Rick Scott Archives - Page 6 of 294 - Florida Politics

Medical malpractice records battle brews

Florida voters next year could be asked to once again dive into a never-ending tug-of-war over medical malpractice lawsuits.

Voters more than a decade ago overwhelmingly agreed that what are known as “adverse medical-incident reports” should be made available to patients, but now there’s a move underway in Tallahassee to limit access to them.

Tim Cerio, a member of the state Constitution Revision Commission and former general counsel to Gov. Rick Scott, has filed a proposal that would amend the state Constitution to place limits on what types of records could be used in lawsuits filed against doctors, hospitals and other health-care providers.

The proposal crafted by Cerio, who works for the politically connected law firm of GrayRobinson, would make it clear that access to adverse medical-incident reports does not “abrogate attorney-client communications or work product privileges for patients, health care providers, or health care facilities.”

Moreover, the amendment would exclude from adverse incident reports documents that are “protected by federal laws or regulations relating to patient safety quality improvement.”

Cerio said he doesn’t want to thwart the public’s access to the records, which play a key role in medical malpractice cases, and said he is considering altering his proposal to narrow it.

Voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment, Amendment 7, that gave patients the right to have access to records of health-care providers’ adverse incidents.

The Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years, can put proposed constitutional changes directly on the 2018 ballot. Cerio’s proposal on adverse-incident reports is one of dozens the commission will consider during the coming months.

Cerio maintains recent Florida court rulings have broadened the initial intent of Amendment 7 to the point where it now interferes with hospitals’ abilities to prepare for litigation.

“There has been a stream of cases that have expanded basically the impact of Amendment 7 and created an ability for litigants to get at information that was not intended,” he said. “Attorney-client work product is sacrosanct, and for the courts to expand that, I think, is not a good reading of the original intent of Amendment 7.”

The Florida Supreme Court this year issued opinions in two cases related to the public’s right to the information.

In October, the Supreme Court overturned a decision by the 2nd District Court of Appeal that would have allowed Bartow Regional Medical Center to avoid turning over records that were prepared — at the request of the hospital’s counsel — outside of the ordinary peer-review process and in anticipation of litigation.

Writing for the Supreme Court majority, Justice R. Fred Lewis said that “the result asserted by Bartow would provide a trap door through which hospitals could totally avoid their discovery obligations by outsourcing their adverse medical incident reporting to external, voluntary risk management committees separate from those required by the Florida statutory scheme.”

In January, the Supreme Court held in a separate case that a 2005 federal patient-safety law did not shield Baptist Health System in Jacksonville from turning over adverse medical-incident reports. The hospital appealed the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to take up the case.

Lobbyist Jan Gorrie, who represents hospitals, said patient safety transcends all other issues and given the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the Baptist Health case, now is the time to reconsider the information that should be available to patients and prospective patients under Amendment 7.

“If your institution didn’t do something right, you want them to take a serious self-examination, which to some degree won’t happen if they don’t have these processes protected,” said Gorrie, with the Ballard Partners firm.

Medical malpractice has long been a highly contentious legal and political issue. On one side of the debate are medical providers and insurance companies, which have tried to limit the ability of injured patients to sue. On the other side are trial attorneys who oppose attempts to limit access to the courts.

At the behest of then-Gov. Jeb Bush who declared there was a medical-malpractice “crisis,” the Legislature in 2003 passed a number of changes meant to limit lawsuits that could be filed against providers.

Moreover, the legislation, which Bush signed into law, also placed limits on the amount of money injured patients could collect in malpractice cases for pain and suffering.

The law, though, fell short of what the medical community and insurance companies sought and was more restrictive than what trial attorneys wanted. Dissatisfied, both sides pushed proposed constitutional amendments in 2004.

The Florida Justice Association, made up of trial lawyers, backed two proposed constitutional amendments that year; Amendment 7, which gave patients a right to adverse medical-incident reports, and Amendment 8, which prohibited physicians who have been found to have committed three or more incidents of medical malpractice from being licensed to practice in Florida. Amendment 7 passed with 81 percent approval, while Amendment 8 was approved by 71 percent.

Amendment 3, supported by health-care providers, capped the amount of money attorneys could collect in medical malpractice cases. It passed with nearly 64 percent approval.

Jacksonville appellate attorney Bryan Gowdy called Cerio’s proposal a “pretty obvious attempt to diminish the right of patients to access adverse medical-incident reports.”

Gowdy agreed with Cerio that there’s been a “history of litigation” since Amendment 7. But unlike Cerio, Gowdy maintained that the Florida Supreme Court’s decisions have been accurate.

“Every effort has been made by the hospitals to resist and thwart implementation of Amendment 7,” said Gowdy, with the law firm, Creed and Gowdy. “Now they are trying to go back and rewrite it.”

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Michelle Dennard: Growing apprenticeships will strengthen economy

Michelle Dennard

The talent gap we face in Florida is not a new problem nor is it unique to our state.

According to the Florida Chamber, while more than 400,000 are looking for jobs, we still have 232,000 jobs looking for people.

Florida’s employers and workforce development, economic development and education entities are collaborating to bridge that gap with a new focus on apprenticeships.

The National Office of Apprenticeship, within the U.S. Department of Labor, has set a goal of doubling and diversifying the number of apprenticeships by 2019. Florida is among 36 states and Guam recently selected to help make that big goal a reality through the ApprenticeshipUSA initiative. The responsibility tied to these grants is clear: build partnerships across key industries and organizations to create a strong talent pipeline for businesses in vital industries like advanced manufacturing and information technology.

Last month, I had the opportunity to talk with U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta about the importance of expanding apprenticeship opportunities during his visit with Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee. Florida is the third largest state in the nation, with low unemployment – just 3.8 percent in September – and record job growth.

Yet we know we still have construction companies in need of skilled workers, hospitals in need of healthcare technicians and manufacturers in need of production technicians.

The Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine® data series found more than 46,000 healthcare openings in Florida in September. In the same month, we had more than 64,000 construction jobs open, 42,000 IT positions available, and more than 9,000 manufacturing jobs open.

Apprenticeships are a great way to get tomorrow’s talent ready for the demand we know is here, and constantly growing.

CareerSource Florida is integrating apprenticeships into our statewide sector strategies initiative. Sector strategies are a nationally recognized approach that brings together partners and stakeholders in industry, education and workforce development to align public resources that address the skills needs of critical industries.

Sector strategies, including apprenticeships, enable us to meet the talent demands of tomorrow and support state and local economic growth in a significant way. Research shows sector strategies strengthen the participating businesses, the industries involved and the workforce as a whole by shifting workforce development from a supply-driven to a demand-driven approach.

Our work on the State Apprenticeship Expansion grant has already resulted in system-wide partnerships, and the engagement of nearly 100 industry and expert volunteers who are identifying ways to expand apprenticeships. Each of Florida’s lead organizations – CareerSource Florida, the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Department of Education – has designated a project director to focus on this important work.

We believe this renewed focus and the fresh insights of industry, education and workforce experts will further strengthen and diversify Florida’s already robust economy. The collaboration and commitment to build and grow strong apprenticeship programs throughout our state is a testament to Florida’s leadership on a critical national issue.

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Michelle Dennard is president and CEO of CareerSource Florida.

Doubts linger after Rick Scott pitches biggest budget

After deep cuts in spending for Florida schools and other public programs following the Great Recession, outgoing Republican Gov. Rick Scott this month proposed an $87.4 billion budget he says boosts spending on some depleted services to record levels.

Despite Scott’s meaty 2018-2019 budget recommendation, which is about $2.4 billion above current spending, advocates for Florida public education, environment and affordable housing remained skeptical the new plan would go far enough.

“It doesn’t move Florida (schools) out from the bottom when compared to other states,” said Mark Pudlow, spokesman for the Florida Education Association, the state’s teachers union.

Florida’s public school per-pupil spending sank from a peak of $7,126 in the 2007-2008 budget to a post-recession low of $6,217 for the 2011-2012 year.

In his latest proposal, Scott recommended increasing funding to $7,176 per student, a $50 rise above record-high per-student funding. Florida has more than 2.7 million students enrolled in its public K-12 schools.

Pudlow said he welcomed the governor’s increases, but support for Florida education was still lagging far behind most of the United States. The nationwide per-student spending average was $11,392 in 2015, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data available.

Adjusted for inflation, Pudlow pointed out, Scott’s budget puts Florida’s per-student spending at about $1,200 less than it was at its peak.

Scott proposed increasing public elementary and secondary school spending to about $14.71 billion from some $14.45 billion in the current fiscal year.

NOT A DONE DEAL

Andrea Messina, executive director of the Florida School Boards Association, said she was hopeful Scott’s proposal signaled an attitude shift in the state capital toward public education financing, but the proposal was far from final.

The Florida House of Representatives and Senate will hear the governor’s budget recommendations at the next Legislative Session starting on Jan. 9. They then make their own budget proposals and negotiate until a single plan is agreed on.

That budget will go back to the governor, who has the authority to veto line items before signing off on the bill.

Scott has also proposed $180 million in cuts to taxes and fees and asked for sharp increases in spending on departments, including corrections, which would see more than 500 added jobs under the plan.

The budget for environmental protection would surge to more than $1.7 billion from $1.48 billion in the current year, making it among the budget’s biggest gainers. Florida Everglades restoration would be among the environmental projects to receive an infusion of funds.

“That’s one place where we’re happy, although the devil is in the details,” said Frank Jackalone, director of Sierra Club Florida. Jackalone said he was concerned the state would continue to cut environmental rules enforcement and to take from earmarked funds intended for the environment to spend on other government programs.

State Rep. Carlos Smith, a Democrat who represents a central Florida district seeing an influx of residents fleeing from hurricane-battered areas, including Puerto Rico, said he opposed Scott’s budget proposal on affordable housing.

Under the plan, overall spending on affordable housing would rise, Smith said, but it would also include a raid of nearly $92 million on trust funds earmarked for affordable homes.

“We don’t know what to do, people are sleeping in cars,” Smith said of storm evacuees, namely Puerto Ricans fleeing the bankrupt and hurricane-battered U.S. commonwealth.

Via Reuters. Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Daniel Bases and Jonathan Oatis.

Rick Scott ‘heartbroken’ by Navy deaths

Three members of the U.S. Navy — each of whom had Florida connections — perished at sea this week. Gov. Rick Scott is joining other Americans in mourning the loss.

“My wife Ann and I are heartbroken to learn of the loss of these brave members of the US Navy, including Lt. Steven Combs and Aviation Ordnanceman Airman Apprentice Bryan Grosso of Florida. These men put their lives on the line to defend our families and our freedom. As a Navy veteran myself, I honor their sacrifice and I am praying for their loved ones as they mourn,” Scott said in a statement Saturday.

Combs and Grosso were both Florida natives; additionally, as Stars and Stripes reported Saturday, the third man to be lost at sea — Seaman Matthew Chialastri — was once stationed in Jacksonville, where he was assigned to the USS America.

Flags will be lowered throughout the state in the coming days.

American and Japanese forces searched in vain for the men, per Stars and Stripes, covering 1,000 nautical square miles in two days.

Thanksgiving messages from Florida’s elected officials and politicians

A compilation of Thanksgiving message from Florida’s elected officials and politicians:

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, via Twitter:

“Grace and I wish everyone a wonderful #Thanksgiving. And special thanks to all the brave men and women serving in our military – both here and overseas – who sacrifice so much to keep the rest of us safe. We are ALL thankful for your service!”

Gov. Rick Scott:

“As another great year comes to a close, I am so thankful for my family, my wife, Ann, our wonderful daughters, Allison and Jordan and six beautiful grandchildren. I am also so honored and thankful to have the incredible opportunity each and every day to work for Florida families and fight to make our state the best place in the nation to get a great job, receive a top-notch education and live in a safe community. I wish every Florida family a safe and happy Thanksgiving.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis:

“Gathering around my family’s table each year, I’m reminded of the many reasons to be grateful. I’m reminded of our firefighter community, and the men and women who protect our country. Both sacrifice time with their families to keep us safe while we spend time with ours.

“This year, I’m incredibly thankful to serve this great state as your CFO and State Fire Marshal. Thanksgiving marks the start of the season of giving. My hope is that this spirit will remain in our hearts all year long.”

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum:

There are so many things I’m grateful for in my life. In May, my wife and I welcomed our third child, Davis, and our twins Caroline and Jackson continue to make us proud as they grow and learn their place in the world. I’m truly blessed with a house of love. … I’m grateful for the grace of the people of Tallahassee, and people all across Florida. On this journey, we’ve had a chance to meet thousands of people who have shared their stories of triumph, their big dreams, and their hopes for their children. They’ve given us strength and hope that our state’s best days are still ahead of us. … And I’m grateful for the richness of our experience, especially during trying times. Our collective strength far outweighs the difficulties we might face, and I’ve never been more convinced of that than I am today.

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“While there will always be more work to accomplish and more challenges to meet, this Thanksgiving I am reflecting on how fortunate we are to live in America and how thankful I am for the people of this great state. Florida is blessed with amazing beaches and springs, live oaks and palm trees, wild turkeys and orange groves — but our greatest blessing is each other, our fellow Floridians.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, on what he’s faithful for:

“Melissa and the kids. My faith. The resilience of this state. We’ve faced so many challenges this year, and there are many more ahead in our future. But the people of Florida prove time and time again that they can withstand anything that comes our way.”

Sen. Thad Altman, via Twitter:

“Thankful every day for God, my Family, our Veterans, our Active Military men and women, and First Responders who serve and protect this great nation including on Thanksgiving Day.”

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto:

“During this Thanksgiving season, I am reminded of all we have to be grateful for. First and foremost, as a mother, I am thankful to have the ability to spend this holiday with my son Austin and daughter Gabriella. Also, I am thankful that you have placed your trust in me to serve on your behalf in the Florida Senate. It is truly an honor to serve beautiful Southwest Florida. … In the United States of America we have a great number of things to be thankful for, but paramount among them are the service members who sacrifice greatly to protect our freedom. Let us remember and thank our servicemen and women during this season. … Lastly, this Thanksgiving I hope we can all take time to reflect on the blessings in our lives and be sure to keep in mind the less fortunate in our community. Let us continue to look to the future with hope and gratitude in our hearts, and a love for all humankind.”

Wishbone, one of two turkeys pardoned by Donald Trump, is previewed in the press briefing room.

Sen. Jim Boyd:

“The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and was a three day long feast celebrating the pilgrims coming to the New World in search of liberty. Today, we give thanks that we’ve been able to maintain liberty on this continent since the pilgrims landed here 396 years ago.”

Sen. Jeff Brandes:

“This year has given me so much to be thankful for.

“First and foremost, I am incredibly grateful for my wife and children. Natalie and I added a fourth child to our family this year, and eight-year-old Lizzie is already proving she can hold her own amongst her new siblings. We are relishing this time as we get to know her and have learned that she loves swimming, chicken nuggets, and playing Candy Crush (no English required). I am blessed to now say we now make dinner reservations as the Brandes party of six.

“I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to serve the hardworking taxpayers of District 24. I recognize the special trust placed in me to represent our district in the Florida Senate and truly appreciate their thoughts and advocacy as we work together to build a stronger community.

“Finally, I want to say I am especially thankful to my colleagues in the Florida House. Last year, on the sixtieth day of Session, I found myself needing a miracle to pass SB 590, a bill to help unmarried, non-custodial parents establish a path to see their children. The bill had stalled in the House, and the rules needed to be waived in order to hear it (a situation that usually kills the legislation). Leader [Janet] Cruz (D) and Rep. [Lori] Berman (D) graciously agreed to not object and allow the bill to be both read and voted on that final day of Session. This is a gesture that I will not forget as it allowed a day sixty legislative miracle to happen.

“In this all too often partisan world, I am thankful for the relationships that allow us to look beyond party and to extend kindness and trust that so together we can make Florida a better place to live.”

Sen. Denise Grimsley:

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving full of family, friends, and food! … Without the hard work of our farmers and ranchers, Thanksgiving meals wouldn’t be possible. While we’re all thankful for so much this year, I am especially thankful for our Florida Agricultural community. … God bless you, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sen. Jack Latvala:

“As we gather with family and friends during this Thanksgiving holiday, I have a lot to be thankful for. I am grateful for my family. They have been my rock, especially during these past few weeks. I’m also thankful for my friends whose support has lifted me up.

“We are fortunate to live in a free country and an incredibly dynamic state. I’m thankful for the men and women who protect our freedom and keep us safe. To our military men and women, I say thank you. To law enforcement, firefighters, and other first responders — I am grateful not only for your support, but the sacrifice you make on a daily basis.

“As you spend time with loved ones over these next few days, remember the things that make this country the greatest of all countries. The spirit of the original European settlers who made great sacrifice to come here still exists today. This Thanksgiving is a great time to remember that America is still a beacon of hope for many around the world.

“Have a great time with friends and family. I will. We all have many reasons to be thankful.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran:

Rep. Lori Berman:

Rep. Danny Burgess:

“I’m thankful for the men and women in uniform who are away from their families this holiday season to ensure I can be with mine.”

Rep. Bob Cortes:

“I am thankful for a new day for another chance at doing right to others. To family, friends and everyone else that makes our lives complete. I am also thankful that even though it has been a rough year full of natural disasters, it has brought us all together with renewed compassion. Thankful for the opportunity to serve and being able to help my fellow Puerto Ricans in their time of need.

“Finally, thankful to live in a free country and enjoy what many in other parts of the world many people are denied.”

Rep. Janet Cruz:

“I’m thankful that my 83-year-old mother, who’s still working, taught me the value of a solid work ethic. I’m proud of my reputation … known as a workhorse, not a show horse. Thanks, Mom! … I’m thankful for a family that fully supports my fascinating yet frustrating service as a Legislator. Nothing better than feeling loved by my husband Steve (the good doctor and smartest all-around man in the WORLD) daughter Ana Cruz (the brilliantly successful redhead at Ballard Partners) and son Nick Cruz (eat at Big Ray’s which will someday contribute to my nursing home fund) … I’m thankful for every American soldier. These brave men and women risk their lives for my freedom … they have never met me, yet they are willing to die for my freedom. Could never thank them enough. … I’m thankful for our teachers in Florida. They are underpaid and often underappreciated, yet they continue to educate and are sometimes the only positive influence in a child’s life. Blessed are the teachers! … I’m thankful for Maddie, Peter, Tess, Patrick, Maizy, and Julian who are my delightful grandchildren. They are living proof that things will be alright once I’m gone. … I’m thankful for a supportive staff in Tampa and Tallahassee make me look good. The taxpayers certainly get their money’s worth here!”

Rep. Dane Eagle:

“My staff and I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful start to the holiday season. As we enjoy this time with our loved ones, let’s remember those who cannot be with their own families as they protect us and defend our freedom. We have many reasons to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!”

Rep. Randy Fine:

“My wife, Wendy, for being a great partner and friend, and for giving us our two young sons, Jacob and David. Every moment I get to spend with them is a blessing. I’m particularly grateful to Wendy this year for the all solo duties she has had to handle when I’ve been in Tallahassee.”

Rep. Jason Fischer:

“Thanksgiving is upon us again, and it offers us all a chance to reflect and show our gratitude for life’s many blessings. And blessed we all are! The Fischer family invites you all to join us as pray a special blessing for our armed service personnel and their families as they work to keep us safe at home and abroad.”

Rep. Bill Hager:

“As you prepare to sit down with your family and friends for a festive holiday meal, I want to take a moment to thank you. Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the Florida House of Representatives. I am privileged to represent District 89 in Tallahassee, and it is only possible because of the honor you have bestowed upon me. Happy Thanksgiving!”

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia:

Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton:

Rep. Chris Sprowls:

“I’m thankful that I get to experience childhood again through the eyes of our two little boys. Every day brings another gift.”

Rep. Frank White:

“This week we celebrate and give thanks for the many blessings in our lives and as a nation. I’m giving thanks for my family, friends, faith and community. I am blessed every day by my lovely wife, Stephanie, and my three boys Henry, Clayton, and Wesley. In fact, these overwhelming blessings in my life were my primary motivation for entering public service. My faith teaches that to whom much has been given, much is expected. Giving back to my community in public service with your support has been the honor of a lifetime. … I wish you all a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!”

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry:

“I’m thankful for my wife Molly, my kids Boyd, Brooke & Bridget, and for the opportunity to serve the city I love.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman:

“I am thankful for quite a bit this year, including my family, friends, and good health. The opportunity to serve the city and people I love for another four years is also at the top of my list. Thank you for believing in me and for giving me a chance to earn your support if I didn’t have it in this past election. Have a happy Thanksgiving and please take a moment to take stock of your blessings. Please also keep St. Pete’s first responders and personnel in your thoughts, for many of them are not able to enjoy Thanksgiving with their loved ones. Thank you, St. Pete.”

Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano:

“As a public servant, I am blessed and thankful to have the opportunity to continue to serve the people of Pasco County and work with individuals at our Tax Collectors office who are truly second to none. Thankful and blessed to have been given the means allowing me to help those less fortunate than us and so I may give back to our community in some small way. God bless!”

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore:

 

Chief Financial Officer candidate Jeremy Ring:

Pinellas County Republican Party Chair and House District 66 candidate Nick DiCeglie:

“Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re enjoying a tasty home cooked meal this week in the company of family and friends.

“On this Thanksgiving, and every day, I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon me, especially my loving and talented wife Erica, and my kids Livia and Carlo. I’m also thankful for my family business, Solar Sanitation, which for 37 years has provided the essential service of trash collection to the residents and businesses of Pinellas County.

“This year I am also thankful for the opportunity to run as a candidate for Florida House, District 66. For more than 20 years, Indian Rocks Beach has been where Erica and I have decided to raise our children and enjoy the breathtaking sunsets in the best place to live, work and play.

“Happy Thanksgiving from the DiCeglie family to yours.”

Lobbying firm The Fiorentino Group:

Florida Democrats want injunction to move forward special election dates

The Florida Democratic Party has filed a motion seeking to force earlier elections for the South Florida legislative seats recently resigned by Lake Worth Democrat Jeff Clemens and Coral Gables Democrat Daisy Baez.

The motion, filed in Leon County circuit court, requests an injunction to set the election dates for both seats earlier so new lawmakers can be in place for the start of the 2018 Legislative Session, which begins Jan. 9.

Gov. Rick Scott two weeks ago ordered the special primary election to replace Clemens in SD 31 for Jan. 30, with a special general election to follow on April 10. Last week Scott set the HD 114 special primary for Feb. 20, with the general election to follow on May 1.

The HD 114 date was set at a later date due to the request of Dade Supervisor of Elections Christina White, who said in an email that accompanied the executive order that due to a Jan. 23 election in the county, a Feb. 20 special primary election would be “in the best interest of voters.”

The injunction, filed Monday, is part of a lawsuit Democrats filed a lawsuit in Leon County circuit court before dates were set for either election asking a judge to force Scott to set special-election dates.

Clemens left the Senate on Oct. 27 after acknowledging an affair with a lobbyist, while Baez resigned from the House at the beginning of November after agreeing to plead guilty to perjury in a case related to her legal residency.

The two South Florida districts are not the only ones expected to go without representation in the 2018 Legislative Session.

Republican Rep. Neil Combee’s exit from HD 39, effective Nov. 24, will likely leave that seat unfilled for the 60-day session, while the abrupt exit of freshman Rep. Alex Miller two months ago will leave HD 72 unfilled until after a Feb. 13 special general election.

Thanksgiving place setting

What Florida’s political elite should be thankful for

From the soup kitchens of Tallahassee to the conch houses of Key West, from the toniest mansions in Coral Gables to the double wides in Dixie County, people from all walks of life will sit down to celebrate the most American of holidays: Thanksgiving.

“Americans traditionally recognize the ‘first’ Thanksgiving as having taken place at Plymouth colony in the autumn of 1621,” according to MountVernon.org, the website of George Washington’s Virginia estate. “The 1621 thanksgiving celebration, however, did not become an annual event.”

More than a century later, “Washington issued a proclamation on Oct. 3, 1789, designating Thursday, Nov. 26 as a national day of thanks,” it says. “In his proclamation, Washington declared that the necessity for such a day sprung from the Almighty’s care of Americans.”

But “the 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation … did not establish a permanent federal holiday,” the site adds. “It was not until the Civil War of the 1860s that President (Abraham) Lincoln initiated a regular observance of Thanksgiving in the United States.”

Thus we come to the tradition of eating and giving thanks, including by the state’s elected officials (and yes, by candidates and players in The Process).

Once God, country, family, and good fortune are given their due, here’s what some of the state’s most prominent leaders should be grateful for:

Marco Rubio – For the proverbial “second chance.” He’s finally becoming the influential U.S. Senator he was supposed to be.

Bill Nelson – For the wave of opinion coming that may enable the Democrat to hold off the inevitable challenge to his seat from self-funding, always-on-message Gov. Rick Scott.

Rick Scott For Nelson, who, despite 17 years in the U.S. Senate, is not well known enough to about half of Florida’s voters, according to a recent poll. No wonder Bill keeps inundating us with press releases of all the concerned letters he writes.

Adam Putnam – For the anonymous “POLITICO 6” who have torpedoed Jack Latvala’s gubernatorial campaign, giving the Bartow Republican an even wider lane to the Governor’s Mansion in 2018.

Jimmy Patronis For Matt Gaetz muscling him out of a state Senate race a few years back. Now he’s the appointed state Chief Financial Officer, with the full faith and credit of the Rick Scott political machine behind him to get elected to a full term in 2018.

Joe Negron For having just one session left as Senate President. It was a long, bruising road to the presidency, with an extended and nasty battle with Latvala. And since he won the gavel, relations with the House have bottomed out, while several Senators have faced debilitating scandals. Has it really been worth it?

Pam Bondi – For state Sen. Tom Lee’s proposed constitutional amendment banning greyhound racing. The term-limited Attorney General regularly brings shelter dogs to Cabinet meetings to get them adopted. Will she make this issue her own as one springboard to her post-2018 ambitions?

Richard Corcoran – For the seemingly hapless Senate, which allows him to ally with Scott when needed to advance his priorities. A post-Session declaration of his own candidacy for Governor is a virtual lock. 

Jack Latvala  For all the donors who gave to his campaign for Governor before the reports of claims of sexual harassment against him came out. No matter how the case against him plays out, he’ll have millions of dollars to make others miserable once he leaves the Legislature.

Buddy Dyer For no term limits as Orlando mayor. How about just chucking the election pretense? Mayor-for-Life, anyone?

Bob Buckhorn For … , well, the Tampa mayor says he’s too busy hunting a serial killer right now to be thankful. We bet he will be thankful once that evildoer is caught.

Brian Ballard For the gift that keeps on giving: His relationship with President Donald Trump. We’d wager he’s … hold on a second, he’s signing another client, we’ll get back to you.

Vivian Myrtetus – For one million hours of volunteer service in the state after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The CEO of Volunteer Florida has good reason to be proud, and we should be proud of our fellow Floridians who helped neighbors in need.

State keeps fighting for suspended law requiring 24-hour abortion waiting periods

As the state continued its fight to keep a law requiring women to see a doctor and wait 24 hours before getting an abortion on Tuesday, its latest argument included the comparison that if there are waiting periods for cremations and divorces, abortions should have them too.

As it stands now, women do not have to follow the 2015 state law, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott, because it was indefinitely suspended by the state Supreme Court.

But a lawsuit brought forth by the American Civil Liberties Union remains pending in Leon County.

The ACLU of Florida wants Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis to strike down the law completely and deem it unconstitutional, arguing the state’s “paternalistic argument” that women are not capable of making a decision for themselves when they seek the procedure is offensive and should not stand.

Blaine Winship, an attorney with the office of the Attorney General, said that requiring women to come for an in-person consultation revolves around the ultrasound. If women see what’s growing in their uterus, he said, it “can make a lot of difference.”  He added that the 24-hour period is to make sure women have time to make an informed decision.

“We are not here to bully them one way or the other,” Winship said. “This was put in place not out of hostility, but out of concern.”

The ACLU’s attorney, Julia Kaye, said the evidence the state presented to defend the controversial law is “legally irrelevant,” and insisted it should be thrown out.

Following the arguments, Lewis asked both attorneys to submit their final proposals so he can take them into consideration before making a final decision.

Rick Scott, Aramis Ayala battle over missed deadlines in death penalty cases

New twists in the battle between Orlando’s State Attorney Aramis Ayala and Gov. Rick Scott after she agreed to prosecute death penalty cases; Scott is accusing her of missing a filing deadline, and Ayala responding Monday that Scott missed the case, and it will still be filed for capital punishment.

“It is absolutely outrageous that Aramis Ayala failed to seek justice in the case against Emerita Mapp who is accused of attacking multiple people and killing Zackery Ganoe,” Scott declared Friday, contending that she missed an Oct. 7 deadline to file death penalty provisions against Mapp.

The governor has made misleading and inaccurate statements,” Ayala responded Monday.

“It is clear, the governor failed in his review and missed this case,” Ayala responded in a statement Monday afternoon, charging that Scott would have only himself to blame had the case missed the deadline, since he had been monitoring her caseload and was grabbing away all the death penalty cases and re-assigning them to another state attorney well into August, but overlooked this one.

Not so fast, Scott’s office replied to Ayala’s statement.

“It is outrageous State Attorney Ayala is attempting to pass the blame for her failure. Let’s be clear — State Attorney Ayala failed to meet this deadline, and she alone is responsible for not fighting for justice for the victims in this case,” McKinley Lewis, Scott’s deputy director of communications declared.

But the deadline did not pass, Ayala insisted Monday, and she declared she still intends to pursue the death penalty against Mapp.

“The state’s ability to seek the death penalty has not been compromised, and with the filing of the Notice of Intent to Seek Death, we have preserved the issue and remedied the governor’s failure,” she said.

A newly-sworn-in 9th Judicial State attorney, Ayala had denounced Florida’s death penalty on March 16 as unjust for anyone, due to its lengthy delays, high costs, and tendency to be ruled unconstitutional. Scott vehemently disagreed, and the two spent the next five months battling in court over who could do what, while he stripped death penalty cases from her jurisdiction and reassigned them to State Attorney Brad King of Florida’s 5th Judicial Circuit.

In August, the Florida Supreme Court sided with Scott, and Ayala announced a new policy in which she would have a panel within her office, which did not include her, review all murder cases and make determinations on whether her office would pursue the death penalty.

Ayala is chief prosecutor for Orange and Osceola counties.

On Aug. 31, she announced the Mapp case would be the first death penalty pursued under her new policy. The case involves an April 11 murder in an Osceola County hotel.

But on Friday Scott announced that Ayala had missed the legally-required 45-day deadline to file the death penalty case against Mapp.

“I have been clear that I stand with the victims of crime and their families and they deserve answers from the State Attorney’s Office on how this critical deadline was not met. I’ll continue to review reassigning cases from her office since she is failing to fight for victims and their families,” he insisted.

Her response came late Monday:

“Once the Florida Supreme Court issued its ruling regarding a Prosecutor’s discretion to seek the death penalty, I created a Death Penalty Review Panel to review every first-degree murder case. At my direction, once they convened they reviewed every first-degree murder case since the start of my administration Jan. 3. I requested the panel go back to the beginning of my administration to ensure Gov. Scott did not make a mistake and miss cases, which he clearly did,” she wrote.

“Of course, I knew the potential of some of those cases passing the 45-days. This is something the Review Panel discussed prior to reviewing cases. The issue was well researched, so again this was an anticipated hurdle. But it was the right thing to do and consistent with the Florida Supreme Court’s ruling,” she continued

“The state’s ability to seek the death penalty has not been compromised, and with the filing of the Notice of Intent to Seek Death, we have preserved the issue and remedied the governor’s failure,” she concluded.

 

HD 39 candidate Josie Tomkow to hold fundraiser Nov. 30

Republican Josie Tomkow is holding a fundraiser Nov. 30 for her campaign to take over for exiting Rep. Neil Combee in House District 39.

The event is set to run from 6 PM to 9 PM at Sunny Acres Lodge in Polk City, 7290 Hacienda Trail, and the host committee features quite a long list of names.

Among them are Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, HD 58 candidate Lawrence McClure, U.S. District Court Judge James Moody. Plenty of Tomkows and Combees are also on the list, which includes well over a hundred names.

Those looking to attend the fundraiser can send an RSVP to Josie@JosieTomkow.com.

Combee, who will step down from his seat Friday to take a new job as Florida’s State Director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, was quick to endorse Tomkow after she filed for the seat.

Since then, many reports of her candidacy latched on to her being 22 years old, which Combee deflected with an opinion piece he submitted to the Lakeland Ledger.

Gov. Rick Scott has not yet announced special election dates to replace Combee, and Tomkow is currently the only candidate filed to run in the district.

HD 39 covers parts of Osceola and Polk counties, including Polk City, Auburndale, and the outskirts of Kissimmee at its eastern border and northern Lakeland along the district’s southwestern edge.

The fundraiser invitation is below.

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