Richard Corcoran – Page 6 – Florida Politics

No Casinos on Special Session for gambling: Don’t do it

The head of a group that opposes casino gambling in Florida is telling lawmakers to take a pass on a Special Session for unresolved gambling issues.

“If ever there was an issue that the Legislature has already spent too much time, energy, intellectual capacity and political capital, it is gambling,” No Casinos president John Sowinski wrote in a letter, released Monday, to House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

“Whenever this issue comes up in Tallahassee, negotiations between the chambers seem to be more focused on coming up with a ‘deal’ that satisfies competing gambling interests than enacting solutions that are in the best interests of the people of Florida,” Sowinski added.

Legislative leadership late last week said it was considering a Special Session on gambling because of the end of a settlement agreement between the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the state.

“The Seminoles’ potential to completely walk away from the … agreement jeopardizes the stability of the state budget,” Corcoran said in a Thursday statement. “We would be forced to cut between $390 and $441 million in General Revenue, or we would have to allow our reserves to be drained, which could jeopardize our state bond rating.”

The Tribe paid a little more than $290 million last fiscal year into state coffers as part of a 2010 agreement that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack.

Though the Tribe and the state settled a lawsuit over blackjack, allowing them to offer the game till 2030, the Tribe’s continued payments to the state are contingent on state gambling regulators promising “aggressive enforcement” against games that threaten their exclusivity.

The sides are now in a “forbearance period” that ends March 31, after which point the Tribe is entitled to stop paying, though its lawyer has said he does not expect the Seminoles to stop paying.

“Some articles have indicated that the reason convening a Special Session is being considered is because there are concerns about a potential revenue loss if the Seminole Tribe does not keep making payments to the state … ,” Sowinski said.

“The urgency of this matter is curious, since no facts have changed since the end of session that would now make this such an enormous priority that it could merit a call for a Special Session of the Legislature.

“… Most observers see this as a fictional crisis manufactured by gambling lobbyists who want you to re-convene so they can try to make one more run at a major expansion of gambling before the November elections, when Florida voters will likely approve Amendment 3,” he added.

A proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment, also backed by Sowinski, will be on November’s ballot. If that’s approved by 60 percent or more, it will give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida.

The full letter is below:

Audrey Gibson

Audrey Gibson on gambling: ‘This should have been resolved’

Incoming Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson says she’s “stunned by the ongoing inability of the Republican legislative leadership to reach an agreement with the Seminole Tribe over gaming in Florida, and alarmed by the suggestion of an expensive Special Session.”

The Senate Democratic Office released her statement Friday morning.

“This was not a sudden development, or a last-minute problem we needed to confront,” said Gibson, of Jacksonville, who also serves on the Senate Regulated Industries Committee overseeing gambling policy.

“We were on notice before the gavel first sounded in January that failing to address gaming could blow a $300 million hole in the budget,” she said. “It’s becoming more and more difficult to explain to taxpayers why three months after the session convened, the budget that was passed remains in jeopardy because it was built on incomplete, non-transparent information.”

The Tribe paid the state a little over $290 million last fiscal year.

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican, last night announced leadership was considering a Special Session to resolve gambling issues left on the table this past Regular Session, including a deal to extend blackjack rights to the Tribe in exchange for $3 billion over seven years.

“During the final weeks of session, the House and Senate made significant progress towards resolving a number issues surrounding gaming in our state,” Galvano’s statement said. “With the approval of President (JoeNegron and Speaker Corcoran, Speaker-designate (JoseOliva and I are continuing to explore possibilities to resolve these issues.

“One of our concerns is the possible loss of revenue from the Seminole Tribe and the resulting impacts on the state budget,” he said. “For that reason, there is a potential that we would need to revisit gaming prior to the start of the 2018-19 fiscal year.”

But, according to Gibson, “little information was made available to lawmakers warning them that the collapse of negotiations would threaten the state spending plan for the coming year … This should have been resolved before we adjourned.

“One full year after talks began on an agreement with the Seminoles, the subject was barely discussed until the last days of session when the budget conference was convened, too late for any real chance to pass a bill,” she added.

“So not only does last night’s announcement underscore the lack of transparency as the budget was assembled, but the need for a solid agreement before any calls for a special session potentially costing hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars are issued.

“And, if a special return to Tallahassee is required, I strongly urge that the gaming revenue is not the only issue we deal with, but a more thorough vetting of the measly 47 cents the Legislature budgeted as an increase in funding per student for the coming year. Both should be on the table.”

Legislative leaders ponder special session on gambling

Top men in the Legislature are considering a Special Session to tackle unresolved gambling issues from the 2018 Regular Session, including renewal of a deal between the state and the Seminole Tribe.

It’s all about the money.

The Tribe paid a little more than $290 million last fiscal year into state coffers as part of a 2010 agreement that guarantees it exclusivity to offer certain games, particularly blackjack.

Though the Tribe and the state settled a lawsuit over blackjack, allowing them to offer the game till 2030, the Tribe’s continued payments to the state are contingent on state gambling regulators promising “aggressive enforcement” against games that threaten their exclusivity.


The sides are now in a “forbearance period” that ends March 31, after which point the Tribe is entitled to stop paying. That possibility has House Speaker Richard Corcoran in a fuss.

“The Seminoles’ potential to completely walk away from the forbearance agreement jeopardizes the stability of the state budget,” Corcoran said in a Thursday statement. “We would be forced to cut between $390 and $441 million in General Revenue, or we would have to allow our reserves to be drained, which could jeopardize our state bond rating.

“The House will be discussing our options, including the possibility of a Special Session, with the Governor and the Senate,” he added.

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano, the chamber’s point man on gambling issues, quickly added in a separate statement: “At this point, no decision has been made.”

But there are reasons to believe the Tribe will continue to pay.

“Knowing the Tribe, they don’t act precipitously,” Tribe outside counsel Barry Richard said earlier this week. “ … They don’t want to change their relationship with the state. They’ll only do it if they perceive circumstances to be a meaningful threat to their economic well-being. Or if they think if they’re paying a lot of money and not getting what they’re paying for.”

Lawmakers this year were unable to agree on any comprehensive gambling legislation and did not approve a renewed deal with the Seminoles that would have guaranteed $3 billion to the state over seven years.

“The fact the Legislature didn’t do anything doesn’t mean they’re not interested in talking,” Richard said. “I have never known them to be vindictive or unreasonable. That’s not how they operate.”

There’s another incentive for the Tribe to maintain the status quo: Walking away could spur lawmakers to go back and cut a deal with the state’s pari-mutuels, dog and horse tracks that often also have cardrooms and, in South Florida, slots.

This Session, a consortium of pari-mutuel owners had been working on a proposal to increase the money they give to the state if lawmakers agreed to grant slot machines in counties that OK’d them in local referendums, according to industry sources. The play was to match or beat the revenue share — estimated at close to $300 million a year going forward — coming from the Tribe. 

That, too, would likely require a Special Session — and time is wasting. A proposed “voter control of gambling” constitutional amendment is on November’s ballot. If that’s approved by 60 percent or more, it will give statewide voters sole power to approve future expansions of gambling in Florida.

“Calling a Special Session to expand gambling in an election year is a really bad idea—especially when there is a gambling amendment on the ballot in November,” tweeted former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who now lobbies for the Florida Greyhound Association.

The amendment does have a carve-out to allow lawmakers “to negotiate gaming compacts … for the conduct of casino gambling on tribal lands.”


“During the final weeks of session, the House and Senate made significant progress towards resolving a number issues surrounding gaming in our state,” Galvano’s statement said. “With the approval of President (Joe) Negron and Speaker Corcoran, Speaker-designate (Jose) Oliva and I are continuing to explore possibilities to resolve these issues.

“One of our concerns is the possible loss of revenue from the Seminole Tribe and the resulting impacts on the state budget,” he said. “For that reason, there is a potential that we would need to revisit gaming prior to the start of the 2018-19 fiscal year.”

Added McKinley P. Lewis, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Scott: “The Governor was made aware that the Legislature was looking at this issue. We will review any proposal they put forward.”

Other reactions Thursday focused on legislators’ motivations.

“Sounds like a way to raise $$ from deep pocketed gaming interests before voters pull the plug in November,” tweeted consultant David Bishop, a former Deputy Secretary of the Florida Lottery under Scott and a spokesman for then-Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

Gubernatorial primary debates set for Aug. 1 and 2 at the University of Miami

Candidates vying to succeed Rick Scott in the Governor’s Mansion will get a chance to plead their cases to Florida voters in a pair of debates set to take place a few weeks before the Aug. 28 primary elections.

The Children’s Movement of Florida and the Florida Press Association announced the debates, to be held Aug. 1 and Aug. 2 at the University of Miami, in a Wednesday news release.

“The vision and direction offered by Florida’s next governor will dramatically affect the lives of Floridians in every part of our state — from children to the elderly,” said David Lawrence Jr., chair of The Children’s Movement. “These debates let voters hear what the candidates think on critical issues ranging from early childhood education, health care, environmental protection, and public safety to jobs and economic development.”

Dean Ridings, president and CEO of the Florida Press Association statewide network of newspapers, agreed that the primary debates will be essential in helping voters make up their minds about which candidate wins their support and vote.

“With a long, diverse list of candidates already announced or expected to get into the race, we’re anticipating vigorous primary campaigns with thoughtful discussion of the issues in these vital debates,” said Ridings. “This is a very effective way for Florida voters to compare and contrast the candidates, side-by-side, and to see and hear their ability to present a plan that can take us all into the best possible future.”

UM President Julio Frenk added that hosting the debates — part of “The Race for Governor” project — will fulfill one of the institution’s missions by making the Coral Gables campus a center of engagement.

“The University of Miami is proud to host these debates and foster a productive dialogue among the candidates for governor,” Frenk said. “Our students, faculty, and staff will be deeply involved in helping prepare the campus for both debates and for spirited conversations about the issues that will be examined.”

Republican candidates — currently U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran likely to join shortly — will take the stage at UM’s Maurice Gusman Concert Hall on one of the evenings, while the Democratic field — currently Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, Orlando-area businessman Chris King and former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine — will get the other.

Each debate is scheduled to run one hour in the 7 p.m. time slot and will be broadcast on TV stations in each of Florida’s media markets.

It has not yet been determined which set of candidates will go first, though both parties have been notified of the dates and times. Also to be determined is the threshold of support candidates will need in the polls to be granted a spot behind the lectern, though organizers said those details will be hammered out in the coming weeks.

Miami-Fort Lauderdale CBS affiliate WFOR will serve as the production television station for the debates, and station VP/General Manager Adam Levy said he is confident both events will enjoy significant live viewership and an additional audience via rebroadcast of the programs on multiple platforms.

“These high-profile events will attract a significant and diverse viewership,” he said. “Our commitment is to produce an excellent exchange among the candidates in both the Republican and Democratic primaries.”

Other stations signed on to broadcast: WPBF (ABC) in West Palm Beach, WESH (NBC) in Orlando, First Coast News in Jacksonville, WCJB (ABC) in Gainesville, WFLA (NBC) in the Tampa Bay area, WCTV (CBS) in Tallahassee, WEAR (ABC) in Pensacola and WMBB (ABC) in Panama City. The debates will air on either WBBH (NBC) or WZVN (ABC) in the Fort Myers market.

Takeaways from Tallahassee — A brewer gets bigger

One of the state’s premier breweries just got a lot closer to the Capitol.

Proof Brewing Company announced this week it would move its operations to an old Coca-Cola Bottling Company building on South Monroe Street, within walking distance of downtown Tallahassee and Cascades Park.

The brewery is now housed in a former warehouse in the capital city’s Railroad Square Art Park.

Proof Brewing Company is moving operations to an old Coca-Cola Bottling Company building on South Monroe Street.

The next 34,000 square-foot building marks an expansion for the brewery, which expects to increase production capacity to 30,000 barrels — up from 6,000 barrels produced in 2017.

Proof, which touts it has doubled production each year since 2012, will add more packaged brands in cans and employees with the move to Monroe Street. The new facility is expected to open as early as this winter and will let customers enjoy an expanded tasting room, retail store, private event space, kitchen, and — yes — beer garden.

“This will be a year of growth and development for Proof Brewing Company,” said Proof owners Byron and Angela Burroughs. “We are proud of our growth in Tallahassee and we’re thrilled to reinvest back into the community that has been so supportive of us.”

Tallahassee, with five brew houses, still has a way to go from challenging Tampa’s unofficial claim of craft beer capital for the state, though.

The Big Guava “has over 50 craft breweries to date,” according to the Tallahassee Beer Society. “But Tallahassee’s craft beer scene is growing … and faster than anyone ever expected.”

In a recent column in the Tallahassee Democrat, the group noted two more “breweries on the horizon”: Fool’s Fire Brewing in the All Saints District, and Tally Brewing Co., now looking for digs.

Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Andrew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, A.G. Gancarski and Peter Schorsch.

But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:

Rick Scott signs opioid legislation — Gov. Scott signed into law this week a bill aimed at curbing the state’s opioid crisis. Specifically, the legislation targets the practice of physicians overprescribing opioids to patients. The new law limits opioid prescriptions for acute pain to a three-day supply, and, when deemed medically necessary, a seven-day supply. Certain patients, such as those suffering cancer, will not be affected by the new prescription limits. Scott signed the legislation at Manatee Sheriff’s Office in Bradenton, a hotbed for opioid abuse in the Sunshine State. Accompanying the bill (HB 21) is more than $65 million in the state budget to target the drug epidemic.

Parkland fact-finding commission formed — State leaders announced the members of a 15-person panel charged with investigating the failures that led to the Valentine’s Day tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The commission, spawned through the passage of the landmark school safety and mental health package this Session, will be headed by Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. The panel also includes three fathers of students slain in the shooting and state Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat.

Victims’ rights on horizon —  A high-profile proposal that would codify rights for crime victims won key approval in the Constitution Revision Commission and now heads to the CRC’s Style and Drafting Committee. The constitutional amendment, known as Marsy’s Law, would provide rights that are expected to shield victims from harassment. It also gives victims the option to speak in public proceedings and the right to be informed of the offender’s status in the judicial system. The measure will need to be approved by 22 CRC members after formal ballot language is drafted. It then must win 60 percent voter approval to be written into the state’s governing document. The CRC meets every 20 years to review the state constitution and propose revisions that are placed directly on the ballot.

Greyhound ban could reach ballot — After lengthy debate, the CRC narrowly advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would effectively end greyhound racing if approved by voters in November. Commissioners pushed the amendment in an 18-14 vote. To appear on the ballot in November, it will need the approval of 22 members of the panel after the amendment’s language is finalized. Critics of the proposed ban say it could adversely affect businesses in the gaming industry and could open the state up to potentially expensive lawsuits. If the prohibition reaches the ballot in November and receives 60 percent voter approval, the amendment would phase out racing by June 30, 2020.

Gun amendments shot down — At the behest of public testimony, CRC Commissioner Roberto Martinez sought — but ultimately failed — to add gun control provisions passed by the Legislature this year to the state’s constitution. The language, which Martinez wanted to tack onto an existing proposal, would have mandated a three-day waiting period for all gun purchases, increased the age requirement to 21 and banned bump stocks. The provisions were in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act, but were deemed in violation of the body’s rules and were not considered by the commission. House Speaker Richard Corcoran told the CRC ahead of Martinez’ move that the gun laws were “inappropriate for inclusion” in the state’s governing document.

The week in appointments

Miami Dade College District Board of Trustees

Rolando Montoya is the retired provost of Miami Dade College. The 63-year-old Miamian is an alum of the Technological Institute of Monterrey, where he picked up his 4-year, and of Florida International University, where he earned his master’s and doctorate. He’s filling a vacant seat for a term ending May 31, 2021.

Florida Humanities Council

Dr. Sue Kim, 73, of Ormond Beach, is a retired psychiatrist. She is reappointed for a term ending Nov. 13, 2020.

Dr. Glenda Walters, 75, of Lynn Haven, is a community volunteer and retired teacher from Bay District Schools and adjunct professor with Gulf Coast Community College, Florida State University Panama City, and Barry University. She is reappointed for a term ending Nov. 13, 2020.

Thomas Lang, 74, of Orlando, is the owner of the Law Office of Thomas F. Lang. He is reappointed for a term ending Jan. 1, 2021.

Florida Housing Finance Corporation

Mario Facella, 50, of Loxahatchee, is a senior lender with TD Bank. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending Nov. 13, 2020. This appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council

Pamela Tuscany, 62, of Melbourne, is the vice president of production at Universal Orlando Resort. She is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 19, 2019.

Pieter Bockweg, 43, of Miami, is the executive director of Midtown CRA. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 19, 2021.

Agency for State Technology, UWF launch new cybersecurity initiative

The state is leading an effort to protect digital records and data, keeping pace with the ever-evolving field of technology.

The Agency for State Technology and the University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity launched nuanced cybersecurity education and training this week for state personnel.

State workers tasked with handling information received primary education intended to increase awareness of cyber threats in the digital age. Other modules included cybersecurity incident management, network defense, operating system hardening, risk management and cloud security.

AST Executive Director and state Chief Information Officer Eric Larson.

“As the threats evolve, we must continue to train our information security and technology resources,” said AST Executive Director and state Chief Information Officer Eric Larson.

The Center for Cybersecurity at UWF will use its resources to provide simulations, ranges and training environments for state personnel. A national academic leader in the field, the center will use its Cybersecurity for All program to increase the number of qualified cybersecurity professionals throughout the state and later the nation.

“This program will position Florida as a leader in cybersecurity resiliency and innovation, enhance higher education and research, and serve as a best practice model for cybersecurity workforce development,” said Dr. Eman El-Sheikh, UWF Center for Cybersecurity director.

Dane Eagle touts under-the-radar school district reform

Legislation seeking to increase fiscal responsibility in the state’s school districts didn’t get much playtime in the media, but, according to state Rep. Dane Eagle, it could be a game changer for how tax dollars are spent in the state.

The bill (HB 1279) brings greater transparency to each district by requiring school districts to post financial summaries to their websites, Eagle — a Cape Coral Republican — said in an email to supporters.

Dane Eagle is seeking greater transparency for school districts by requiring financial summaries posted to their websites.

Those summaries will include data that measures the efficiency of per-pupil spending and other nuanced indicators of how well money is spent in each district.

The bill also will require each district to hire an internal auditor and caps school board member salaries to an amount no higher than that of a first-year teacher’s salary.

In instances of financial emergencies, the bill mandates that superintendent and school board member salaries be withheld until the issue is resolved. All changes go into effect July 1, 2019.

“I believe this bill ensures that our state’s public schools use your tax dollars in the most efficient and effective way possible,” Eagle said in the email. “I am proud to support legislation that gives Florida’s taxpayers the transparency and accountability they deserve from their elected officials.”

Bill Montford, Loranne Ausley secure funds for Big Bend food bank

When disasters strike, food banks are critical to recovery.

Tallahassee-area state lawmakers Rep. Loranne Ausley and Sen. Bill Montford highlighted that fact this week and stressed the importance of a $1 million state budget appropriation they successfully sponsored for Second Harvest of the Big Bend.

The Northwest Florida food bank serves the 11-county region of the Big Bend and will use the money to buy its warehouse facility, purchase and install a generator, and make facility upgrades ahead of the 2019 hurricane season.

Loranne Ausley joined Sen. Bill Montford in sponsoring a $1 million state budget appropriation for Second Harvest of the Big Bend.

One of three Feeding America centers in the state, Second Harvest of the Big Bend plays a critical role in disaster response. During hurricanes Irma and Hermine, it distributed more than 350,000 pounds of emergency food, water and supplies to affected areas.

“A hurricane disrupts everyday life, but for a family already facing food insecurity, it can be disastrous,” said Montford. Added Ausley: “I am honored to help Second Harvest continue to strengthen our statewide capacity to address food and water needs in the event of a disaster.”

Instagram of the week

Ads thank lawmakers for campus ‘free speech’ bill

Generation Opportunity-Florida is thanking lawmakers for greenlighting a proposal to ban “free-speech zones” on college campuses with a new mail campaign.

“When free speech was under attack on Florida’s college campuses…,” the mailer reads. “Your leaders stood up to protect the First Amendment.”

Bob Rommel and Dennis Baxley are getting accolades for their ‘free speech’ bill.

GO-FL didn’t list all the lawmakers who will get mailers in their districts, though earlier this year the group thanked Sen. Dennis Baxley and Rep. Bob Rommel for sponsoring the “Campus Free Expression Act” in the Senate and House. Also on the list are House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron.

“We are encouraging Floridians to thank the officials who stood up for their First Amendment rights by supporting legislation that finally brought an end to the unconstitutional practice of ‘free speech zones’ on college campuses,” Generation Opportunity Florida head Demetrius Minor said.

“Thanks to the efforts of these legislators, free speech will no longer be banished to the hidden corners of our state’s publicly funded campuses.”

Byron and Erika Donalds to headline JMI event

Husband and wife duo Rep. Byron Donalds and CRC Commissioner Erika Donalds will give a behind-the-scenes look at the 2018 Legislative Session and the Constitution Revision Commission during an April event hosted by The James Madison Institute.

Husband and wife team of Byron and Erika Donalds will give a behind-the-scenes look at the 2018 Legislative Session during an April event hosted by The James Madison Institute.

The Tallahassee think-tank event, titled “Inside Sources,” will take place at The Columns, 100 North Duval Street, on April 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Heavy hors-d’oeuvres and drinks will be provided.

Those looking to attend can contact The James Madison Institute at (850) 386-3131 or email JMI’s director of events and logistics, Jessica Brewton, at

State bat eviction deadline approaches

Your taxes aren’t the only things due in the middle of April — it’s also the deadline for removing bats from buildings or other privately-owned structures.

Under Florida law, it’s illegal to remove bat colonies — a process known as ‘exclusion’ — from their roosts each year between April 15 and Aug. 15.

The Florida bat eviction approaches.

The reason? According to the Fish and Wildlife Commission, April 15 marks the beginning of bat maternity season, when young bats cannot yet fly and are essentially trapped at the roost.

“During bat maternity season, bats gather to give birth and raise their young,” said Terry Doonan, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologist and mammal conservation coordinator. “The season lasts until the young bats can fly and feed themselves. In Florida, this occurs from mid-April through mid-August for most bat species.”

It is illegal to harm or kill bats in Florida, although guidelines are available for those who want to evict or exclude the flying creatures from specific areas. Florida is home to 13 bat species, which help control insect populations. Across the nation, bats’ insect suppression results in benefits to agriculture valued in the billion-dollar range.

County officials back CRC prop protecting their jobs

County constitutional officers — sheriffs, tax collectors, clerks of the court and property appraisers — came out in support of a Constitution Revision Commission proposal requiring those jobs be chosen via elections.

CRC proposal 13 would bar counties charters from abolishing offices, transferring their duties, altering the length of terms, or eschewing elections.

County constitutional officers are in favor of a CRC proposal requiring those jobs be chosen via elections.

The county officials last year launched Constitutional Officer Resource Experts (CORE), to unite Florida’s constitutional officers and educated the public on their role in the state and the constitutional revision process.

“Proposal 13 will only improve the customer service constitutional officers provide to the citizens they serve. As an elected and independent property appraiser I am able to focus on the process, and if a problem arises, I can fix it quickly. I am able to do this because I am elected and directly accountable to the people,” said Lake County Property Appraiser Carey Baker.

Proposal sponsor and Martin County Clerk of the Court Carolyn Timmann echoed those sentiments, adding that the proposal “is about the framework of our state constitution; it is about trusting and allowing the voters to decide the qualifications and responsibilities for their elected officials.”

Florida Physical Therapy Association lauds opioid legislation

A state-backed move to address the opioid crisis drew praise this week from a group representing more than 6,000 physical therapists in the state.

The Florida Physical Therapy Association commended a comprehensive opioid bill signed into law Monday by Gov. Scott. The group played a supporting role in implementing into the bill mandatory training for physicians who prescribe opioids.

Citing a report released in November by the Florida Medical Examiner’s Commission that showed 5,725 opiate-related deaths in the state in 2016, FPTA President Jamie Dyson said the “seriousness of this epidemic cannot be understated.”

Florida physical therapists are applauding the state’s new opioid regulations.

“This bill which recently passed and was signed into law by Governor Scott hopefully will go a long way toward stemming the death rate by helping patients manage their pain and minimize their risk,” Dyson said. “We pledge that FPTA will continue its work on multiple advocacy fronts to support additional efforts to add to this initial legislation.”

The Florida Physical Therapy Association specifically thanked Gov. Scott and state lawmakers Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto and Rep. Jim Boyd, who championed the legislation through their respective chambers.

Florida No. 1 in building codes

Florida’s buildings can take a beating from hurricanes like no other, according to a new report released by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety.

While the Sunshine State topping the list in hurricane hardening might seem like a no-brainer, the 2018 score moves Florida past Virginia for the top spot in the rankings.

Florida scored a 95, one point up from its 2015 score of 94, while the Old Dominion state did the inverse, slipping from 95 to 94 over the three-year stretch.

The report said: “Evidence shows that strong, well-enforced building codes reduce loss and facilitate recovery.”

“This was most apparent in Florida, where nearly 80 percent of homes subjected to Irma’s highest winds were built after adoption of building code improvements following Hurricane Andrew.”

The only thing needed to bring Florida to a perfect score is a continuing ed requirement, so builders and can keep up to date on the residential code.

FSU Law on the rise

Florida State University Law School is the 47th best in the nation, according to the latest batch of U.S. News and World Report rankings.

The new designation is up one spot from last year, showing the university continues to prove itself as a top destination for aspiring legal minds. The school came in at the 24 spot among the nation’s best public law schools.

Florida State University Law School is among the tops in the nation.

FSU and the University of Florida are the best law schools in the state, according to the report. UF ranked 41 across all law schools.

FSU law received the designation for its selectivity and graduation placement rates. It ranks among top law schools for graduate employment, and the 2017 incoming class had a median LSAT of 159 and a median GPA of 3.61.

“We are thrilled that U.S. News continues to rank us among the nation’s top law schools and that we continue to improve in these rankings,” said Dean Erin O’Connor.

It’s not just the law school, FSU says

Florida State’s law school took the No. 47 spot on U.S. News’ list, but that’s not the only fresh entry on the Seminole brag board: graduate programs in criminology, business, education, nursing and engineering all made significant jumps in the publication’s annual rankings.

“These new rankings reflect Florida State University’s ascent in national prominence as one of the top research institutions in the nation,” said Sally McRorie, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs. “This is evidence of the excellence of our faculty and students across a breadth of disciplines.”

The new rankings put the criminology and criminal justice school in the top-5 nationwide, a two-spot bump.

“We are pleased that our college continues to be recognized as a national and world leader in academic excellence with renowned faculty and highly gifted students,” said Thomas G. Blomberg, dean of the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

The nursing master’s program had the most impressive gain, rising 37 spots in the rankings, while the doctoral program gained 15 places. Both finished at No. 66 nationally. The part-time MBA program also had a dramatic gain — it rocketed up to No. 44 from last year’s No. 71 position.

Education graduate programs rose six spots to No. 46, while the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering climbed seven places. Its public finance and budgeting specialty in the public affairs category moved up eight spots to No. 15.

Leon County public works feted

Leon County picked up some awards from the Big Bend Branch of American Public Works Association earlier this month.

APWA says its awards program “promotes excellence in the management and administration of public works projects by recognizing the alliance between the managing agency, the consultant/architect/engineer, and the contractor who accomplished the projects together.”

Leon County Commission Chair Nick Maddox.

Leon County took home some hardware: The Lake Heritage Dam Improvements won for best Emergency Construction or Repair; the first phase of the Magnolia Drive multiuse trail topped the Multifunction category; the Robinson Road flood relief efforts was the best of the bunch on the Environmental and Stormwater front.

“These award-winning public works projects demonstrate that the Board of County Commissioners is committed to improving safety, protecting our community’s natural beauty, and investing in the future,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Nick Maddox.

Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions:

Absolutely, positively no: No AG bid for Richard Corcoran

A brief campaign note:

Amid some less-than-spectacular poll numbers, some (and by some we’re looking at you, Ron DeSantis supporters) are whispering whether House Speaker Richard Corcoran will shift his future political focus to another office, from that of Governor.

Namely, whether the Land O’ Lakes Republican and attorney might instead run to succeed Pam Bondi as Attorney General as a consolation prize. Bondi is term-limited this year.

Nope. He’s going big or going home.

“Richard Corcoran has never considered and will not run for Attorney General,” said his right-hand man, James Blair. “Period. The end.”

And that’s that.

In twilight of their time in office, daylight emerges between Rick Scott, Adam Putnam

Governor Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are in the twilight of their current tenures.

Putnam wants to replace Scott and has been vocal in criticisms of Scott policy.

Putnam vowed to bring back the drug czar position that Scott eliminated after he took office in 2011, although the commissioner was quick to point out that Scott didn’t “drop the ball” on the drug war in the Sunshine State, opioid crisis notwithstanding.

Putnam said he couldn’t have signed the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act as it was, though he added that if he were to be elected Governor, the self-proclaimed “NRA sellout” would enforce the law that has led to a lawsuit from the gun group, and a ritual defenestration of House Speaker Richard Corcoran for pushing the gun control bill through.

Florida Politics asked Scott about Putnam’s deviations from administration policy, including whether he regretted cutting the drug czar position (a question he sidestepped).

“With regard to the opioid crisis,” Scott said, “it’s horrible what happened. We have so many people who have lost their lives over it. I have a family member who has struggled with addiction.”

“I want to thank Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron because they stepped up. They made sure we had $65 million in the budget this year to deal with the opioid crisis. We passed a good bill that I was proud to sign, that’s hopefully going to stop as many people from being addicted and provide services,” Scott said.

“Last year we passed legislation that increased the penalties for those that are trafficking in these drugs,” Scott added.

Despite Putnam’s critiques of the “school safety bill,” Scott said (as he did last week when we asked him) that he was “proud of what [he] signed.”

“I told the Legislature to give me a bill that will provide for law enforcement officers. They did. I said give me a bill that will provide more mental health counselors in schools. They did. I said give me a bill that’s going to harden our schools. They did,” Scott said.

“I said give me a bill that will say that if you’re struggling with mental illness or you’re threatening yourself or others, that you don’t have access to a gun. They did,” Scott added.

“I’m proud to have signed that bill and I’m going to continue to fight to make sure it’s implemented,” Scott said.

Of course, the school safety bill has led to one potential candidate for Governor — House Speaker Richard Corcoran — being pilloried by the NRA.

FP asked Scott if the NRA should lay off of Corcoran, and whether he was worried that the gun lobby would come after him in potential future political endeavors.

“Well, I want to thank the Speaker, because the school safety bill wouldn’t have passed without the Speaker’s hard work. The money for the opioid crisis wouldn’t have been in there without the Speaker’s hard work,” Scott said.

“The bill that I got to sign to restrict the number of days that a doctor could prescribe opioids wouldn’t be there without Speaker Corcoran,” Scott continued. “I think that we had a great Session, and the Speaker and Senate President did a good job.”

Scott more or less sidestepped the question about the NRA targeting Corcoran, perhaps deliberately conflating NRA members with the NRA political operation.

“With regard to the NRA, I’m an NRA member. I was an NRA member before I became Governor, and will be an NRA member when I’m out of this job,” Scott said.

“Some NRA members like the bill. Maybe some don’t like the bill. I think it’s a good bill for our state, and responsive to what happened in our state,” Scott said.

Joe Henderson: Some GOP leaders dancing around gun issue

Some of the state’s leading Republicans are finding their new dance steps a little tricky to master.

Many of them, including outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, have long pledged support for the National Rifle Association and, by association, its no-compromise stance on the Second Amendment.

But Corcoran drew the wrath this week of NRA uber lobbyist Marion Hammer for his role in passing recent gun restrictions.

Now, Putnam kind of tap-danced his way around the question of whether he would try to repeal that law if he is elected governor.

Putnam has been considered by many the GOP front-runner in the governor’s race, although unabashed NRA supporter Ron Desantis has pulled ahead in some recent polls.

Gun control will be one of the main issues in the upcoming election for both the governor’s mansion and the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Bill Nelson and likely challenger Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott also drew the NRA’s wrath by signing the gun control measure but doesn’t appear to have a serious challenger for his party’s nomination.

Leading Democratic candidates all are pushing for even tighter regulations on gun sales in Florida, which is no surprise. They don’t court the NRA’s support anyway, and after the slaughter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School public opinion is shifting toward stronger laws.

Putnam has called himself a “proud NRA sellout” and opposed the restrictions pushed by Corcoran and signed by Scott. He said as governor, he would not have signed the bill.

But as A.G. Gancarski reported for Florida Politics, Putnam dodged the question when asked if he would work to repeal the law if he is elected.

“We’re going to enforce the law. I mean, that’s what governors do. You enforce the laws that are on the books,” Putnam said before ending the interview.


Well, yeah, that’s true. Governors are supposed to enforce the law. But that wasn’t the question, was it?

Sure, it would be popular with the NRA and hard-line primary voters for Putnam to say that law has to go, but he has higher ambitions than winning the nomination.

So, it’s a big political risk to say “You’re gol-darned tootin’ I’ll work to repeal that law” because those who favor stringent restrictions would feed him that for breakfast, lunch, bunch, dinner and late-night snacks – kind of like they’ve done with his NRA sellout line.

For what it’s worth, Putnam stopped using the “sellout” label following the Parkland murders.

But Corcoran is doing his version of the Tallahassee two-step as well.

After being slammed by Hammer this week for what she called his “betrayal,” Corcoran sent a letter to the Constitutional Revision Commission saying he had “grave concerns” about a proposal under consideration to let voters decide whether to ban the sale of assault-style weapons.

Apparently, a majority of CRC members agreed. The proposal was rejected.

Was Corcoran’s olive branch enough to get back in the NRA’s good graces?

Apparently not yet.

After saying plenty earlier this week, Hammer hasn’t spoken publicly about this.

For now, all we have to go on is that she feels he betrayed the NRA.

Groveling may eventually be involved.

Marion doesn’t dance.

If elected governor, Adam Putnam won’t commit to repealing gun control bill

Adam Putnam did not support the efforts of Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran to enact the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act. The Republican gubernatorial candidate has also went on record during a TV interview he would “likely not” have signed the bill.

Yet despite taking to NRA TV this weekend to once more condemn the legislation, Putnam will not commit to working to repeal the legislation if he is elected governor.

Putnam noted that he was “very public in [his] concerns about elements of the bill [he] disagreed with.”

“Raiding the law abiding citizens trust fund, raising the age [of gun purchase] to 21, and the extended waiting period. And with the press corps’ help, everyone knows where I am,” Putnam said.

We asked if Scott should have vetoed the bill, in order to push forth a more NRA-friendly product in a Special Session.

“What I have said is I would have worked with the Legislature to include many of the things they included on mental health, securing our schools to create a safe learning environment,” Putnam said.

“I do have concerns about some provisions of it,” Putnam continued, “and had I been governor, I would have worked with the Legislature to produce a bill that I could sign.”

We asked Putnam if he would change the law were he elected governor.

He didn’t say yes.

“We’re going to enforce the law. I mean, that’s what governors do. You enforce the laws that are on the books,” Putnam said, wrapping the interview.

Gun restrictions won’t go on November ballot

Floridians won’t have an opportunity to decide whether the state should ban semi-automatic weapons — or to weigh in on other gun-related restrictions — after the Constitution Revision Commission rejected attempts to debate the proposals Wednesday.

Efforts to take up gun-related issues came as the 37-member commission, which meets every 20 years, is narrowing a list of proposed constitutional amendments to place before voters on the November ballot.

A handful of commissioners floated proposals that would impose stricter gun regulations, such as a ban on assault-style weapons, following the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which 14 students and three staff members were shot dead by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz. Cruz, who had a lengthy history of mental health problems, used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle he purchased legally — with no waiting period — to carry out the shooting in Parkland.

Commissioner Roberto Martinez, a former federal prosecutor, proposed an amendment that mirrored gun restrictions imposed by a new Florida law, which raised the minimum age from 18 to 21 and imposed a three-day waiting period to purchase long guns, such as the one used by Cruz. Like the new law, Martinez’s amendment also called for banning “bump stocks,” devices that allow semi-automatic weapons to mimic automatic guns.

While lawmakers passed the age and waiting-period restrictions, putting such measures in the Constitution would make them more permanent — and harder to change. The Constitution Revision Commission has unique power to place proposals directly on the ballot.

Martinez, a Republican who said he owns three guns, said he met with students from the Parkland school and others while researching the issue.

“They’re not gun-grabbers. But what these students and the young people are asking for are reasonable laws to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of the wrong people,” Martinez argued. “That’s all they want. And they want an opportunity to vote … to put into our Constitution those same very meaningful and reasonable firearm safety restrictions that are now included in the act.”

But Martinez tried to add the amendment to another commission proposal (Proposal 3) that deals with property rights of certain immigrants. Commissioner Emery Gainey, who works for Attorney General Pam Bondi and was appointed to the constitution-revision panel by Gov. Rick Scott, challenged whether the amendment had anything to do with the underlying proposal.

“I have personally seen the carnage that it (a semi-automatic weapon) does to the human body,” Gainey, who’s spent three decades in law enforcement, said. “I think it’s a discussion that Floridians ought to have. … There’s a proper forum. I don’t think this is it.”

As they did on two other gun-related proposals, a majority of the commission refused to allow a debate on Martinez’s amendment after Rules and Administration Chairman Tim Cerio decided the proposal was “not germane” to the underlying proposal.

“It’s not even a close call,” Cerio, a former general counsel to Scott, said.

Martinez appealed the decision and asked that the rules be waived, because the Feb. 14 shooting occurred after an Oct. 31 deadline for proposals to be submitted.

But Bondi, who serves on the constitution-revision panel, said commissioners had plenty of time to file proposals following the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando that left 49 people dead.

“To say that the shooting came up recently, well, we had Pulse nightclub a year ago. You’ve all known that from day one.  No one did anything on that,” she said.

But Martinez argued that people should be allowed to “have a voice” and “publicly debate” what has become “the issue of the day” for Floridians.

“There was mention of the awful tragedy at Pulse, where the gay community was targeted. That was an awful massacre. And what did the Legislature do about that? Anybody want to raise their hands? No hands? That’s because they did nothing,” Martinez said.

He urged the commission to echo the actions of “the political leadership of this state” this year, saying Scott and the Legislature had “basically been unshackled to address this issue,” despite pressure from powerful special interests. The National Rifle Association filed a federal lawsuit shortly after Scott signed the new law and has targeted Republican legislators who supported the measure.

“What is the harm done, if we were to go forward, debate this issue and vote on it? I can’t see any harm,” he said. “What is the benefit? The benefit is unlimited.”

The motion to waive the rules failed on a voice vote.

Commissioner Chris Smith, a former state senator from Fort Lauderdale, was met with an identical response — a challenge to germanity — when he attempted to introduce an amendment that would ban assault-style weapons.

Smith, a Democrat, noted that the Legislature debated the assault-weapons ban during the annual session, which ended March 11.

But Florida voters “want to have a voice on this,” he said.

“It’s being debated right now in your home offices. It’s being debated in the parking lots of Publix. It’s being debated throughout this state. We are in a unique opportunity to give those 20 million a chance to actually vote on it,” he said.

The majority also rejected taking up Smith’s amendment.

Wednesday’s CRC actions came after House Speaker Richard Corcorantargeted by the National Rifle Association following the passage of the new gun restrictions — wrote in a letter to commissioners that he had a “grave concern” about amendments “that are inappropriate for inclusion in the state Constitution.”

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, said he opposed proposals seeking an assault-weapons ban and an “extended” waiting period.

Firearm policies “are best left to the purview of an elected legislature in a constitutional republic,” the speaker wrote Wednesday morning.

“The Constitution protects the right to keep and bear arms. All firearm policies flow from that fundamental right and should remain policy matters for the Legislature,” Corcoran wrote.

Noting that Corcoran had essentially told the Constitution Revision Commission to mind its own business, Commissioner Hank Coxe, a Jacksonville lawyer, offered a proposal that included a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and a 10-day waiting period for the purchase of guns.

Coxe, who was appointed by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, said the commission had signed off on numerous proposals that lawmakers refused to pass — including a potential ban on greyhound racing and a victim’s rights measure known as “Marsy’s Law.”

“The legacy of the CRC is, as we stand here now given the germanity issue, that we worry about victim’s rights in Marsy’s Law, that we worry about the greyhounds, but, because of adherence to this rule, we do not worry about reducing the number of people murdered in the state of Florida,” Coxe said. “Forget germanity. Just waive the rules.”

But, again on a voice vote, a majority of the commission refused to waive the rules, and Coxe’s amendment failed.

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