Author: The News Service of Florida

Civil rights pioneers paved the way for today’s politicos

Fifty-seven years ago Patricia Stephens Due spent 49 days in the Leon County Jail rather than pay a fine or post bail after her arrest for sitting at a “whites only” Woolworth’s lunch counter in Tallahassee.

Due, who was a Florida A&M University student, went on to become a prominent civil rights leader in Florida, participating in more civil disobedience events leading to more arrests as she fought against segregation and for full rights for African-American citizens.

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Former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carrol and John Due

Due, who died in 2012, former state Sen. Arnett Girardeau of Jacksonville and Orlando civil rights leader Willie H. Williams were inducted into the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame this week.

The event drew some of the top African-American leaders in Florida, including former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who was the keynote speaker; former state Sen. Tony Hill of Jacksonville; former state Rep. Alan Williams of Tallahassee; state Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville; and state Sen. Daphne Campbell of Miami.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who has a chance to become Florida’s first African-American governor, said civil rights pioneers like Due, Girardeau and Williams were critical in helping Florida improve its racial equality.

“We have to all submit and admit that but for their work, but for their service, but for their sacrifice, we couldn’t enjoy this view,” Gillum told the audience gathered on the scenic 22nd floor of the Florida Capitol. “We couldn’t sit in a room as diverse as the one we get to sit in but for their service.”

“Here in the city of Tallahassee we have a very, very strong legacy and important place in the history of civil rights in Florida,” Gillum added.

Posted by Lloyd Dunkelberger

Scott talks infrastructure in D.C. while Comey gets the spotlight

While the political world breathlessly watches fired FBI director James Comey’s testimony at the Senate Intelligence Committee today, Gov. Rick Scott will be at the White House discussing infrastructure.

Scott’s daily schedule shows the governor in D.C. at noon today for an infrastructure summit with state and local leaders at the White House.

The event is set to last until 3:30 p.m.

After that Scott is to be part of a 30-minue infrastructure roundtable with President Donald Trump.

Posted by Jim Turner

A Galvano Mulligan?

Sen. Bill Galvano, the Bradenton Republican who is slated to become the next Senate president after the 2018 elections, said he would cancel a major California fundraiser if the three-day special session slated to wrap up Friday spills into next week.

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Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton

The Florida Senate Republican Senatorial Committee has scheduled a two-day fundraising event beginning Monday at the Torrey Pines golf course near San Diego. The course, which hosts an annual PGA tournament, was the site of the 2008 U.S. Open won by Tiger Woods.

The House and Senate — at odds over a variety of issues tucked into the special session ordered by Gov. Rick Scott — need to pass a $20 billion public school budget this month, or Florida’s 67 school districts will not have a budget on July 1.

If the session concludes on time Friday, it won’t be a problem. But if somehow lawmakers must remain in Tallahassee, Galvano said: “The work of the people is going to come first.”

He said he had to “pull the plug” on a major fundraising event in Sarasota several years ago because of a similar conflict.

Galvano said the special session is also forcing him to skip his duties as president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, which is meeting in Denver this week.

“They’re meeting as I’m standing right here,” said Galvano yesterday.

Posted by Lloyd Dunkelberger

Absentee list for special session roll call

QUORUM CALL, QUORUM CALL

Four state legislators have received excused absences from the three-day special session that begins today. An additional five House members will also be excused for missing a day or two of the session.

Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican who is recovering from cancer treatment, will not attend the session, according to Senate President Joe Negron’s office. Hukill was absent from the 2017 regular session, with Senate leaders saying they are optimistic about her ultimate recovery.

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Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange

Senators said Hukill, the chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Finance and Tax, has kept in touch with the process and has offered her insights on legislation. Last month, when Gov. Rick Scott approved a tax-cutting package passed by the Legislature, Hukill tweeted her support, highlighting the cut in the state tax on commercial leases.

The three House members who will miss special session include Republican Reps. Jennifer Sullivan of Mount Dora, Alex Miller of Sarasota and Mike Miller of Orlando, according to the House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s office.

Sullivan will be attending her brother’s wedding in Arkansas and Mike Miller will be out of the country.

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Rep. Alexandra Miller, R-Sarasota

Alex Miller is listed as having unspecified surgery.

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Rep. Mike Miller, R-Orlando

Other members with partial excused absences include Fort Lauderdale Republican George Moraitis, who will miss the first day of the session as he is expected to arrive late from a family vacation in Hawaii.

Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, a Democrat from Orlando, has been approved to miss the first two days of the session while he attends events marking the one-year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

Reps. Larry Lee, D-Port St. Lucie; Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park; and Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, are expected to miss all or part of the final scheduled day of the session.

Plakon has advised House leadership he has previous commitments and Lee said he will be attending an annual community event.

Pigman, noting he will a late morning arrival on Friday, didn’t state a reason.

Posted by Lloyd Dunkelberger and Jim Turner

Scott medical marijuana research vetoes not a problem, at least for now

IMG_2721Amid all the consternation over medical marijuana, Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s $400 million-plus vetoes included more than $3 million for cannabis research.

Scott axed $2 million for the University of Florida’s cannabis research initiative. UF was originally tasked with tracking the state’s high-CBD, low-THC law passed in 2014. But the university was never enthusiastic about the endeavor, in part because cannabis remained illegal under federal law, raising questions for university officials about whether pot research might undermine funding for other programs.

This year, lawmakers steered more than $1 million in pot research toward the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute for the “Coalition for Medicinal Cannabis Research and Education Board,” an entity created by the Legislature during the 2017 session in a measure that never passed.

Scott vetoed $370,000 for to create the board at the Moffitt Center because the Tampa-based center “received a total of $10.6 million in Fiscal Year 2017-2018 and has the ability to fund this initiative,” according to the governor’s veto message.

Scott also red-lined $750,000 for pot research at the center because it was contingent upon legislation that never passed.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who was instrumental in the passage of the 2014 low-THC bill and has been a major player in the marijuana legislation that failed to pass this year, said he was bummed that Scott vetoed the MMJ research money.

But Bradley told The News Service of Florida Monday he’s not overly troubled that Scott axed the funding for the UF research.

“The center of gravity, in terms of where medical marijuana research and data collection is going to take place, is moving away from the University of Florida and towards Moffitt,” Bradley said.

While UF may have had a stone-faced approach to the pot research, the Moffitt Center — founded by onetime House speaker Lee Moffitt, a Democrat — was enthusiastic about the endeavor.

Bradley said he was “very disappointed” in Scott’s veto of the Moffitt funds, which totaled more than $1 million.

But he predicted the research has a shinier future, once the Legislature officially creates the research-centered coalition based at Moffitt .

“I think that will make the argument much more compelling to include that in future budgets. So I’m confident that in the future this won’t be an issue,” Bradley said.

— Posted by Dara Kam

Explainer: Budget changes aren’t “cool”

The News Service of Florida’s Brandon Larrabee explains how Gov. Rick Scott’s call for a special session interacts with the constitutionally required “cooling off” period regarding the budget.

One of the most-watched deadlines in Tallahassee is always three days before the end of the regular legislation session — because the Florida Constitution requires that the final version of the budget be delivered to lawmakers and a handful of other state officials 72 hours before the Legislature votes on it.

Around the Capitol, it’s called a “cooling-off” period, and ideally allows time for lawmakers, lobbyists and members of the public who are so inclined to pick through the final product and find out what’s inside. It is, we should note, dubious that your average Florida suburbanite is scrolling through the language of the budget, but that’s the idea.

So how are lawmakers able to schedule this week’s special session on budget issues to last less than 72 hours? Because it won’t be a full budget. Here’s the relevant part of the state Constitution:

“All general appropriation bills shall be furnished to each member of the legislature, each member of the cabinet, the governor, and the chief justice of the supreme court at least seventy-two hours before final passage by either house of the legislature of the bill in the form that will be presented to the governor.”

The “general appropriation bill” is a technical term for the budget. Lawmakers can and do tuck appropriations into legislation that doesn’t face the 72-hour cooling-off period. A look at the education funding bill filed in the House, for example, shows that it isn’t even in the same format as the annual budget bill.

So, no 72-hour requirement. Of course, lawmakers still have to get their job done on time without any other hiccups, but for now there’s little reason to believe that will be a problem.

Rick Scott after shootings: Orlando “challenged like never before”

The news is still developing but Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings’s office confirmed “multiple fatalities” after shootings in Orlando this morning.

Gov. Rick Scott, in Panama City for a ceremonial bill signing, issued a statement expressing empathy for the city, still reeling from last year’s massacre at the Pulse nightclub that left 49 people dead.

Scott’s statement:

“Over the past year, the Orlando community has been challenged like never before. I have been briefed by our law enforcement officials on this tragic incident and Ann and I are praying for the families who lost loved ones today. I ask all Floridians to pray for the families impacted by this senseless act of violence. I will remain in contact with the Orlando law enforcement community throughout the day as more information is made available.”