, found White with 39 percent support among likely Republican primary voters while Moody scored a 28 percent share. A third of respondents said they were unsure which candidate they would support come Aug. 28.
Compared to the previous measure from the same pollster, released in mid-July, both candidates have seen their level of support grow significantly. That poll, the first since the contest became a two-way race, found White with a 26-19 lead over Moody with more than half of Republicans undecided.
Among white Republicans, White’s lead grows to 12 points. The same was true for Republicans over 70. However, his edge dips into the single digits among young and middle-aged Republicans. His lead also carries across all Florida media markets barring West Palm Beach and Miami, where Moody holds slim leads. The former prosecutor also led among voters self-identifying as Hispanic, a comparatively small subset, by a 28-26 margin.
White’s overall lead is well outside the poll’s margin of error. St. Pete Polls contacted 1,387 registered Republicans who said they planned to cast a vote in the primary race. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.4 percent with a 95 percent confidence level.
Just as impressive as the top-line results are the favorability scores.
More than half of those polled knew enough about White to offer their opinion, possibly due to his aggressive plan to hit TV early on in the primary race. Among those that answered the question, White scored a plus-31 in favorability.
By contrast, Moody’s score was middling. Though she edged out her opponent by fractions of a point in name ID, she only ended up 4 points above water, 29-25.
The tepid response may be attributable to primary season mudslinging. Though Moody has the support of dozens of county sheriffs and current Attorney General Pam Bondi, she didn’t start hitting the airwaves until mid-July — more than a month after Team White announced their first ad.
White also got some digs in over Moody’s decision to accept public funding for her campaign. That decision is not an uncommon one — both Republicans running for Governor, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, did the same — and Moody hit back by saying the funding program was made to help candidates compete against self-funders such as White, though her message wasn’t backed up by a direct mail campaign.
Through July 27, White had amassed more than $4.5 million for his campaign and committee accounts, including $2.77 million in self-funding and at least $400,000 in contributions linked to his father-in-law and employer, car dealership magnate Sandy Sansing. He has $1.65 million on hand.
Through the same date, Moody had raised more than $3.6 million across her accounts and had $1.83 million banked.
The winner of the head-to-head between Moody and White will likely face Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw in November. A pair of polls, now somewhat stale, showed Shaw with an edge no matter which Republican he faces on Election Day.
Every July Fourth, Florida Supreme Court Justice RickyPolston reads a copy of the Declaration of Independence reprinted in the Tallahassee Democrat.
“I always sit in the morning with a cup of coffee and read back through that,” Polston told members of the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee this week. “I just enjoy doing that.”
The sharing of his holiday indulgence made sense. Polston, who served as chief justice 2012-14, followed it with a thoughtful explanation of the judiciary, including how the Supreme Court acts almost like a “board of directors.”
Appointed to the bench in 2008, Polston spoke of the court having to handle cases sparked by the Great Recession. The justices encountered nuanced issues related to foreclosures and delinquent properties that stumped even Polston, a former CPA who keeps his license current.
Legal minds across the state were tasked with confronting problems with “shadow inventory” — delinquent properties that had not yet been foreclosed, and “ghost towns,” abandoned properties that attracted undesired or criminal activity, Polston explained.
“This presented a great problem,” Polston said, but eventually led to the court clearing a backlog of hundreds of thousands of foreclosed property cases between 2013 and 2017.
A father of 10 children, six of whom are adopted, Polston said he was dealing with a grueling and lengthy adoption process when he was appointed to the court by Gov. CharlieCrist.
He recalled a reporter asking him if the issue would weigh on his decision-making at the bench. The answer? Yes.
He remembered telling the reporter, “Justice delayed, to me, is justice denied.”
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Drew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
‘Stand your ground’ under fire — Following the fatal shooting of Markeis McGlockton during a parking lot dispute in Pinellas County and a decision not to pursue charges because of the state’s “stand your ground” law, elected officials across the state are calling for the Legislature to reconsider the statute immediately. Democratic state Sen. DarrylRouson of St. Petersburg this week called for a Special Session of the Legislature to address the issue. He was later joined by Senate Democratic Leader OscarBraynon and House Democratic Leader-designate KionneMcGhee. Democratic candidates for office also have gone public with criticisms of the controversial law, promising to fix the issue should they be elected.
State agrees to early voting change — Secretary of State KenDetzner has decided to go along with a federal judge’s decision last week that struck the state’s practice of keeping early voting sites off college and university campuses. U.S. District Judge MarkWalker in his ruling had called the practice “facially discriminatory on account of age.” Detzner’s decision to comply, however, doesn’t automatically guarantee early voting sites will be available at college campuses for the 2018 midterms. The News Service of Florida reports that at least three counties’ supervisors of elections say they cannot open early voting sites before the Aug. 28 primary — and are unsure whether they’ll be in place by the Nov. 6 general election.
Proposed greyhound ban struck down — A circuit court judge this week struck down Amendment 13, a ballot proposal seeking to end dog racing, because the amendment title and summary were “clearly and conclusively defective.” The court decision is a small victory for the Florida Greyhound Association, which had sued to keep the amendment off the November ballot. The state, however, already has appealed the decision, asking the case be heard in the 1st District Court of Appeal. That freezes the status quo, meaning unless a higher court decides otherwise, voters will see and be able to vote for the amendment on the November ballot. Whether those votes count remains to be seen.
Economists predict changes in higher education — Economists with the state Revenue Estimating Conference released estimates for Bright Futures, a state-backed tuition scholarship program, this week that are largely in line with what the Legislature accounted for when expanding the program during the 2018 Session. The total appropriation for the program increased from a December estimate of $340.2 million for the 2018-19 fiscal year to $519.7 million, which matches what the Legislature appropriated for the changes, according to one member of the conference. The most significant changes came with the continuation of the Academic Scholars program funding of the technology fee and tuition differential as part of the 100 percent tuition scholarship and the Florida Medallion Scholars (FMS) program covering 75 percent of tuition and fees, as well FMS’ expansion into coverage of summer courses.
State estimates PECO growth dip — State economists this week predicted the funding source behind the Public Education Capital Outlay trust fund (PECO) would grow more slowly than expected over the next few years. PECO projects, used for constructing new state education facilities and maintaining, restoring and repairing existing facilities, are funded by gross receipts taxes. The Revenue Estimating Conference is reporting that actual gross receipts collections for the fiscal year 2017-2018 were almost $10 million lower than previously forecast. That estimated drop continues in the upcoming years, with FY 18-19 $15 million lower than initially anticipated; $27 million lower in FY 19-20; and $37 million lower in FY 20-21.
CORRECTION — In last week’s edition of ‘Take 5,’ we mischaracterized the results of an investigation into former Sen. JackLatvala by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. To be clear, the agency’s report said its investigation “did not develop an indication that Latvala exerted his influence as a Florida senator to assist Ms. (Laura) McLeod in any issues she presented as a lobbyist in exchange for a continuing sexual relationship.” We regret the error.
Back-to-school tax break begins
Florida’s annual back-to-school sales tax holiday begins Saturday and ends on Monday.
Florida Education Commissioner PamStewart and Department of Revenue Executive Director LeonBiegalski issued joint statements encouraging Floridians to take advantage of the chance to save on school supplies.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for families to save money while purchasing the supplies their students will need for school,” Stewart said. “The start of a new school year is always an exciting time for Florida students, and the back-to-school sales tax holiday makes it easier for parents and students to prepare for a successful year.”
“We are pleased to partner with the Department of Education to promote the Back-to-School Sales Tax Holiday. This is a great time for families to gather the supplies needed for a successful school year,” added Biegalski.
According to Revenue, “qualifying items will be exempt from tax including certain school supplies selling for $15 or less per item, and clothing, footwear, and certain accessories selling for $60 or less per item.” More information is available on the agency’s website.
Anti-cancer kits heading to firefighters
Decontamination kits are on their way to Florida’s fire departments, in hopes they’ll reduce the risk firefighters face from carcinogens — cancer-causing substances — that they encounter on the job.
When many items catch fire, such as tires, the burning can produce cancer-causing compounds.
The first kits have already reached 48 fire departments. In all, 405 departments will benefit, said Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who also serves as state fire marshal.
The Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine is also contributing to the program.
“In 2016 alone cancer caused 70 percent of career firefighter line of duty deaths across the nation, and firefighters have a nearly 15 percent higher risk of dying from cancer,” Patronis said. “Cancer prevalence in firefighters is not up for debate, and we must make sure these heroes have the tools needed to stay healthy and safe.”
A $1 million grant is financing the program. The kits include 5-gallon buckets and heavy plastic bags, dish soap, duct tape, brushes, hoses, spray bottles, hoses and nozzles, and instruction materials.
Patronis pushes pool safety
Florida leads the nation in the number of children dying in pools and spas, at a rate that increased by 20 percent from 2016 to 2017. Now Chief Financial Officer Patronis has issued guidelines intended to reverse the trend.
“Over the past few months, I’ve met with firefighters across the state, listening to their top issues and concerns,” Patronis said. “One issue that continues to emerge is the concern of pool safety among residents and visitors to our state.
“As our population grows, and new families move to our state where pools are very common, we must keep raising awareness about the potential dangers.”
More than 90 percent of the pools in the state were built before Florida passed a law mandating safety standards for swimming pools, including barriers and pool covers. Some 80 percent of the deaths in 2017 involved children younger than 5.
The top tip was to closely supervise kids in pools: “In the time it takes to put in a load of laundry, a child can drown,” Patronis said. He also recommended motion alarms; teaching kids how to swim; and learning how to perform CPR, even if you aren’t a parent.
Fellow commissioners unanimously selected Guy W. Norris as chair for the 2018-19 term. Norris was appointed by Gov. RickScott in 2015 and reappointed in 2018. He is a resident of Lake City and a partner in Norris & Norris, P.A. KimRezanka was unanimously selected vice-chair. She too was appointed by Scott in 2015 and reappointed in 2018. A resident of Cocoa, Rezanka is an attorney with Cantwell & Goldman, P.A.
Holmes County Hospital Corporation
Gov. Scott reappointed LarryCook, 56, to serve a term ending Aug. 22, 2020. A resident of Bonifay, Cook is the owner of Son’s Tire, Inc.
Southeast Volusia Hospital District
Gov. Scott appointed Dr. JanMcGee to serve a term ending March 31, 2022. Succeeding HaroldSmothers, McGee also is the principal of Burns Science & Technology Charter School.
West Florida Regional Planning Council
Gov. Scott appointed Karen “Kasey” Cuchens to fill a vacant seat for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. A former member of the Freeport City Council, Cuchens, 58, is now the vice president of Choctawhatchee Bay Piling and Dock, Inc.
Commercialization of Florida Technology Board of Directors
Gov. Scott appointed Jim O’Connell for a term ending Nov. 3. O’Connell, 54, of Gainesville, is the assistant vice president of technology transfer at the University of Florida. Scott also reappointed ReneeFinley for a term ending Nov. 3. Finley, 51, of Jacksonville, is the founder and former president of innovation for GuideWell Mutual Holding Corporation.
State celebrates breastfeeding
The Florida Department of Health is joining partners across the state to recognize World Breastfeeding Week, which began Wednesday.
“We know that an infant’s first 1,000 days are a crucial time for ensuring the child grows up healthy and thriving, and breastfeeding can significantly improve health outcomes for both mothers and infants,” said Surgeon General and Health Secretary Dr. CelestePhilip. “Supporting mom and encouraging breastfeeding in the first days of baby’s life are essential steps.”
This year’s celebration theme emphasizes how the maternal practice is the “foundation of life,” according to the department. The agency claims that choosing to breastfeed helps to improve an infant’s overall health and can lead to lifelong positive effects for both parties. Mothers who breastfeed their children have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
In addition to health, there are economic benefits associated with breastfeeding. According to the department: “Breastfeeding is a low-cost way of feeding babies and can reduce costs to the health care system and employers by decreasing costs of hospitalizations, medications and reduced absenteeism.”
The health department says it is working actively to promote breastfeeding in the state and is asking Floridians to encourage their employers and communities to support the healthy practice.
State pushes back-to-school immunizations
With Florida students gearing up to return to school in the coming weeks, the Florida Department of Health is reminding parents to double-check their child’s immunization record to ensure they have the required vaccinations.
Surgeon General and Health Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said “making sure your child is fully immunized not only protects them, but it also protects children who cannot receive immunizations for medical reasons.”
According to the Health department’s website, K-12 students should have at least four shots of Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP) and Inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).
As well, the same students should have two doses of vaccines for Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) and Hepatitis B (Hep B), one for Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap) and two doses of Varicella vaccine, with some exceptions. Ask your child’s pediatrician.
The health department provides a free centralized online registry that records immunization records for children. That database can be accessed here. According to DOH, the registry is endorsed by the Florida Academy of Family Physicians, Florida Association of Health Plans, Inc., Florida Medical Association, Florida Osteopathic Medical Association, and the Florida Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics.
FDLE renews accreditation
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has once again been recognized with an “Accreditation with Excellence Award” from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). It’s the eight consecutive award for FDLE.
“Over the past 50 years since our founding, FDLE has grown into one of the nation’s premier state law enforcement agencies, and our nearly three decades of national accreditation bears that out,” said FDLE Commissioner RickSwearingen.
“Florida’s citizens and criminal justice partners can trust that FDLE remains dedicated to providing the highest level of professional service, all while staying at the forefront of new trends and best practices for law enforcement professionals.”
After conducting an internal assessment, CALEA found FDLE to comply with 484 standards, completing what CALEA describes as the ‘Gold Standard Assessment.’
FDLE first received accreditation in 1990. Since then, “the department has undergone rigorous inspections which include on-site visits, employee interviews and an extensive review of policies, procedures and records.”
Florida Family Action ranks lawmakers
Florida Family Action, the legislative arm of the Florida Family Council, released its legislative scorecard this week, ranking state Senators and Representatives on votes recorded during the 2018 Legislative Session.
Led by JohnStemberger, an Orlando attorney and longtime conservative activist, FFA lobbies the Legislature each year for policies that protect and defend life, marriage, family and religious liberty.
This year’s scorecard gave legislators a letter grade ranking (A-F) based on their votes of 10 issues identified by FFA. In the House, the average Democrat score is 34 percent, and the average Republican rating is 96 percent. In the Senate, the average Democrat score is 23 percent, and the average Republican is 82 percent.
Among some of the more widely known concerns of FFA during Session were bills that would have expanded religious liberty in schools, restricted abortions by banning ‘dismemberment abortions,’ and required the state Department of Health to expand its involvement in crisis pregnancy centers that encourage childbirth.
The FFA and its affiliated organizations have staunchly opposed the Competitive Workforce Act, which would expand civil rights protections to LGBTQ individuals. FFA, in an article attached to the scorecard, called the legislation “the worst bill in the world,” saying it would “punish Christians for exercising Free Speech Rights and the Free Exercise of Religion.”
League launches voter prep guide
Less than 100 days out from the 2018 elections, The League of Women Voters of Florida is out with a new website to help voters before they show up at the polls — or seal the envelope on that mail-in ballot.
BeReadyToVote.org is a one-stop where Floridians can get directed to the information they’re looking for, be it registration status or early voting dates, without having to navigate the maze-like structure of their home county’s supervisor of elections website.
The League’s website also includes a link to a nonpartisan voter guide on the candidates running for office. Those a bit cynical about the progressive organization’s ability to give info on Republicans running for office need not fret — the Vote411.org guide includes candidate responses to questions without editorial narrative.
The website also includes bullet points for the 13 amendments slated for the ballot with plain English summaries of what a vote for or against would entail, as well as a list of the political committees working for or against the measures.
While information on registering to vote is available on the site, first-time voters looking to tick a box in the Aug. 28 primary election have missed the boat if they aren’t already on the books. Eligible Floridians face an Oct. 9 registration deadline if they want to cast a ballot in November.
Anti-rail group grades candidates
Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL) is advising Floridians with similar interests on how to vote for Treasure Coast region candidates up and down the ballot in the upcoming election.
CARE FL is primarily concerned with All Aboard Florida and the Brightline trains. The high-speed rail operations travel through Treasure Coast communities. After sending a survey gauging candidates on their prospective, rail-related policy positions, CARE FL released a report card this week, doling out letter grades to each candidate.
“We are pleased so many incumbents and candidates are finally echoing the public safety concerns that have been expressed by so many members in our communities,” said BrentHanlon, chairman of the CARE FL Steering Committee.
“This is more than a regional issue, and there should be nothing more important than the safety of Florida’s residents, and visitors alike. We applaud the elected officials who have steadfastly stood with us — and for that, they are recognized in this report card as Champions.”
Topping the list as recognized ‘Champions’ are Congressmen BillPosey and BrianMast, along with state Reps. ErinGrall, GayleHarrell and MaryLynnMagar, Indian River County Commissioners Peter O’Bryan and Joseph Flescher, and Stuart City Commissioner Troy McDonald.
Harrell is running for state Senate District 25, and her opponents, BelindaKeiser and RobertLevy both received A grades. The only graded candidate for Governor, Democrat PhilipLevine, received an A rating.
“We believe these scores will help inform voters as they cast their ballots in the upcoming election,” said JaneFeinstein, a member of the CARE FL Steering Committee who serves as the chairman of the group’s survey initiative.
“For many residents in our region, a candidate’s position on high-speed rail is a deciding factor. We need to ensure that our elected officials know that keeping our communities safe is a top priority.”
Able Trust chips in
The Able Trust, an organization that helps students with disabilities prepare and enter the workforce, also is assisting organizations who support children who have been abused, neglected or assaulted.
This week, the organization presented the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center (ECCAC) with a $35,000 grant to help ECCAC carry out its mission of helping children in need.
“This grant will help the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center continue to provide its vital services,” said Dr. SusanneHomant, president and CEO of The Able Trust. “Making sure programs are available to help and protect children is of the utmost importance.”
ECCAC, serving children in Okaloosa and Walton counties, “assists children and their families from the investigation process through healing and restoring their childhood,” according to a news release announcing the grant.
In accepting the grant, the head of ECCAC cited the importance of groups like The Able Trust: “It is through acts of generosity and kindness that we are able to continue to care for and protect the children of our community exposed to child abuse,” said Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center board president, TammyPierce.
FSU launching Peace Corps prep
Florida State University is rolling out a new program this fall tailor-made to help prepare students to volunteer in the Peace Corps.
Dubbed the Peace Corps Prep program, the university will partner with the federal volunteer agency to “help undergraduate students (with) the skills they need to be a competitive applicant for those positions,” according to the university. Administered by FSU’s Learning Systems Institute, the program is currently accepting applications for fall.
The partnership enlists the College of Education to help students understand and navigate the application process for Corps prospects.
“FSU is delighted to extend its ongoing work with the Peace Corps through this program,” said HelenBoyle, associate professor of education and program coordinator. “It will be invaluable for undergraduates who are thinking about international careers in government, development or teaching abroad.”
Since 1961, FSU has produced 856 volunteers. Thirty-eight currently serve, according to the university. The Corps established the prep program in 2007, and more than 75 other institutions have formed similar partnerships. The university anticipates the effort will help increase its ranking among all other public universities.
Get growing with Leon County
Those looking to harvest their own vegetables this fall can jump-start their garden with a little help from Leon County.
The 2018 Fall Seed Library Launch is back again this year, and will take place 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday at the Woodville Branch Library, 8000 Old Woodville Road. The location offers lessons in seeding, composting, cooking, pollination and site selection as part of the one-time event.
As long as supplies last, library patrons across the county can check out three seed packets per card per month from any of the seven public library locations.
Among the seed varieties: Arugula, Di Cicco Broccoli, Danvers Carrots, Champion Collards, Tronchuda Kale, Flashy Lightning Lettuce, Mizuna Green Mustard Greens, Giant of Italy Parsley, Easter Egg Radishes and Long Standing Bloomsdale Spinach.
The seeds are made available through the Seed Library Program. Now in its third year, the initiative seeks “to promote noninvasive, heirloom vegetable seed planting in Leon County and to encourage residents to grow their own nutritious food,” according to county officials.
Tallahassee Senior Services ‘invigorates’
Tallahassee Senior Services’ Lifelong Learning Extravaganza (L3X) returns during September for its ninth year and “exemplifies lifelong learning at its finest, offering educational fare for everyone’s palette,” a news release said.
The month-long program provides adults (18 and older) with the opportunity to gain knowledge about art, music, culture, science, nature, history, literature, food, drink and more. More than 50 different activities are available, including lectures, tours and field trips from hands-on soap making to viewing stalagmites.
To preview some of the planned L3X activities, Tallahassee Senior Services is hosting launch parties, which are open to the public, on Monday, Aug. 6, 8:30-10 a.m. and Tuesday, Aug. 7, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Interested participants will be able to pick up a course catalog, meet instructors and sponsors and enjoy refreshments. While these launch parties provide a preview, they are not required for registration.
Members of the Tallahassee Senior Center Foundation will be able to register for L3X classes beginning Wednesday, Aug. 8. The general population can start registering on Monday, Aug. 13. To view the course catalog and register online, visit TallahasseeSeniorFoundation.org.
Registration is open until a class fills up. Early registration is encouraged; many classes fill quickly.
Saying it “hide(s) the ball” and calling it “outright ‘trickeration,’ ” a Tallahassee judge has ruled that a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at ending dog racing shouldn’t go on the November ballot.
But in a statement, Attorney General PamBondi – who supports a dog-racing ban – said her office “will appeal this decision immediately and seek an expedited review by the Florida Supreme Court.” Time is of the essence; Election Day is 97 days away as of Wednesday.
Among other things, Circuit Judge KarenGievers‘ 27-page order (also posted below) said Amendment 13‘s ballot title and summary would mislead voters into believing a ‘yes’ vote was an outright ban on greyhound racing.
The amendment bans betting on live dog racing in Florida, and doesn’t make clear that trackgoers in Florida could still bet on ‘simulcast‘ dog races outside Florida, she said. Live racing is still conducted at 11 tracks in the state.
It also doesn’t make clear, Gievers added, that a vote for the amendment is a vote for other gambling – such as card games and slot machines – to continue at tracks that have them.
Gievers said the amendment title and summary were “clearly and conclusively defective,” a legal standard developed by the Supreme Court to justify keeping proposed amendments off the ballot.
Specifically, a ballot summary is defective if it “fails to specify exactly what was being changed, thereby confusing voters” or “gives the appearance of creating new rights or protections, when the actual effect is to reduce or eliminate rights or protections already in existence,” the court has said.
Amendment 13 doesn’t provide voters with the “ ’truth in packaging’ to which they are entitled,” she wrote.
The measure was slated for the November ballot by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). Amendments need no less than 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.
The Florida Greyhound Association, which represents breeders and owners who oppose Amendment 13, had sued to prevent it from appearing on the statewide ballot. A final hearing was held last Thursday.
“Judge Gievers was very thorough in her ruling,” said JackCory, lobbyist and spokesman for the association.
She had, for instance, said the ballot title and summary don’t disclose that “humane treatment of animals would become a fundamental value of the people of Florida,” agreeing with arguments made by the association’s lawyer, Major B. Harding, a retired Florida Supreme Court justice.
“The state of Florida should not use taxpayer dollars to appeal this case,” Cory added. “The proponents got a donation of $1.5 million last week,” referring to a large donation from the Doris Day Animal League. “If (they) want to appeal the ruling, they should use their own money, not (that of) taxpayers.”
The Protect Dogs–Yes on 13 campaign, which formed to push for the amendment’s passage, said the legal challenge isn’t over.
“This is a process that will end with a decision by the Florida Supreme Court,” the campaign said in a statement, echoing Bondi. “This is the first step on a long road, and we are confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the amendment.”
The campaign further called the suit “a desperate attempt to prevent voters from having a voice on whether greyhound confinement and deaths should continue. It was filed because greyhound breeders know that when Amendment 13 appears on the ballot, Floridians will vote ‘yes’ for the dogs.”
The ban was one of eight amendments OK’d by the CRC; 13 amendments in all had been set for the ballot. Amendment 13 is the first to be struck down out of the four CRC measures that have been challenged in court.
There were hints the construction trade group would be backing Moody, a former prosecutor and circuit court judge, after the association met in Marco Island last week to decide which candidates it would back in Florida’s Cabinet and state legislative races.
“Associated Builders and Contractors of Florida is proud to endorse Ashley Moody for Attorney General,” said ABC Florida chair George Cuesta. “Her steadfast support of reducing barriers to increase innovation and promote job creation, will make her an excellent partner to the Commercial Construction industry. These contractors are not just employers but are also the lifeblood of Florida’s growth.”
“I appreciate the confidence the Associated Builders and Contractors have in my ability to combat the tough issues facing our state,” Moody said. “As Attorney General, I will use my years of experience as a business attorney, prosecutor, and judge to ensure those that scam vulnerable citizens and frivolously tax our judicial system are held accountable.”
Moody faces Pensacola state Rep. Frank White in the Republican primary.
White has self-funded to the tune of nearly $4 million so far, and received some support from his family as well, which helped him start hitting the airwaves back in early June. Moody has kept pace, however, raising more than $3.25 million without whipping out her own checkbook. Moody has since rolled out TV ads of her own.
The most recent poll of the primary race showed White holding a lead over Moody, though more than half of Republican primary voters were undecided.
The winner of the Aug. 28 Republican primary will likely face Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw in the Nov. 6 general election. Though Shaw has not had as much success as his Republican rivals when it comes to fundraising, a couple recent polls show him with an edge among likely general election voters.
Authored by the watchdog group’s vice president of research, KurtWenner, the interactive series takes a deep dive into the budget and additional appropriations that went into effect July 1, putting some key numbers into perspective.
The Legislature passed an $88.7 billion General Appropriations Act, and $600 million attached to other bills rounded out the state’s spending. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act made up the bulk ($400 million) of the $600 million attached to bills this year. The higher education plan passed and signed into law covered nearly the rest of that tab with a $123.5 million price tag.
Taking up the largest portion of the budget is Health and Human Services spending at almost 42 percent, or $37.2 billion. Education is the next highest at around 29 percent, or roughly $25.8 billion.
More than $391 million was swept out of state trust funds this year, with the largest sweep ($182 million) coming out of the affordable housing trust funds.
And as Wenner notes, while much of this year’s budget talks circled around the concept that it was “a tight budget year,” 517-member projects worth more than $560 million made the cut regardless.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica, MichaelMoline and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Prosecutor will not charge Latvala — Former state Sen. JackLatvala, a longtime Florida lawmaker who resigned from the chamber in December amid allegations of serial sexual harassment, will not be the subject of a criminal proceeding. State Attorney JackCampbell announced this week that he would not seek charges against the Clearwater Republican. Campbell opted not to pursue the case after reviewing an investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Campbell decided he couldn’t bring a case that he could prove by the stringent criminal legal standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” and said he’d “take no further action.” Latvala told the Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald, “I’m appreciative of serious law enforcement people who put political considerations aside to look at the law. They drew a conclusion based on the facts and the law, as opposed to the kangaroo court the Senate put forth.”
Department of Agriculture under audit — The state’s auditor general is conducting a review of operations at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The audit includes an examination of the agency’s concealed carry weapons permitting program, which has come under fire following media reports detailing lapses and top-down pressure to approve more permits. Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam’s office, however, told The Associated Press the audit began before news broke of the agency’s trouble issuing concealed carry permits. Meanwhile, POLITICO Florida reported this week that two FDACS employees have received taxpayer-funded settlements for complaints regarding the permit-issuing program. In both cases, however, FDACS and Putnam have denied any wrongdoing.
Judge overturns early voting restriction — U.S. District Judge MarkWalker overturned the statewide practice of prohibiting early voting on college and university campuses. The injunction issued by Walker demands Gov. RickScott and Secretary of State KenDetzner allow all 67 counties to use the campuses as early voting facilities this fall. Calling the practice a “stark pattern of discrimination,” Walker wrote in his ruling, “It is unexplainable on grounds other than age because it bears so heavily on younger voters than on all other voters.” Scott’s office issued the following: “Gov. Scott is proud to have signed the largest expansion of early voting in the state’s history. We will review this ruling.” The lawsuit was originally filed by students and backed by the Andrew Goodman Foundation and the League of Women Voters of Florida.
SunPasscontroversycontinues — More elected officials are directing their ire toward SunPass, an electronic toll system that stopped billing customers during a June upgrade. The upgrade, carried out by vendor Conduent State & Local Solutions, lasted weeks longer than anticipated and resulted in 170 million backlogged transactions, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Democratic lawmakers, including incoming Minority Leader KionneMcGhee, dubbed the problem “tollgate” this week during a news conference in Miami. McGhee also called on Gov. Scott to suspend all transactions until the system upgrades are completed and spawn an independent audit of FDOT. The state already has suspended late fees and penalties on the backlogged transactions and has halted payments to Conduent.
Education lawsuit awaits Supreme Court decision — A legal battle over a 1998 constitutional amendment that in part provided for a “high quality” system of public schools is beginning to brew in the capital city. On Thursday, reports the News Service of Florida, six Republican appointees of the 1997 Constitution Revision Commission filed a brief in response to a legal challenge filed by 10 of their Democratic counterparts, who are suing the state for allegedly failing to meet the “high quality” threshold for education. The Leon County Circuit Court and 1st District Court of Appeal already have ruled against the plaintiffs. The Supreme Court announced in April it would hear the case, and the state last week filed a 72-page brief asking the high court to uphold prior decisions.
‘Military-Friendly Guide’ now online
Gov. Scott this week released the 2018 Florida Military-Friendly Guide, an annual guide created by the Florida Defense Support Task Force that offers a summary of “laws, programs and services benefiting military service members and their families.”
It also highlights Florida’s low tax and financial advantages, educational benefits, professional licensure opportunities and fee waivers for servicemen, women and their families stationed in Florida.
“As a proud Navy veteran, and the son of a World War II veteran, I want to make sure our military and their families have access to the services they need,” Scott said in a statement. “Florida is the most military and veteran-friendly state in the nation, and since I took office, we’ve invested hundreds of millions in funding for services and benefits for our military and veterans.
“Our Florida Military-Friendly Guide is another great resource for our military members to learn more about these great benefits and everything Florida has to offer to those who serve.”
Florida is home to more than 1.5 million veterans, 20 major military installations, and three unified commands. A digital copy of the 2018 Florida Military-Friendly Guide is available here.
Scott highlights more than 88K businesses spawned during tenure
The jobs-focused Governor shared an impressive statistic this week: 88,245 new businesses have opened in Florida since December 2010, just a month before Scott took office.
That complements the job growth legacy Scott sought to leave from the start; it is an indication that more and more businesses are choosing to open up shop in the Sunshine State.
“When I took office, our economy was in freefall, taxes had skyrocketed and businesses across the state were forced to close their doors, causing unemployment to climb out of control,” Scott said. “Less than eight years later, Florida is not only back on track, but we are serving as the success and turnaround story for the entire nation to follow.”
Scott also discussed the 1.5 million new private-sector jobs his administration claims to have created, saying, “it is undeniable that our playbook of cutting taxes, eliminating burdensome regulations and building the country’s most business-friendly environment is working. I’m proud of our great businesses and we’ll never stop fighting to make sure Florida is the best place for families to succeed.”
CissyProctor, who oversees the Department of Economic Opportunity — often referred to as the ‘jobs agency’ — said, “We are excited that businesses are confident in our economy and choosing to make Florida their home. Our pro-business policies are supporting an environment where small, medium and large businesses can succeed and create opportunities for families across the state.”
Florida helps California battle blazes
The Florida Forest Service said this week it deployed 20 wildlands firefighters to help suppress the Ferguson fire in the Sierra National Forest in California. The 36,500-acre wildfire began July 13.
“Our wildland firefighters rise to the occasion time and again to assist wildfire suppression efforts not only in Florida but throughout the country,” said Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam, who oversees the service. “I applaud their dedication to help the brave men and women out West keep our fellow Americans safe.”
This year, the Florida Forest Service has deployed 127 wildland firefighters across the country. In addition to the 20-person crew deployed to California, there are currently 47 other resources deployed to assist with wildfire suppression in Texas, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, California, Oregon and Wyoming.
“There are currently 140 wildfires burning throughout the western United States, and our firefighters are ready to support suppression efforts in any way we can to help protect California’s residents, homes and wildlife,” Forest Service Director and State Forester JimKarels said.
Patronis touts record-breaking unclaimed returns to Floridians
More than $321 million is back in the hands of Florida residents and businesses, according to Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis.
That sum, tallied from Patronis’ July 2017 assumption of the office, is a record. It exceeds the previously held record by more than $8 million, according to Patronis. The Division of Unclaimed Property, overseen by the CFO, returned the money by processing more than 635,000 claims.
“Since taking office, we not only broke the yearly record, but also set a new monthly record during April,” Patronis said. “Florida has remained a national leader with our proactive efforts to return unclaimed property, and we will continue working to raise the bar even higher.”
Currently, roughly $2 billion remains unclaimed across more than 14 million accounts. Per the CFO’s office, “This unclaimed property comes from dormant accounts in financial institutions, insurance and utility companies, securities and trust holdings. In addition to money and securities, unclaimed property includes tangible property such as watches, jewelry, coins, currency, stamps, historical items and other miscellaneous articles from abandoned safe deposit boxes.”
Business owners and Floridians are encouraged to visit www.fltreasurehunt.gov to check for accounts that could be tied to them.
Florida State College at Jacksonville District Board of Trustees
Palmer Clarkson, 61, of Jacksonville, is the chief executive officer and president of Bridgestone HosePower. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina. Clarkson succeeds Randy DeFoor and is appointed for a term beginning July 20 and ending May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Greater Orlando Aviation Authority
Steven “Dean” Asher, 50, of Orlando, is the Vice President of Don Asher and Associates, LLC and Asher Maintenance Services, LLC. He received his bachelor’s degree from Mercer University. Asher is reappointed for a term ending April 16, 2020. Julian Fouche, 70, of Windermere, was the former Senior Vice President of Disney Destinations. He received his bachelor’s degree from Georgia Southwestern University and is a member of the Florida Council of Tourism Leaders. Fouche is reappointed for a term ending April 16, 2022. These appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.
District Medical Examiners
Dr. RiazulImami, 84, of Port Charlotte, is the chief medical examiner of District 22. He is reappointed for a term ending July 1, 2020.
Lake Shore Hospital Authority
JosephBrooks, 34, of Lake City, is the chief financial officer for Haven. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending July 20, 2022.
Union County Housing Authority
VanzettaThomas, 46, of Lake Butler, is a supervisor with the Tacachalee Center. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending August 7, 2020.
Jackson County Hospital District
Michael Nuccio, 55, of Marianna, is a physician assistant at Tallahassee Orthopedic Clinic at Marianna. He succeeds JamesWard and is appointed for a term ending August 27, 2019. Chuck Hudson, 49, of Marianna, is a market executive for First Commerce Credit Union. He succeeds Dr. Bob Hoff and is appointed for a term ending July 19, 2022. Dr. JoeGay, 69, of Marianna, is a general internist at Chipola Medical Associates, LLC. He is reappointed for a term ending June 23, 2021. SarahClemmons, 65, of Marianna, is the president of Chipola College. She is reappointed for a term ending June 23, 2020.
19th Circuit Court
Michael J. Linn, 39, of Port St. Lucie, is an Assistant State Attorney for the 19th Circuit. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of West Florida and his law degree from University of Florida College of Law. Linn fills the judicial vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Paul B. Kanarek.
5th District Court of Appeal
Judge Jamie R. Grosshans, 39, of Winter Garden, is a county judge for Orange County, and previously served as an Assistant State Attorney for the 9th Judicial Circuit. She received her bachelor’s degree from Thomas Edison State College and her law degree from the University of Mississippi School of Law. Grosshans fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge William D. Palmer. Judge John M. Harris, 51, of Mims, is a circuit judge for the 18th Judicial Circuit, and previously served as county judge for Brevard County Court. He received his bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma University and his law degree from Florida State University College of Law. Harris fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Thomas D. Sawaya.
Septic-to-sewer project gets $2.4M
The Department of Environmental Protection this week announced a partnership with the St. Johns River Water Management District, Indian River County and the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program to provide $2.4 million for the West Wabasso septic-to-sewer project.
The project, which will work to improve water quality, includes the construction of a centralized gravity sewer system in the Whitfield subdivision and conversion of approximately 54 properties currently on septic to the new sewer system.
Said DrewBartlett, DEP’s deputy secretary for ecosystems restoration: “The Indian River Lagoon is one of Florida’s most iconic natural treasures and projects like this help us improve water quality in this ecosystem and protect Florida’s environment.”
Nutrients, specifically nitrogen and phosphorous, are naturally present in the water, but too much can harm water quality. Excess nutrients can come from insufficient treatment at wastewater treatment facilities, stormwater runoff, densely clustered septic systems and fertilizer use.
Septic systems can contribute to nitrogen pollution of surface waters, especially in areas in Florida with highly permeable (sandy) soils, like the Indian River Lagoon basin. This makes addressing septic tanks an important component in water quality restoration.
Sheriffs association brings in new board
The Florida Sheriffs Association, one of the largest law enforcement associations in the country, announced this week its new leadership team for the 2018-2019 year.
Topping the list is Columbia County Sheriff MarkHunter, who will be responsible for presiding over the association.
Hunter is a Columbia County native with 24 years of dedicated law enforcement service. He’s been elected to sheriff three consecutive times.
“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to fill the role as President,” Hunter said. “I am honored to serve in this position and make the association and our community proud.”
Walton County Sheriff MikeAdkinson, the outgoing FSA president, is optimistic of his successor.
“The Florida Sheriffs Association could not have a more appropriate leader taking charge,” said Adkinson. “Sheriff Hunter will represent the association, his county, his state, his country and fellow sheriffs well. I am honored to pass the reigns onto and help transition him into the position.”
Other changes include: Vice President Sheriff BobGualtieri of Pinellas, Secretary Sheriff BobbySchultz of Gilchrist; Treasurer Sheriff TomKnight of Sarasota; Chair Sheriff BobbyMcCallum of Levy; and Vice-Chair Sheriff AlNienhuis of Hernando. Adkinson will serve as Immediate Past President.
$3M algae-targeting grant launched
The state Department of Environmental Protection launched a $3 million grant program this week to help local governments clean up waterways affected by increasingly problematic algal blooms.
News of the grant follows Gov. Scott’s issuing an executive order earlier in June that declared the algae crisis a state emergency.
“As our state once again faces harmful algal blooms from federal water releases, we continue to take a multifaceted approach to protect families and ensure Florida’s pristine environment and natural treasures are protected,” Scott said in announcing the grant.
The funding will help affected communities clean up algae in marinas, boat ramps and other public access areas. According to Scott’s office, “Funding from this grant program can be used for services including containment, removal, cleanup, elimination, transportation and disposal of harmful algal blooms in key areas identified by Florida’s local counties.”
DEP Secretary NoahValenstein said his agency is committed to partnering with local governments to help mitigate the toxic blooms. “We encourage local counties to work with DEP to take advantage of this grant program and to help us move forward with these longer-term solutions,” he added.
Health Dep’t promotes Hep testing
The Florida Department of Health recognizes today (July 28) as World Hepatitis Day.
“Every year, this day is set aside to raise awareness about the global burden of viral hepatitis and promote influential prevention strategies,” the department said in a news release.
Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, which processes nutrients, filters the blood and fights infections.
“If left undetected, viral hepatitis can cause serious health consequences or even death, but a large portion of people living with hepatitis B and C are unaware of their status,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip. “I encourage everyone to be sure of their status by knowing their risk factors for contracting viral hepatitis and getting tested.”
The recreational harvest of greater amberjack and gray triggerfish will reopen in Gulf state and federal waters Aug. 1, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission said in a news release.
The amberjack season will remain open through Oct. 31 in state waters. The triggerfish season will remain open through Dec. 31 in state waters.
For greater amberjack in the Gulf, the minimum size limit is 34 inches fork length and the daily bag limit is one fish per person. For gray triggerfish in the Gulf, the minimum size limit is 15 inches fork length and the daily bag limit is one fish per person.
Volunteer Florida’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant funding enables nonprofits to recruit and retain skills-based volunteers, using their education and experience to serve Florida students, families and communities.
Volunteer Florida will distribute $360,000; each grantee will receive $15,000. Proposals must be submitted before 5 p.m. (Eastern time) Tuesday, Aug. 7.
— Click here to listen to a recording of the 2018-2019 VGF Technical Assistance Call.
— Click here to view the slides from the 2018-2019 VGF Technical Assistance Call.
— For more information, including the Request for Proposal, click here.
Volunteer Florida is Florida’s lead agency for volunteerism and national service, administering more than $32 million in federal, state and local funding to deliver high-impact national service and volunteer programs in Florida.
It promotes and encourages volunteerism to meet critical needs across the state. The organization also serves as Florida’s lead agency for volunteers and donations before, during and after disasters.
FSU summer commencements set
Florida State University will host two summer commencement ceremonies featuring FSU trustee JorgeGonzalez, president and CEO of The St. Joe Company.
Gonzalez, who has led the real estate operating and development company since 2015, will deliver the keynote address at the Friday evening and Saturday morning ceremonies at the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center.
Florida State will award degrees to 2,454 students this summer, including 1,639 bachelor’s degrees, 613 master’s and specialist’s degrees and 202 doctorates. About 1,500 students are expected to participate in the two ceremonies.
The events will take place Friday, Aug. 3, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Aug. 4, at 9 a.m.
The civic center is at 505 W. Pensacola St. in Tallahassee.
The National League of Junior Cotillions (NLJC), a program of “etiquette, character education and social dance training for middle school students,” says it is re-establishing its program in Leon County.
“We will be selecting a director for a local chapter who will receive complete training and an exclusive territory for expansion,” said CharlesWinters, the league’s president. “This program is making a positive impact on students across the nation and we are delighted to know that more young people in this area will have the opportunity for this vital training.”
The purpose of the program is to “give students instruction and practice in the courtesies that make life more pleasant for them and those around them,” a news release said.
“Students actively learn courtesies through a creative method employing role playing, skits and games. Standard ballroom and line dancing is taught using nationally approved top 40 music.
“Character instruction is also provided regarding the following: honor, respect, ethics, sportsmanship, acknowledgments of gifts, behavior at cultural and civic events, correspondence, interaction in groups, introductions, paying and receiving compliments, receiving lines, table manners, instructional dinners, electronic etiquette, cellphone courtesy, and many other areas of social conduct.”
The organization currently has directors operating hundreds of chapters in 30 states. To apply or nominate someone for Leon County director, call (800) 633-7947, visit www.nljc.com, or email.
TPD, homeless man story goes viral
An act of kindness in the capital city took the internet by storm this week, and the fallout of positivity has even involved U.S. Sen. MarcoRubio.
The story starts with Tallahassee police officer TonyCarlson, who noticed a homeless man attempting to shave outside of a nearby Circle K gas station.
The man, who has only identified himself as Phil, did not have a mirror and told Carlson he needed to shave to get a job at a local McDonalds. Carlson then shaved Phil’s beard for him on location.
A video capturing the touching moment quickly went viral, with media publications like Fox News, CBS and MSNBC republishing the snippet.
On Facebook, Carlson said he contacted Rubio’s Tallahassee office to help Phil get his Social Security card. Rubio’s local staff was willing and able to get the ball rolling.
“Phil was in my Tallahassee office today to fill out paperwork so we can help get his ID and Social Security cards for employment,” Rubio tweeted this week. “ … We’re rooting for you, Phil!”
Attorney General PamBondi is leveraging her relationship with President DonaldTrump in an attempt to give her Cabinet colleague AdamPutnam a boost in his gubernatorial campaign.
Putnam’s campaign announced Thursday night that it will begin airing an ad featuring Bondi’s’ support for the Agriculture Commissioner.
But having the Attorney General’s support, one could argue, means having at least some link to the President. The 30-second spot features Bondi saying, “I fought hard to elect President Trump and I’m supporting Adam Putnam for Governor.” Bondi stumped for Trump in 2016, and the Donald J. Trump Foundation has donated to Bondi’s political coffers in the past.
“Adam will stand with President Trump to get tough on illegal immigration, ban sanctuary cities and deport criminal illegal aliens,” Bondi continues. She also reminds viewers that close to 50 Florida sheriffs have endorsed Putnam.
The ad follows Putnam’s recent slip in favorability among Florida voters. Three recent polls have shown DeSantis ahead by double digits, and a poll released by Florida Atlantic University on Wednesday showed DeSantis up nine points over Putnam. In another recent poll, the Florida Chamber (which has endorsed Putnam) declared the race a current tie.
DeSantis’ recent success has been linked to Trump’s June intervention in the race, when he tweeted, “Congressman Ron DeSantis, a top student at Yale and Harvard Law School, is running for Governor of the Great State of Florida. Ron is strong on Borders, tough on Crime & big on Cutting Taxes – Loves our Military & our Vets. He will be a Great Governor & has my full Endorsement!”
Trump’s campaign arm has since announced that the President will come to Tampa to tout certain Republicans, DeSantis among them, on July 31.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine sent a letter Wednesday to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi essentially asking her to decriminalize marijuana for the time by instructing state attorneys to not prosecute small-amount possession cases until at least after the elections.
Levine, who joined his fellow Democratic gubernatorial candidates Chris King and Andrew Gillum in June in calling for eventual legalization, took a step further with the letter, essentially saying that if it’s the right thing to do, now’s a good time to do it.
Levine’s June proposalcalled for a “careful move to legalize the sale of recreational marijuana for adults,” with a plan for decriminalization, leading to regulations and taxes, with proposals on how to spend the revenue.
Levine called it a chance to improve the state’s justice system.
And Wednesday Levine suggested that Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott, being lame ducks, ought to hold off on such prosecutions until the new attorney general and governor are picked.
There was no immediate response from Bondi’s office.
“For years our state has prosecuted small-scale marijuana possession and ruined the lives of far too many Floridians,” Levine states in the letter. “This has added to our overcrowded prisons, kept people out of the workplace and from serving in our military, and prevented Floridians from obtaining financial aid to pursue higher education. These policies put communities of color at a stark disadvantage as they are far more likely to be prosecuted for small-scale possession than other racial groups.
“This is the wrong approach and only holds our state back,” Levine continues.
Levine cited efforts by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal who directed prosecutors there to postpone open marijuana cases. Offering that model, Levine asked Bondi to seek adjournments on such cases in Florida until after the November election, which would reveal a new governor and attorney general.
“As public opinion shifts and we move toward decriminalization and, ultimately, careful legalization of marijuana, we must make sure our justice system is fair and gives people a second chance,” Levine writes.
“This is simply the right thing to do,” Levine concludes.
In Moody’s 30-second spot, the narrator beings by saying, “Our streets aren’t safe.” Moody then jumps in to say she will fix the problems plaguing the state.
But that reference to unsafe streets doesn’t jibe with the facts, according to United Conservatives.
The group’s new ad, titled “Ashley Moody Facts,” points to statements made by the state’s current Republican administration, touting a drop in violent crime in 2017.
Gov. Rick Scott‘s office put out a news release in May which pegged Florida’s crime rate at a 47-year low in 2017. The ad also features a news conference where Scott said, “Florida’s crime rate dropped by six percent in 2017, including a reduction in violent crimes by more than three percent.”
“It’s disturbing that a candidate running for Attorney General would think our crime problem is solved,” said Nick Catroppo, campaign manager for Moody.
“If Frank White had spent even a second working with law enforcement, leading investigations, or prosecuting a case instead of being a politician, he would understand Florida’s next attorney general will face significant criminal threats not the least of which are escalating violent crime rates in parts of the state and attacks on law enforcement.”
Moody and White are the only two Republicans competing in the AG race.
The Democrats also currently have two candidates running, though that race was upended Wednesday as Sean Shaw sued to have his opponent, Ryan Torrens, removed from the ballot.
Non-affiliated candidate Jeffrey Marc Siskind is also running.
Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody picked up more law enforcement support Tuesday by way of an endorsement from the Florida Police Chiefs Association.
“As a former federal prosecutor and Circuit Court judge, Ashley Moody has shown dedication in bringing criminals to justice and upholding the law,” FPCA executive director Amy Mercer said.
“She has the knowledge and experience our state needs to address complex public safety issues and has built strong relationships with police chiefs across Florida. The Florida Police Chiefs Association is proud to endorse Ashley Moody as our next Attorney General.”
Moody has also earned the backing of current Attorney General Pam Bondi, a lifelong friend. Bondi is term-limited and cannot run for re-election in 2018.
“Law enforcement professionals need and deserve an Attorney General who has fought alongside them to put criminals behind bars and the experience to successfully help them accomplish their mission of keeping our communities safe,” Moody said.
“As Attorney General, I will work to ensure that those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us have the resources and support to do their jobs and protect their ranks. I am sincerely honored to have the support of the Florida Police Chiefs Association and look forward to our work together ensuring a stronger, safer Florida.”
Moody faces Pensacola state Rep. Frank White in the Aug. 28 Republican primary. The winner of the GOP nomination will face one of two Democrats, Tampa state Rep. Sean Shaw or Tampa attorney Ryan Torrens, in the Nov. 6 general election.
Through July 13, Moody led the field in fundraising with more than $3.1 million raised between her campaign and committee, Friends of Ashley Moody. She has about $1.8 million on hand.