Legal eagle Lombard splits with Vezina, joins Radey

Big news for administrative law geeks in and around the capitol city: Ed Lombard has said bye-bye to his old firm, Vezina, Lawrence & Piscitelli, and joined forces with APA powerhouse Radey.

eduardo-lombard-2019-190x250The move by Lombard, who worked at VLP for more than a decade, now links him with Donna Blanton, a onetime journo who’s known throughout state government as one of the city’s top lawyers when it comes to all things DOAH.

Even those who aren’t DOAH dweebs might be familiar with Lombard: He represented the state Department of Health in numerous administrative challenges related to medical marijuana licenses and rules.

In a recent chat, Blanton gushed about Lombard, calling him “a rock star.”

“I am so happy he joined our firm. I’ve litigated with him and against him probably for ten years or more, on the same side and on the opposite side,” Blanton told us. “He’s one of the best administrative litigators in Tallahassee, if not the best. We are extremely fortunate to have him join us. He’s just really, really good.”

For his part, Lombard said he’s “extremely happy” to join Radey.

“This group has a very strong regulatory and governmental practice, and that matches very well with my emphasis on governmental and administrative litigation and procurements, too. So I think adding my experience here will help us as a group to continue focusing on trying to be a premiere Tallahassee firm for regulated industries,” he said.

Lombard earned a rep as a bulldog during his many clashes with lawyers representing would-be marijuana operators at the Division of Administrative Hearings skirmishes.

And it looks as though the health department will be traveling with Lombard to his new digs.

According to the Transparency Florida website, the state signed three contracts with Radey on Jan. 9, hiring the firm to represent the health department in two MMJ-related matters and a non-pot bid dispute over office rental space.

One contract — for $200,000 — is for legal representation in regard to OMMU. A $100,000 contract with Radey is for representation regarding seed to sale.

Another $100,000 contract is for a bid dispute with Tallahassee Corporate Center, LLC.

Blanton, meanwhile, has dropped her MMJ clients. On January 11, regulatory law superstar John Lockwood — who’s hired onetime Florida pot czar Christian Bax — filed a motion to take Blanton’s place representing Nature’s Way Nursery of Miami, Inc., at the 1st District Court of Appeal.

What will come of the current medical marijuana litigation — and there are more than a dozen lawsuits hanging out there — remains a mystery.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has done a U-turn when it comes to pot policy. He’s told the Legislature to drop the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana, and he bashed the vertical integration system that requires pot purveyors to grow, process and sell marijuana products. The new governor also indicated he wants more MMJ licenses.

Appearing with #PotDaddy John Morgan and Congressman Matt Gaetz last week (let’s ask him if he wants to be called #PotDaddy2), DeSantis said he doesn’t believe the Republican-dominated Legislature properly implemented the constitutional amendment, largely bankrolled by Orlando trial lawyer Morgan, that broadly legalized medical marijuana.

“Look, we’ve got a lot of fish to fry in Florida. The last thing I want to be doing is cleaning up for something that should have happened two years ago. This thing should have been implemented. We should have moved on. I don’t want to continue fighting some of these old battles,” DeSantis said.

Pot czar Bax teams up with Lockwood

img_0117.jpgIt’s probably one of the worst-kept secrets in certain capital circles, but all the chatter about Gov. Ron DeSantis and medical marijuana provided a good time to dish about Christian Bax, Florida’s former pot czar.

Bax, who stepped down as director of the Office of Medical Marijuana Use late last year, has joined forces with regulatory lawyer extraordinaire John Lockwood.

Lockwood, who’s bested the state in a number of gambling-related legal victories, has emerged as one of Florida’s top cannabis lawyers.

“This industry is rapidly expanding and evolving and it makes perfect sense for us to have somebody with the significant experience Christian provides,” Lockwood said in an interview this morning.john-m-lockwood-team

Bax is “of counsel” to Lockwood’s law firm and also has his own  firm, which Bax said “is a full-service management and regulatory consulting” shop.

Bax said most of his firm’s clients are from outside Florida, and he doens’t represent anyone whose application he scored during his tenure at OMMU.

After he left state government, Bax said he “looked at a lot of different opportunities” before settling on the Lockwood Law Firm.

“It’s a really good firm and John himself, he’s a great lawyer. He’s very understated and he’s brilliant. So there was a very strong appeal of getting to work with him, especially because the law firm deals with some of the more cutting edge issues in cannabis,” Bax told Truth or Dara in a phone interview. “Getting to help John do that work has been very fulfilling and very interesting.”

Broward schools host day of “service and love” on first anniversary of Parkland shooting

AlyssaAlhadeff

Next month’s Valentine’s Day marks the tragic, one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which 14 students and three faculty members were slain and 17 others were injured.

The Parkland massacre — one of the nation’s worst mass shootings — sparked a months-long investigation, stricter school-safety requirements and changes to the state’s gun laws.

The horrific event also resulted in the ouster of former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, whose removal was  one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first actions after taking office last week.

Broward schools are planning a series of ways to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, including “A Day of Service and Love” at MSD High School.

“It will be a day to give back to the community in honor of MSD’s 17 fallen eagles, the students and staff who were lost one year ago,” the Broward County school board said in a press release highlighting some of the Feb. 14 events.

The Parkland high school will be open from 7:40 a.m. until noon, “during which time students can participate in service projects including serving breakfast to local first responders and packing meals for undernourished children,” according to the release.

At 10:17 a.m., all of the county’s schools — in addition to those in and outside of Broward  — will be asked to join the district in observing a moment of silence “to honor those whose lives were lost and recognize the injured.”

Other highlights of the one-year commemoration include:

At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School:

  • Students will begin projects at 7:40 a.m. and will dismiss at 11:40 a.m. The school will close at noon.
  • District staff and community partners will provide service-learning activities alongside MSD staff.
  • Mental health staff will be available and the Wellness Center, located on the school’s campus, will be open.
  • Therapy dogs will be available.
  • BCPS Technical Colleges will provide Services with Love to staff and students, including but not limited to manicures, massages, and healthy cooking demonstrations.

At schools throughout the District:

  • Schools will remain open on February 14, 2019.

  • Schools are encouraged to participate in “A Day of Service and Love” and engage students in school-based activities that serve others within their schools or local community. Specific activities will vary per school.

  • The District is providing guidance to school leaders regarding the one-year Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School commemoration.

  • The entire District will observe a moment of silence at 10:17 a.m.

“Mechanical failures” right out of the gate prompt Oliva, Fried to call for state plane

galerie_military_aviation1That didn’t take long.

For just the handful of days since he was sworn in Tuesday, new Gov. Ron DeSantis has been buzzing around the state on a plan seized in a drug bust by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

But as DeSantis and his entourage were en route to a press conference in South Florida Friday afternoon, the plane was diverted to St. Petersburg due to “mechanical failures,” according to the governor’s office. On board with the governor were Attorney General Ashley Moody; DeSantis’ chief of staff, Shane Strum; and three other EOG aides, according to the governor’s office.

Former Gov. Rick Scott, a mega-millionaire who used his own private jet to travel around the state, sold off the state plane shortly after taking office as part of a government cost-cutting spree.

But DeSantis, with a reported net worth of just over $310,000, likely doesn’t have the dough to plunk down for an air bus.

The “mechanical failures” of the plane carrying the governor of the nation’s third-largest state — which, oh by the way, has an annual budget of more than $80 billion and is, dare we point out, gosh-darn HUGE — and one of its three Cabinet members, days after they took office, drew a hasty response from House Speaker Jose Oliva on the “need for safe and reliable transportation for the governor.”

“The Members of the House of Representatives are thankful that the Governor’s plane landed safely after reporting mechanical difficulties.  Today’s incident, combined with the sheer size of our state, starkly reminds us that we need a safe and reliable means of transportation for the chief executive. The House stands ready to work with the Governor’s office to ensure such transportation is obtained,” Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said in a statement.
The plane isn’t available to Cabinet members, just DeSantis, but Moody was part of the group headed to the Fort Lauderdale area for the press conference where the governor announced he had suspended embattled Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
The plane kerfuffle prompted new Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to chime in.

“As statewide public servants in one of the largest states in the nation, an efficient method of air transportation is prudent to best serve our constituents, conduct state business, and carry out the duties of our offices. Cost-effective and responsible use of state aircraft would enhance our situational response and our availability to the people of Florida. I’m grateful that Governor DeSantis, Attorney General Moody, and all onboard landed safely – today’s aircraft incident underscores the importance of dependable transportation for Cabinet members,” Fried said in a statement.

 

 

 

IHOW: DeSantis, at first pre-Cabinet gaggle, says the word “climate,” but …

screen shot 2019-01-11 at 11.22.41 amCapping a week of firsts for Gov. Ron DeSantis, the newly minted chief of state held his premiere pre-Cabinet press conference this morning.

A relaxed DeSantis, who held the gaggle in the governor’s large conference room, spent about 10 minutes fielding a handful of questions from reporters ranging septic tanks to his pal President Donald Trump’s proposed diversion of disaster recovery funds to pay for a border wall.

DeSantis spoke about his trip to Hurricane Michael-wracked Mexico Beach, his appointment of a Cuban-American female Supreme Court justice,  and a sweeping water policy announcement delivered in three parts of the state with water woes.

In response to a query from Florida Politics’ Jim Rosica about whether he believes in climate change, DeSantis used the word “climate” but didn’t directly answer the question.

“We put in that executive order that, as climate changes and our environment changes, water rises in places in South Florida and there’s increased flooding, we want to make sure that we’re taking steps that we can to combat that. We’re going to create an Office of Resiliency to try to combat effects,” DeSantis said.

“Look, to me, I’m not even concerned about, is it this sole cause, that sole cause, when you have water in the streets you have to find a way to combat that. So we’re going to work to do that. I think this office will be able to coordinate a thoughtful response based on…”

Rosica: “Do you agree with many scientists that that humans do cause climate change?”

DeSantis: “Next, next question.”

The climate change discussion was a follow-up to a question about the impact of septic tanks on the nutrient run-off that’s causing algal blooms.

Here’s DeSantis’ take on the septic tank issue:

“In our exec order, we directed DEP to establish a septic-to sewer grant conversion grant program, where local governments would have to put up money but then we would match it. So I think that is a factor, but I don’t think that is exclusively the factor. I think that you have a lot of nutrients put into Lake Okeechobee, that obviously, when the Army Corps is discharging that water, that is aggravating some of the algae bloom that’s caused huge problems on both our coasts,” DeSantis said.

Gatehouse Media reporter John Kennedy followed up by pointing out that the Legislature has been “pretty friendly” toward the sugar industry and agriculture in the past.

As he did yesterday, DeSantis insisted water quality issue isn’t an R or D issue.

“At the end of the day, what we’ve been able to show is these issues in Florida really do not fall on partisan lines. How the Legislature is divided in the past, I think is probably yesterday. I think now going forward people realize… I can go in the most rock river Republican party in Southwest Florida, they tell you about the water. I can go talk to liberal environmentalists, they talk about it. They want us to deal with the water. I just think there’s just such a huge majority of folks in Florida who support making sure we get this right, that I think the legislators are going to listen. Yesterday we had legislators from all across the state who were with us. We had folks in Lee County. We had people in Sarasota. We had people in Martin County. This has not been as salient an issue in the past as it is now.”

DeSantis’ last question, from Emily Mahoney, was focused on Trump’s reported consideration of steering money earmarked for hurricane victims in Florida — and disaster victims in other states — to cover the $5.7 billion Congress is refusing to give him for the border wall.

The Tampa Bay Times reporter asked the governor how the president’s plan would affect Florida and whether he’s spoken to Trump about it.

“I have not,” DeSantis said. “I don’t know, because I just don’t know the details. In all my years in Congress, we never dealt with this idea of an emergency. So I need to look at the law and figure out how it is. My sense is, just as somebody who’s studied the Constitution, the president wouldn’t be able to just appropriate his own money under any circumstances. He may be able to re-purpose some money. I’m not sure how that works. Obviously anything that was done on the disaster front, we have people that are counting on that. If they backfill it immediately after the government opens, that’s fine. But I don’t want that to be where that money is not available for us.”

 

 

Scott on “ridiculous” government shutdown: I’m going to work hard!

img_1400Orlando’s Spectrum News13 caught up with U.S. Sen. Rick Scott during his first days in the nation’s capitol.

Scott, a Republican who ousted long-serving Democrat Bill Nelson, joined the Senate in the midst of a government shutdown that’s deepened an already seismic partisan divide.

The former Florida governor called the shutdown, which has affected roughly 800,000 federal workers and contractors, “ridiculous.”

“We shouldn’t be shutting down government. … We’ve got to figure out how to bring people together,” said Scott, words that might not reflect the thoughts of his close pal, President Donald Trump.

As he did while he was governor, the uber-wealthy Scott said he’ll forgo the $174,000 government salary.

“I’m going to work hard. I’m going to work on building relationships and I’m going to take the time to learn the issues and how to get things done,” Scott said.

Watch the video here.

 

 

Here’s looking at you, Enterprise Florida!

Of all the gin joints in all the the towns in all the world, Enterprise Florida, Inc., is headed to Casablanca to pimp the Sunshine State to Moroccan businesses and investors this spring.

posterAccording to a press release issued by the public-private agency this morning, EFI will lead a delegation of small and mid-sized Florida manufacturers and services providers to Morocco from April 14-18. Registration for the trip closes on Feb. 8.

From the release:

“Morocco has become a top destination for foreign investments and trade,” said Manny Mencia, senior vice president of international trade and development for EFI. “Morocco has increased investment in its port, transportation, and industrial infrastructure to position itself as a center for business throughout Africa. Florida companies in industries like energy, infrastructure, agricultural equipment, and healthcare can find great new opportunities there.”

Morocco, home to 35 million people, is the sixth-largest economy in Africa, according to EFI, and is considered the “gateway to sub-Sarahan Africa.”

For interested businesses, $2,300 will buy “one-on-one Gold Key meetings with Moroccan companies interested in their product line, coordinated by the U.S. Commercial Service (USCS).” We’re guessing fezes likely are not included.

Gold Key participation will be limited to Florida manufacturers and professional service companies that best meet the participation criteria. Participants will be selected on a first-come, first-served basis. This option is limited to 12 Florida companies.