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Pam Bondi just saying ‘no’ to O.J. Simpson’s return to Florida

O.J. Simpson won’t return to Florida if Pam Bondi has any sway over his homecoming.

The state’s Republican attorney general sent a 2-1/2 page letter to Corrections Secretary Julie Jones on Friday, saying she objected to Simpson’s return on behalf of the state. He previously lived in Kendall, Miami-Dade County.

Simpson’s lawyer also Friday said the former football star and celebrity criminal defendant will live in Florida following his parole from a Nevada prison where he’s been held the past nine years after a robbery conviction. He’d been sentenced to 33 years.

Bondi mentioned an interstate agreement that allows states to deny relocation permission to parolees from other states. A Department of Corrections spokeswoman said the agency has not received a transfer request or documents about Simpson, who’s eligible for release Sunday.

Bondi quoted Simpson as saying, “I could easily stay in Nevada but I don’t think you guys want me here.”

“In light of Mr. Simpson’s history in California, Nevada and Florida … the same goes for the people of Florida,” Bondi told Jones, mentioning the “added dangers that his relocation would pose to our citizens.”

Should Simpson be allowed to come back, Bondi asked that he wear an electronic monitoring bracelet, report to his parole officer in person and not by mail, be regularly tested for alcohol and drugs, and have his travel “substantially restricted.”

Simpson won parole in July. He was convicted in 2008 on armed robbery, kidnapping and other charges.

The conviction came after a botched effort to retrieve items that Simpson insisted were stolen after his acquittal in the 1994 killings of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman in Los Angeles.

Simpson was found liable for their deaths in a civil case in 1997 and ordered to pay the victims’ families $33.5 million.

A Goldman family attorney said the judgment amount has nearly doubled with interest over the years to more than $65 million, and he continues to seek payment.

“Floridians are well aware of Mr. Simpson’s background, his wanton disregard for the lives of others, and of his scofflaw attitude with respect to the heinous acts for which he has been found civilly liable,” Bondi wrote. “The specter of his residing in comfort in Florida should not be an option … Our state should not become a country club for this convicted criminal.”

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

PhRMA backs Rick Scott plan to combat opioid epidemic

Gov. Rick Scott and other elected officials said this week they would look to combat the opioid epidemic plaguing Florida by limiting first-time pain pill prescriptions to a three day supply, and Wednesday the CEO of a major drug manufacturer trade group said he was on board with a similar plan.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) CEO Stephen J. Ubl said Wednesday the group supports limiting first-time prescriptions drugs such as Oxycontin and Vicodin at a week’s supply.

Scott’s plan, announced Tuesday, would also pump $50 million into drug treatment programs. Lawmakers are expected to debate the proposal during the 2018 Legislative Session, which starts in January.

“We are taking this step because we believe the worsening opioid epidemic demands additional solutions, with new protections for patients. Too often, individuals receive a 30-day supply of opioid medicines for minor treatments or short-term pain. Overprescribing and dispensing can lead to patients taking opioids longer than necessary or to excess pills falling into the wrong hands,” Ubl said.

Ubl’s comments weren’t a direct response to Scott’s proposal, but came out at a meeting of the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction, which is chaired by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and includes Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi among its membership.

“Appropriate script limits, when combined with improved prescriber education and better coverage of treatment alternatives, can help ensure proper prescribing and reduce the risk of abuse. Given the scope and scale of this crisis, we believe this is the right thing to do,” he added.

Ubl is correct: The ‘scope and scale’ of the epidemic warrants action from the entire chain of custody of prescription pain medication, from the groups PhRMA represents to the doctors prescribing powerful medication for short-term problems.

In 2015 alone opioids were blamed for more than 3,900 deaths in Florida, that’s more than 10 a day and a sharp increase from the peak of the “pill mill” crisis of a few years ago.

Patients seeking treatment for opioid addiction have also climbed dramatically. Aspire, the mental health and substance abuse contractor in Orange County, said such cases have more than doubled in two years.

Despite their danger if abused, opioids do have legitimate medical purpose, and a strict limit could leave some patients struggling with severe pain.

PhRMA’s compromise is a carve out in the rule for those in hospice care, patients fighting cancer or other chronic diseases, as well as medication assisted treatments for patients seeking long-term addiction recovery so long as they also receive counseling and mental health support.

Ubl said PhRMA also knows that a limit on prescriptions will only go so far, which is why the group is working with the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration to speed up the research and development of new non-opioid, non-addictive pain medicines that can help patients who need a long term solution.

Pam Bondi to become part of Donald Trump drug panel

Attorney General Pam Bondi will formally become part of President Donald Trump‘s anti-drug abuse efforts next week, her office said Friday.

The appointment to the Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, which requires an executive order, won’t force Bondi to leave office.

“The president always intended for the attorney general to be on the commission,” Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray said in an email. “However, (New Jersey) Gov. (Chris) Christie chose to begin the commission with only himself and four others. The announcement is protocol before the executive order is signed next week.”

The commission, created March 29, is expected to submit a final report of its findings by Oct. 1, unless an extension is needed. Ray said an extension is anticipated. Others on the commission are Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, former U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., and Harvard Professor Bertha Madras.

Bondi was a member of Trump’s transition team and had been rumored earlier in the year to be headed toward a job in the Trump administration. In January, speculation centered on Bondi as a possible candidate to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, a position informally known as the drug czar.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Floridians flood price-gouging hotline

Floridians bracing for the pounding winds and rains of powerful Hurricane Irma are complaining at a historic clip about price gouging and shortages of fuel, Attorney General Pam Bondi said Thursday.

“Our phones are blowing up as they have been all night long and continue to do,” Bondi said. “That’s a good thing, because it’s helping us protect you.”

The state’s price-gouging hotline — 1-866-9-NO-SCAM — had received more than 3,000 calls tied to Irma as of Thursday morning, with some 1,100 coming in Wednesday night.

“We’ve never seen our hotline like this in history,” Bondi said. “However, we’ve never seen a storm this bad. This is bigger than Andrew; people have to understand. To people who survived Andrew and people who lost loved ones during Andrew, this is a much bigger storm.”

The majority of the calls have come from Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Most are about inflated prices for food, water and ice, but people are also calling to complain about fuel shortages, Bondi said.

“The worst call I got today, and this was the worst of the worst, was a 24 pack of six-ounce bottles of water, for $72 … $72,” said Martin Green, a call center operator. “That was in Jupiter today.”

As of 11 a.m., Irma was about 125 miles east-northeast of Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic, with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph, a powerful Category 5 storm.

Florida received its first storm-surge and hurricane watches, from the Jupiter Inlet south around the peninsula to Bonita Beach. The hurricane watch — typically issued 48 hours before tropical-storm force winds arrive — also includes Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay.

A storm-surge watch means life-threatening rising water is likely within 48 hours.

The Florida Keys, which has seen more than 25,000 people hit the road after mandatory evacuations were ordered for tourists and residents, is under both watches.

Mandatory evacuation orders have been issued for barrier islands and low-lying mainland areas of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Gov. Rick Scott, who traveled Thursday morning to emergency operations centers in Hialeah and West Palm Beach, activated 3,000 additional members of the Florida National Guard, bringing the number to 4,000. Another 3,000 are to be activated by Friday.

Scott also tweeted a photo of a Florida Highway Patrol car traveling behind a tanker truck on an interstate, noting the FHP is escorting “fuel trucks across FL to ensure supplies are quickly refilled.”

Scott added in a release that he’s been in contact with federal officials, fuel retailers and oil companies to address the demand-created shortages of fuel.

“We have asked fuel companies to identify ships that are in route to our ports so we can arrange military escorts to get them here faster,” Scott said. “To further expedite fuel delivery, I have directed state police to escort fuel trucks to gas stations along evacuation routes.”

Regulations related to truck weights and driver restrictions have been waived for fuel trucks.

To help keep gas stations open longer in evacuation zones, Scott added the state’s offering to arrange police escorts for station employees.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Metro Miami keeps wary eye on mammoth Hurricane Irma

Residents in parts of the Miami metro area are under mandatory orders to leave their homes Thursday morning as Hurricane Irma barrels toward the region with potentially catastrophic winds.

During several media appearances Wednesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott strongly urged people to evacuate if asked to do so by local officials. The governor waived tolls on all Florida highways and told people if they were thinking about leaving to “get out now.”

Scott warned that Irma is “bigger, faster and stronger” than Hurricane Andrew, the last Category 5 storm to hit the state.

Mayors in Miami-Dade and Broward counties issued mandatory evacuation orders for barrier islands and low-lying mainland areas in the metro area of 6 million, where forecasters predict the hurricane with winds of 180 mph (290 kph) could strike by early Sunday.

The most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic caused deaths and injuries, destroyed homes and flooded streets Wednesday as it roared through islands in the northern Caribbean. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said it could rake the entire length of Florida’s east coast and push into Georgia and the Carolinas.

“This thing is a buzz saw,” warned Colorado State University meteorology professor Phil Klotzbach. “I don’t see any way out of it.”

As people rushed to buy up water and other supplies, board up their homes with plywood and fill up their cars, Scott declared a state of emergency and asked the governors of Alabama and Georgia to waive trucking regulations so gasoline tankers can get fuel into Florida quickly to ease shortages.

Scott said he expects the state’s stations to have fuel Thursday but urged people to take only “what they need” when they return to fuel up.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said more than 1,500 calls have come into the state’s price-gouging hotline in the past two days, most about prices being charged on water, food and gas.

An estimated 25,000 people or more left the Florida Keys after all visitors were ordered to clear out, causing bumper-to-bumper traffic on the single highway that links the chain of low-lying islands to the mainland.

But because of the uncertainty in any forecast this far out, state and local authorities in Miami and Fort Lauderdale held off for the time being on ordering any widespread evacuations there.

Amid the dire forecasts and the devastating damage done by Hurricane Harvey less than two weeks ago in Houston, some people who usually ride out storms in Florida seemed unwilling to risk it this time.

“Should we leave? A lot of people that I wouldn’t expect to leave are leaving. So, it’s like, ‘Oh, wow!'” said Martie McClain, 66, who lives in the South Florida town of Plantation. Still, she was undecided about going and worried about getting stuck in traffic and running out of gas.

It has been almost 25 years since Florida took a hit from a Category 5 storm. Hurricane Andrew struck just south of Miami in 1992 with winds topping 165 mph (265 kph), killing 65 people and inflicting $26 billion in damage. It was at the time the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history.

“We’ll see what happens,” President Donald Trump said in Washington. “It looks like it could be something that could be not good, believe me, not good.”

Trump’s exclusive Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach — the unofficial Southern White House — sits in the path of the storm.

This is only the second time on Earth since satellites started tracking storms about 40 years ago that maintained 185 mph winds for more than 24 hours, Colorado State’s Klotzbach said.

University of Miami hurricane researcher Brian McNoldy said Irma could easily prove the costliest storm in U.S. history.

As Irma drew closer, Georgia and South Carolina declared a state of emergency. North Carolina declared a state of emergency taking effect Thursday morning.

“It’s just scary, you know? We want to get to higher ground. Never had a Cat 5, never experienced it,” said Michelle Reynolds, who was leaving the Keys as people filled gas cans and workers covered fuel pumps with “out of service” sleeves.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Pam Bondi 9-6-2017

Pam Bondi takes on price gougers

Attorney General Pam Bondi has declared war on price-gouging as Hurricane Irma continues its trek toward the state.

Bondi, who met with reporters Wednesday evening at her Tallahassee price-gouging call center, said staffers have logged roughly 1,500 complaints since she activated the state’s hotline at (866) 9-NO-SCAM on Monday. She also asked Floridians to report price-gouging by going to her website.

“State law prohibits extreme increases in the price of essential commodities—such as food, water, hotels, ice, gasoline, lumber and equipment—needed as a direct result of an officially declared emergency,” her office said in a press release earlier this week.

Most complaints are coming from South Florida over inflated costs for food, bottled water and ice, she said. Over 100 were on overpriced gasoline.

Bondi personally had chats with, among others, the world’s largest Internet-based retailer. “I’m losing my voice from calling all these people,” she said. Some examples:

American Airlines: After speaking with Bondi, the airline agreed to cap one-way flights out of South Florida at $99 and waive pet fees. This is despite the fact that Bondi doesn’t have jurisdiction over airline ticket prices; the federal government does.

— Delta Air Lines: That airline agreed to freeze Florida fares at no more than $399 and waive ticket change fees and pet fees. “I have a direct line to them,” she said.

— Home Depot: The home improvement chain, which set up a “command center” in Atlanta, agreed to freeze bottled water prices at $2.97 a case.

— Amazon: The Seattle-based company, after complaints of rampant price-gouging by third-party sellers, agreed to “manually scrub” inflated items from its website and suspended a dozen sellers for price-gouging. “I have Amazon on speed dial right now,” Bondi said.

State law allows Bondi to go after merchants who charge “unconscionable prices” with civil penalties of $1,000 per violation and up to a total of $25,000 for multiple violations in a 24-hour period.

“And I can also—and will—destroy their reputations,” she added.

Bill Nelson asks FTC to go after gas gougers

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson asked the Federal Trade Commission to keep a lookout for price gougers ahead of Hurricane Irma’s potential landfall on Florida shores.

The Democratic senator sent a letter to acting FTC head Maureen Ohlhausen asking for the commission to watch for spikes in gas prices ahead of the storm and also in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which ravaged the gulf coast last week.

Nelson said that the release of 1 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve looks to have kept prices stable in the immediate aftermath of Harvey.

“Hurricane Irma now poses a grave threat to Florida and many other areas of the Southeastern United States.  While continued disruption to some refinery operations may continue to contribute to higher retail gasoline prices, past experience in Florida and elsewhere has shown that some unscrupulous operators will seek to magnify these natural price increases to take advantage of consumers – including those that may be trying to prepare for or evacuate from an impending hurricane,” Nelson wrote.

“I ask that you closely monitor retail gasoline outlet pricing in the coming weeks to detect and defeat any price gouging schemes.  Thank you in advance for your assistance with this critical consumer and public safety issue,” he continued.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has also opened up the state’s price gouging hot line, 1-865-9-NO-SCAM. Violators of the state’s price gouging statute can face civil penalties of $1,000 per violation up to a total of $25,000.

An advisory released 5 p.m. Tuesday by the National Hurricane Center puts Irma 130 miles east of Antigua, moving at 15 mph to the west. The storm is expected to turn west-northwest for Tuesday evening and through the next couple of days.

The storm is expected to hit the state sometime Friday, but experts are not yet sure which parts of the state will be affected.

Keep track of the latest news on Hurricane Irma.

Pam Bondi endorses Yvonne Fry in HD 58 special election

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is the latest Republican to back Plant City businesswoman and activist Yvonne Fry in the House District 58 special election taking place later this year.

“I have known Yvonne Fry for many years and I know that she is a committed Conservative who will defend our Conservative values,” Bondi said.

“She will lead with experience and tenacity when she gets to Tallahassee, will stand up to special interests and always represent the will of the residents of District 58,” Bondi added. “She is the only person who is qualified to be your next State Representative and I am excited to offer her my endorsement.”

Fry is competing against businessman and Hillsborough County Farm Bureau board member Lawrence McClure in the Oct. 10 Republican primary election to succeed Dan Raulerson, who stepped down with more than a year left in his term last month, citing health reasons.

“Attorney General Bondi’s leadership on the state and national levels on behalf of the State of Florida and her strong resolve on conservative issues is inspiring,” Fry said. “Her hard work to eradicate human trafficking is a calling that she and I share. I am extremely proud and humbled to receive her support and endorsement, but most importantly thankful for her leadership. I look forward to working with her in Tallahassee.”

Bondi is the first statewide elected Republican to endorse in the race. In fact, when it comes to endorsements, Fry is running away from McClure in the district that encompasses northeastern Hillsborough County.

In addition to Bondi, the Fry campaign says that they are now also being endorsed by former Gov. Bob Martinez, Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden, former Plant City Mayor Randy Larson and former Temple Terrace Mayor Joe Affronti.

The special election primary will be held Oct. 10 and the general election will be held Dec. 19, just a month before state lawmakers head back to Tallahassee for the 2018 Legislative Session.

Jose Vasquez is the lone Democrat in the race to date. Libertarian candidate Bryan Zemina and non-party-affiliated (but Green Party-oriented) candidate Ahmad Saaldaldin round out the field.

Indian River Sheriff backs Ashley Moody for Attorney General

Republican Attorney General candidate Ashley Moody picked up an endorsement from Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar, her campaign announced Tuesday.

“It’s more important than ever that we elect an Attorney General who possesses the necessary experience to tackle the increasing threats to our safety and security.  Ashley Moody has spent her entire professional career focused on improving our justice system for the betterment of our state.  We as Floridians are fortunate to have such a qualified and conservative leader who will be ready to serve on day one,” Loar said.

Moody said she was “honored” to have Loar’s support and lauded him for his “unwavering dedication” to public service.

“As Florida’s next Attorney General, I will work alongside leaders like Sheriff Loar to protect our state and support the men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line for us each and every day,” Moody said.

Loar’s endorsement is the latest on an already impressive pile for Moody, whose public backers include current Attorney General Pam Bondi, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, 10th Circuit State Attorney Brian Haas and every GOP member of the Hillsborough County Commission.

Many other Florida politicians, including Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams, have made appearances at Moody’s fundraisers.

Moody, a former circuit court judge, entered the AG race in June. Her main opponent is HD 15 Rep. Jay Fant, who filed in May.

Though Fant got off to a fast start on the fundraising trail, Moody has caught up and surpassed him. At the end of July she had nearly $700,000 between her campaign and committee accounts while Fant had around $230,000 in the bank.

The lone Democrat in the race, Ryan Torrens, had about $16,000 on hand at the end of July.

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