Pam bondi Archives - Page 6 of 43 - Florida Politics

Florida prosecutors can seek death penalty despite questions

Florida prosecutors can seek the death penalty in ongoing cases despite a state Supreme Court ruling that found a new death penalty law unconstitutional.

The court ruled Monday that the death penalty can be applied as long as there is a unanimous jury recommendation.

It ruled last October that a new state law requiring at least a 10-2 jury recommendation is unconstitutional.

But Monday justices said other aspects of the law are constitutional and prosecutors can proceed in capital punishment cases.

Prosecutors had been in limbo wondering whether the death penalty could be applied. Attorney General Pam Bondi asked the court to clarify.

The court released an opinion last month saying the death penalty couldn’t be applied in pending cases, but then withdrew the opinion hours later.

Appeals court rules for Perry Thurston in matching funds case

Perry Thurston Jr., now a state senator, has won the latest round in a court battle over state matching funds for his failed 2014 bid for Attorney General.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach Wednesday reversed a decision by the state’s Division of Elections, under Gov. Rick Scott, to deny Thurston matching funds for that race.

Thurston, Perry, SD 33
Thurston

Thurston, a former House Democratic Leader who was term limited in 2014, lost that year’s primary to George Sheldon, who lost to incumbent Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi in the general election.

Thurston, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, was elected to the Florida Senate last year.

For the attorney general’s race, Thurston had applied for state matching funds from the Election Campaign Financing Trust Fund, according to the opinion by Chief Judge Cory J. Ciklin and Judges Spencer D. Levine and Alan O. Forst.

“The Division rejected some of the documents—photocopies of checks—because necessary information contained on the face of the documents could not be read,” it said.

After his primary loss, he “submitted new, legible photocopies of the required documents, which the Division declined to review.”

Because state law “and administrative rules do not impose a deadline on curing defective paperwork submitted prior to a primary election in support of a request for matching funds, we reverse and remand,” the opinion said.

The state now must “determine whether Thurston met the threshold for distribution of matching funds. If so, the Division shall distribute the funds.”

Otherwise, it “would subvert the purpose of the (matching funds program) to permit the Division to refuse to determine whether the candidate met the threshold,” according to the opinion.

“We are reviewing it,” said Meredith M. Beatrice, spokeswoman for the division.

Smith Gaetz

Don Gaetz, Chris Smith among Joe Negron’s constitutional review panel picks

Former Florida Senate President Don Gaetz and former Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith are among those tapped by current Senate President Joe Negron to sit on the state’s Constitution Revision Commission.

Negron, a Stuart Republican, announced his list Wednesday in a press release.

Gaetz, a Niceville Republican in the Senate 2006-16, and Smith, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat who served 2008-16, were selected along with seven others. Under the constitution, Negron gets nine picks as the president of the state Senate.

“Florida is fortunate to have so many private citizens willing to take time away from their families and careers to serve the public in this important capacity,” Negron said in a statement.

“My goal in selecting the nine Senate appointees was to choose individuals who represent a diverse cross-section of our state in terms of their personal, professional, and political life experiences,” he added. “The most serious and important issue for me, and a common thread among our Senate appointees, is a fervent commitment to individual liberty and personal freedom guaranteed by our state and federal constitutions.

“The Senate appointees are all women and men of good judgment.” Besides Gaetz and Smith, they are:

Anna Marie Hernandez Gamez, a Miami lawyer who practices real estate and commercial litigation, and a past president of the Cuban American Bar Association.

 Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education (ExcelinEd), the school choice organization founded by former Gov. Jeb Bush.

 Sherry Plymale, a past chair of the State Board of Community Colleges, chief of staff to state Education Commissioner Frank Brogan, a trustee of Florida Atlantic University and St. Leo University.

 William “Bill” Schifino Jr., the 2016-17 president of The Florida Bar.

— Bob Solari, an Indian River County Commissioner, former Vero Beach City Council member and retired businessman.

— Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, a former teacher “with years of classroom experience instructing middle and high school students” who also was mayor of Sewall’s Point.

— Carolyn Timmann, the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller for Martin County. She also has been a legislative assistant to former state Rep. Tom Warner, worked in the Governor’s Office, and was a judicial assistant.

They now join former Florida Bar president Hank Coxe of Jacksonville; former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat; and former federal prosecutor Roberto Martinez of Miami, who are Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga‘s three picks to the commission.

The commission is supposed to hold its first meeting in the 30-day period before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session on March 7.

Representatives for Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran have not yet announced their decisions.

As governor, Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and he also selects its chairperson. Corcoran also gets nine picks. Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as the state’s Attorney General.

The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this will be the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels.

Any changes the commission proposes would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

 

Pam Bondi steps into federal case over state’s abortion law

A federal case on the state’s new abortion law has taken another twist with a filing from Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s office.

Late Monday, her office notified the court of proposed rules related to the law that could affect Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle‘s consideration of a pending request for a preliminary injunction.

The controversy in question involves part of the law that requires those engaged in abortion referral or counseling services to pay a fee to register with the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and provides for criminal penalties for not registering.

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing several Florida reverends, rabbis and nonprofit organizations, is seeking the injunction to prevent enforcement of the provision. The plaintiffs say it infringes on their constitutional free speech and privacy rights.

Bondi, through Special Counsel Blaine Winship, asked the judge to take “judicial notice … of (a) proposed amended rule and registration form” newly developed by the agency.

Bondi’s filing says the new rule “clarifies that registration is only (required from those) ‘who are paid for the particular purpose of providing advice or assistance’ ” and “who provide advice or assistance to persons ‘in obtaining abortions or pursuing alternatives to abortion.’ “

Hinkle, during last month’s oral argument on the injunction, had raised questions on who was required to register. Bondi’s filing suggests, at the least, that the law does not apply to volunteers.

The rule and a “proposed registration form clarify that only registration is provided for, and not licensure, for which AHCA’s permission would be required,” it adds.

Another question in oral argument was whether the registration requirement constituted a form of licensing by the agency. The form sets the registration cost at $200.

“Moreover, neither the proposed rule nor the proposed registration form requires registration prior to advising or assisting persons,” the filing says.

Last month, Hinkle had mused that abortion counselors “can’t speak unless they’re registered (with the state, and) if they don’t pay, they can’t speak.”

An ACLU attorney in Miami declined comment on the filing until staff there reviewed it further.

Hinkle already has chipped away at the law, passed last year, striking down a section that would have banned abortion providers from receiving state funding for non-abortion services.

 

Florida’s drug laws are giving me a pain in the ass

No one disputes that opiate addiction is a national problem. Statistics show that over 52,000 Americans died because of drug abuse, or about 142 people a day. One-third of those deaths are from opioids prescribed by doctors.

Although a national problem, Florida led the nation in opioid abuse until recently. Individuals from all over the southeastern United States flooded into Florida to visit our “pill mills.” I-75 was known as the gateway to easy drugs. In fact, the Drug Enforcement Administration referred to I-75 as the “Oxy Express.”

A single pill mill in Tampa wrote scripts for over 1 million oxycodone pills in a six-month period in 2010. Of the top 100 doctors in the nation prescribing oxycodone, 98 resided in Florida.

The situation was so bad in Florida that Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi created the Florida Regulatory Drug Enforcement Task Force to combat drug abuse in Florida and crack down on the pill mills.

The Task Force had great success in reducing the abuse by pill mills. The number of oxycodone pills prescribed dropped from 650 million in 2010 to 300 million in 2013. Almost 4,000 individuals were arrested including 67 doctors. Over 848,000 pills were seized, as well as $10 million in cash. 254 pill mills were shut down.

Changes in the Florida drug laws now require patients to see a certified pain specialist monthly in order to receive prescriptions for pain meds. Where 98 out of the top 100 doctors prescribing oxycodone resided in Florida in 2010, that number was zero in 2013.

Florida had great success in closing the pill mills and eliminating much of the drug abuse that existed. So, what’s the problem?

The problem is that individuals with chronic pain have a very difficult time getting their pain meds in a timely fashion. Pain specialists can write a prescription for a 30-day supply of pain meds. You can’t have your next prescription filled before you use your 30-day supply. The problem is that pharmacies, at least 25 percent of the time, do not have pain meds in stock.

I visited my pain specialist last week and received my script for a 30-day supply to be filled Feb. 13. I went to five different pharmacies before finding one that would fill my prescription. It took almost two hours and driving over 25 miles in order to get the meds I was entitled to receive. There is enough stress with chronic pain; I do not need the additional stress of trying to find a pharmacy that will fill my prescription.

My pain started at age 12 and was related to disc and nerve problems in my back. At age 20 I had my first back surgery. It helped, but never ended the pain problems. For the past 30 years my left leg has been numb and the muscles have atrophied. At the present time, I have had seven surgeries, including three back operations and a total knee replacement.

Because of chronic pain, I often can’t stand for more than a few minutes and have problems walking more than a short distance. The pain meds help me to function. I would much prefer no pain and no pain meds, but that option is out of my control. The best I can hope for is to have my pain meds available.

About 25 percent of the time the pharmacy I use does not have the pain meds available. I am forced to make the trek to pharmacies hoping to find one that has the meds available. The problem with that, in addition to wasting my time, is that the state of Florida may look at this pharmacy hopping as an attempt to game the system. It is merely an attempt to get the drugs I need.

Many pharmacies won’t carry pain meds for fear of being robbed or because they are frustrated with the record-keeping involved with pain meds. Other pharmacies have told me that they will only fill orders for regular customers; one pharmacy told me they will fill my order, but only if I transfer all my prescriptions to them. That would cost me a great deal more because my insurance provides lower prices for medicines through their supplier.

Those who have never experienced chronic pain, which is most of the population, have little sympathy for those suffering from chronic pain. Those suffering from chronic pain don’t want sympathy, but they do want your empathy. They want you to understand that chronic pain is real and we want to receive the medicines that will help us function.

Florida had an opioid epidemic and dealt with it. That is a good thing. But, Florida also has an obligation to make sure its citizens receive the medical care they need. Those with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and other debilitating ailments expect to get the meds they need to live a healthy and productive life. Those suffering from chronic pain expect the same thing.

___

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg.

Politics, food and fun: Florida State Fair kicks off

With a mix of old and new, the annual Florida State Fair kicks off Thursday.

In addition to obligatory references to artery-clogging fair fare by local reporters (Deep-fried butter! Spaghetti Ice Cream!), Opening Day of the Fair is the setting for the yearly Governors Day Luncheon, where every man and women in Hillsborough County who is even thinking of running for office in 2018 already have their ticket.

All Cabinet members are expected to appear, with Gov. Rick Scott scheduled to give the keynote speech, as will Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, already considered to be looking ahead to succeeding Scott in the governor’s mansion in 2018.

For the second consecutive year, there will be no formal Cabinet meeting, formerly part and parcel of activities of the Fair’s first day.

Last year, the meeting was canceled outright because of a lack of urgent business with state agencies.

The last time the Cabinet did meet at the Fair was in February 2015, with plenty of drama as it was the first time that Scott had to answer to Putnam, Pam Bondi and Jeff Atwater over the ousting of former FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey.

After a one-year absence, what has returned this year is a new super slide; in the past, both Putnam and Bondi have slid down in a post-luncheon tradition/photo-op.

Originally called “The Super Bowl Toboggan,” the mega slide was first unveiled in Times Square in the lead up to the 2014 Super Bowl. The Italian-made slide is 60 feet tall and 180 feet long and contains an LED package that gives off a light show at night.

Still no word on makeup of constitution revision panel

With about a week before the start of the 30-day period in which it’s supposed to have its first meeting, the membership of the state’s Constitution Revision Commission is still unknown.

Representatives for Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran Monday said they still have not officially closed their application periods.

“The President is currently accepting applications,” said Senate spokeswoman Katie Betta, who provided the latest list of 81 names already in.

Because of continued interest, Corcoran also is still taking applications, spokesman Fred Piccolo said, after initially extending his deadline to last Friday.

Each man, however, only has nine picks allotted under the state constitution, which allows for a panel to “examine the constitution, hold public hearings and … file its proposal, if any, of a revision of this constitution or any part of it.”

But the first meeting of the commission, mandated to form every 20 years, must occur within the 30 days prior to the first day of the 2017 Legislative Session. It kicks off March 7.

As governor, Rick Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and he also selects its chairperson.

The Governor’s Office has posted its applicants online, a who’s who of current and former lawmakers, prominent attorneys, former state officials and others.

“The application is still open,” spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said. “Members can be appointed any time within 30 days of session convening.”

Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as Attorney General, and Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga gets three picks. Court spokesman Craig Waters Monday had no news on Labarga’s picks.

The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this will be the first to be selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels.

Any changes the commission proposes would be in the form of constitutional amendments, which would have to be approved by 60 percent of voters on a statewide ballot.

Federal judge sounds dubious on abortion counseling registration

The state’s new abortion law sparked a contentious dialogue between a federal judge and a lawyer for the state on Friday.

Part of that law requires those engaged in abortion referral or counseling services to pay a fee to register with the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and provides for criminal penalties for not registering.

The American Civil Liberties Union, representing several Florida reverends, rabbis and nonprofit organizations, is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent enforcement of the provision. They say it infringes on their constitutional free speech and privacy rights.

“It intervenes in pastoral counseling,” the Rev. Bryan Fulwider of Orlando, the lead plaintiff, told reporters after the hearing. “You don’t want to presume any speech in such a setting.”

Attorney Wes Powell told Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle that a footnote in the state’s brief makes clear one intent of the provision: To invite prosecution of those who do not register.

Hinkle

Sparks flew, however, when Hinkle started questioning Blaine Winship, special counsel to Attorney General Pam Bondi. Hinkle already has chipped away at the law, passed last year, striking down a section that would have banned abortion providers from receiving state funding for non-abortion services.

Winship argued that instead of suing AHCA and the Attorney General, the ACLU should have gone after the state attorneys, who would actually bring criminal charges under the registration part of the law.

“So when (all) the state attorneys come in here and want to know who let them be sued, I can tell them the attorney general?” Hinkle said.

Hinkle also was smarting from the state’s decision to appeal his ruling in a case brought by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. There, he ruled that the Tribe could keep offering blackjack because the state promulgated a gambling rule that he found broke the state’s promise of blackjack exclusivity to the Seminoles.

Because an agency rule went against the state’s case, the state’s lawyers said “you should ignore that rule,” Hinkle said.

Winship

The judge also noted that a staff analysis for the bill (HB 1411) that became the abortion law didn’t have a “constitutional issues” section. (Actually, it did, including noting that “AHCA currently has sufficient rule-making authority to implement the provisions of the bill.”)

“Did someone tell staff, ‘we don’t want your opinion on the constitutional issues?’ ” he asked, quickly adding, “Well, that’s probably an unfair question.”

Hinkle also drilled into who was required to register, suggesting it was aimed only toward those who would counsel about abortions, not against them.

The judge asked Winship what Fulwider would have to say in a counseling session to comply with the law. Winship said he didn’t know.

“Then how is he to know? Isn’t that the point?” Hinkle said, adding that Winship seemed to “confess” he didn’t have a winning defense of the registration provision.

Abortion counselors “can’t speak unless they’re registered (with the state, and) if they don’t pay, they can’t speak,” the judge said.

Hinkle did not immediately rule on the injunction.

cigarette

Pam Bondi moves against tobacco companies for missed payments

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is going after two tobacco companies for holding back money she says is owed to the state under an historic tobacco settlement.

Bondi filed an enforcement motion in Palm Beach County circuit court Wednesday against ITG Brands and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. (RJR). 

The attorney general said in a statement that R.J. Reynolds “recently sold three of its most iconic cigarette brands – Winston, Kool and Salem – along with a legacy Lorillard Tobacco Company brand, Maverick, to ITG for $7 billion.”

But neither company included the sale into consideration when making their payments to the state under the settlement, she said.

Bondi says they’re now “liable for millions of dollars of missed payments to Florida,” and her motion seeks a court order “requiring payment to Florida for the past and future sales of these cigarettes.”

“The sale of major, pre-existing tobacco brands to another company for billions of dollars does not cause the payment obligations to vanish like a puff of smoke,” Bondi said.

Florida and other states settled lawsuits in the 1990s against the major cigarette makers, including RJR, for “past, present, and future public health care expenses from citizens’ consumption of … cigarettes,” according to the motion.

A final master agreement was “the largest civil litigation settlement in U.S. history,” according to the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium.

“RJR and the other major tobacco companies agreed to make annual payments to Florida of several hundred million dollars, in perpetuity,” Bondi’s office said.

ITG did not respond to a request for comment.

Reynolds spokesman Bryan Hatchell, in an email, said the company “believe(s) we have strong legal and factual defenses to the motions filed today in this case and will vigorously defend against them. However, as this is ongoing litigation, we decline any further comment at this time.”

David Simmons weighing Florida attorney general, congressional runs

While giving his blessing to state Rep. Jason Brodeur to run for his current post, state Sen. David Simmons says he’s weighing his options to go after the Florida attorney general’s post, Florida’s 7th Congressional District seat, which Democrats just flipped, or staying full-time with his growing law firm.

The attorney general option could come sooner rather than later, as Attorney General Pam Bondi is widely reported to be in the running for a position in President-elect Donald Trump‘s administration.

If Bondi leaves, Gov. Rick Scott would be appointing a successor. If she stays, she’ll be term-limited out in 2018, the same year that U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy comes up for her first re-election bid in CD 7, a seat Republicans had held for generations before her arrival. Simmons said it was premature to say if he has spoken to Scott about the prospect of being appointed as attorney general.

One way or the other, Simmons, a Longwood Republican, leaves by 2020, when he term-limits out. That’s the year for which Brodeur, a Sanford Republican, announced he was filing to run to succeed Simmons in Florida Senate District 9, which covers Seminole County.

“I am looking at my options,” Simmons told FloridaPolitics.com.

“I know that in 2018 the attorney general position will be open, and maybe earlier. And so, at this point in time, we’ll see what happens,” Simmons said. “And then of course, with the events that occurred in Nov. 2016, I believe that there is a need to have a Republican who represents Congressional District 7. And so I’ll look at option as well. When it gets to be 2020, or 2018 — you know how politics is volatile that we don’t’ know what’s going to happen, and who is going to be running for what positions — predicting what is going on is a very difficult thing.”

Becoming just a private attorney with de Beaubien Simmons Knight Mantzaris & Neal also is attractive, he added. That firm, now using the logo DSK Law, has been growing rapidly and now has 50 lawyers and a full-spectrum practice, headquartered in Orlando with offices in Tampa and Tallahassee. Simmons is the financial managing partner, and practices large commercial litigation trial law.

Simmons first entered the Florida House in 2000 and was elected to four terms. He ran and was elected to the Senate in 2010.

The state attorney general’s prospect appears to be leading his current interests. Simmons said he and Bondi are close friends, and was hesitant to speculate about whether she would leave early, or — out of respect — whether he already was posturing to replace her.

Yet Brodeur’s relatively early announcement of interest in Simmons seat may signal that at least Brodeur anticipates that Simmons’ seat might open up soon.

“Certainly I am very interested in the attorney general’s position,” Simmons said.

“I am an attorney who has been involved in the practice of law, has three board certifications, all of them relating to the active practice of law, and having been now the Legislature and the Senate, and having been actively involved in many major issues.”

Simmons said he supports Brodeur to replace him.

 

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