2018 Elections

Speaker Oliva: Florida pot system “not terribly free market”

img_0971(1)He’s not calling it a cartel, as Gov. Ron DeSantis did right out of the gate.

But House Speaker José Oliva does admit the state’s vertically integrated medical marijuana system — which requires operators to grow, process and dispense cannabis and related products — “isn’t terribly free market.”

“I couldn’t possibly be a defender of free markets and call that structure a free market,” the Miami Lakes Republican, who made his fortune in his family’s cigar business, told reporters at The Associated Press’s annual pre-session gathering in the Capitol today.

“The limiting of licenses and the limiting of dispensaries is probably the greatest affront to the free-market argument,” he went on.

Whether the Legislature will agree to change the current system during the upcoming session, however, remains a mystery.

When asked about revisiting the state’s MMJ regulatory structure, Senate President Bill Galvano gave a tepid response.

“I expect that bills will be filed in that regard,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, said.

Despite his free-market concerns, Oliva was even less enthusiastic, using a lot of double negatives to describe the House’s position.

“I’m not entirely sure that that’s not something that we will be revisiting this year, because it affects access and it could certainly affect price,” Oliva said. “We’re still trying to get an idea of what kind of demand there really is for this. But I wouldn’t disagree … It hasn’t been a terribly free-market process.”

Shortly after taking office, DeSantis bashed vertical integration and the caps on licenses.

But this week, the governor appeared to walk back his opposition to those issues, focusing instead on his demand that the Legislature do away with the state’s ban on smokable medical marijuana.

Here’s what Oliva said when we asked him if doing away with vertical integration would destabilize a market in which licenses have sold for tens of millions of dollars — including one transaction in which a license sold for $63 million in cash earlier this month.

“If the question is, would having a more free-market approach destabilize the private market, in particular the value of these licenses, well, sure, that’s what markets do,” the speaker said, making us feel a little foolish for asking the question, TBH.

“If the question is, will it destabilize the market and its ability to bring forth products that are safe and traceable and consistent, I don’t think it will do that. So, yeah, if you put more houses on the market, chances are you’ll have to lower the price of your house,” he concluded.

Oh, and about that repeal of the smoking prohibition the governor wants?

DeSantis may be forced to carry through on his threat to drop the appeal in the lawsuit over smokable medical marijuana, based on what the legislative leaders said today.

To put it mildly, Oliva’s not keen on allowing patients to smoke their medicine.

“Is one to believe that an 8-year-old child should be smoking marijuana and inhaling smoke into their lungs? I’ve been in the smoke business my entire life, and I’ve never heard anyone say it’s good for you,” he said.

The speaker indicated the push for smokable MMJ is just a ploy to open the door to recreational weed.

“Is medicine a façade and a masquerade for recreational marijuana? If it is, that won’t be very supported by the House. If we really want to look at marijuana, and what ailments it can truly relieve and people it can actually benefit, then that’s what we’re looking at,” Oliva said.

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.

 

 

Watch yourself! Deutch now Ethics Committee chairman

deutch betterU.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Palm Beach County, will take over as chairman of the House Ethics Committee, now that the Dems have retaken the House.

Deutch, a lawyer, had previously served as the ranking member on the committee, which is charged with interpreting and enforcing the House’s ethics rules.

Here’s what Deutch had to say in a press release, following his election to the leadership post:

I am honored to be selected by my colleagues to lead the House Ethics Committee. As Members of Congress, we must hold ourselves to the high ethical standard that our constituents expect from us. Ethics in government and the integrity of our nation’s elected officials remain of great concern of the public – and rightly so. This bipartisan committee and its nonpartisan professional staff will continue its record of keeping Congress honest, protecting Congressional employee rights, and strengthening the American people’s trust in the people’s House. In addition, in the last Congress our Committee worked with other Members to pass important bipartisan reforms to the Congressional Accountability Act. I look forward to building upon that work to ensure that all legislative branch employees can work in a safe and respectful workplace.

League of Women Voters to Board of Education: Just say no!

rubber-stamp-file-photo-public-domainThe man who castigated troubled schools as “failure factories” is poised to become the state’s next education commissioner, as Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis made clear he wants former House Speaker Richard Corcoran to take over the post.

While the Board of Education technically has the final say-so on the matter, there’s little doubt the panel will grant DeSantis’ wish.

Not so fast, the League of Women Voters of Florida said in a missive issued Friday afternoon.

In a letter to Board of Education Chairwoman Marva Johnson and the rest of the board, the League urged the panel to conduct a national search to find the replacement for Linda Stewart, a veteran educator whose resignation will go into effect next month.

The state Constitution makes it clear “that it is the Board of Education – not the Governor – that has the responsibility to appoint a Commissioner of Education,” the letter reads.

“At a minimum, Floridians expect you to carry out a due diligence process aimed at ensuring Florida’s students that an individual of the highest possible caliber oversees public education. We urge you to take this important duty seriously and not simply ‘rubber stamp’ a politically motivated choice,” LWV Florida president Patricia Brigham wrote in the letter.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear Chairwoman and State Board Members,
With the impending departure of Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart, the League of Women Voters of Florida reminds you that as members of the State Board of Education you not only have the opportunity, but a constitutional responsibility, to conduct a national search to find the person who is best suited to oversee Florida’s system of public education.
Article IX, Section 2 of the Constitution of Florida was overwhelmingly adopted by the people of Florida in 1998. That provision created the Board of Education, consisting of seven members serving staggered terms to oversee Florida’s system of free public schools.
By enacting that provision, the people of Florida made it clear in the Constitution that it is the Board of Education — not the Governor — that has the responsibility to appoint a Commissioner of Education. Further, the Board of Education members’ terms of office were purposely staggered to ensure that as governors change, the Florida education system would be insulated from the disruption caused by political patronage appointments of a Commissioner of Education.
At a minimum, Floridians expect you to carry out a due diligence process aimed at ensuring Florida’s students that an individual of the highest possible caliber oversees public education. We urge you to take this important duty seriously and not simply “rubber stamp” a politically motivated choice.
Under our state’s current constitution, the Governor retains input to the process by filling vacancies which occur as Board Members terms expire, however, the Board must carry out its constitutional duty and make appointments based upon merit, not political patronage. While members of the Board may ultimately concur with the recommendation of the incoming Governor regarding who to appoint, the Board of Education should decline to opt for an expedient political patronage selection.
In sum, the Board should be guided by the constitutional statement that imposes upon the State a “paramount duty” to make “adequate provision for the education of all children residing within its borders.” Included in such a paramount duty is the selection of the best person possible to lead the effort. Finding such a person mandates that the Board conduct a national search and not just grant perfunctory approval to a political patronage appointment.
Florida’s children deserve nothing less.
Patricia Brigham
President

Senate exploring process for ousted Broward supervisor Snipes

fullsizeoutput_1861Senate President Bill Galvano said Tuesday he’s working with his staff to address the issue of former Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes, ousted from her office by Gov. Rick Scott after she submitted her resignation from the post.

The embattled Snipes, appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003 and re-elected four times, told Scott she was walking away from the job, effective Jan. 4, amid repeated calls for her to step down or be stripped from office following a number of problems in the November election.

But after Scott booted her from office Friday night, Snipes rescinded her resignation, accusing the Republican governor — and U.S. senator-elect — of attempting to embarrass her and “tarnish her record.”

Scott replaced Snipes with long-time ally Pete Antonacci, whose badge awaited him at the winter meeting of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections but who was a no-show.

If Snipes chooses to follow through with her fight against her removal from office, the Florida Senate will have the final say in whether she should keep her position.

After he appeared briefly at the supervisors’ conference in Sarasota Tuesday morning, reporters asked Galvano about Snipes.

“I’m working with my staff on that issue and I’m not going to comment further,” the Bradenton Republican said.

Someone “reached out on her behalf” to his staff “to understand what the process is,” Galvano said.

Senators “are the ones who ultimately remove, or maintain her current position” after a trial, Galvano explained when asked to explain the Senate’s role.

“We are looking at the process right now, and what the options are and what’s required of us and what the timing of all of that is, so it will be sooner rather than later,” he said, when asked how long it would be until the Senate weighs in on the matter.

The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee would be the first panel to take up the issue, he said.

WATCH IT: Gillum concedes, again

Following a machine recount that failed to move him closer to becoming governor, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum conceded — for the second time — to Republican Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis’ 33,683-vote edge over Gillum was the closest general-election victory in a governor’s race in modern history in Florida.

In a Facebook video posted Saturday evening, Gillum, accompanied by his wife, R. Jai, thanked supporters and conceded, as he did on election night, the race to his opponent.

 

 

“We said that we would fight until the last vote is counted. Obviously, we are now closing out the hand recount phase in two of the statewide races,” Gillum said, adding that he wanted to make sure that “as long as it was a legally cast vote, we wanted those votes to be counted.”

Gillum’s  announcement came hours before a 12 p.m. deadline for a manual recount in the races for U.S. Senate and agriculture commissioner.

“Now that we are rounding that process out, R. Jai and I wanted to take a moment to congratulate Mr. DeSantis on becoming the next governor of the great state of Florida,” Gillum said.

The contest between Desantis, who had the backing of President Donald Trump, and Gillum, who was trying to make history as the Florida’s first black governor, was one of the most closely watched governor’s races in the nation. Gillum drew the support of progressive billionaires, including George Soros and Tom Steyer, and former President Barack Obama joined him on the campaign trail days before the Nov. 6 election.

Trump, who had repeatedly blasted Gillum on Twitter prior to the election and who called the Tallahassee mayor a “stone-cold thief,” showed the Democrat some presidential love, at least by Trump standards, following the release of the video.

 

“This election may be beyond us,” Gillum said, pausing and looking at his wife.

“Although nobody wanted to be governor more than me, this was not just about an election cycle,” Gillum, wearing an orange FAMU jacket, said. “This was about creating the kind of change in this state that really allows for the voices of everyday people to show up again in our government, in our state, in our communities.”

Despite losing the election, the 39-year-old Democrat made it clear his political career isn’t over.

“We know that this fight continues,” Gillum said.  “More than 4 million of you decided that you wanted a different direction for the state of Florida. We want you to know that we see you, that we hear you, and that your voices will continue to power us as we still stand on the front lines, right alongside you, to make this a state that works for all of us.”

 

Trump: Gillum’s a stone-cold thief. Gillum: Grow up.

After tweeting yesterday morning that Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is a “thief,” President Donald Trump escalated the rhetoric during an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News last night.

The presidential vitriol comes as voters are already casting early ballots in advance of the election, just a week away, and as Trump prepares to storm the Sunshine State to rally support for Gillum’s opponent, Ron DeSantis, and Gov. Rick Scott, who’s trying to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

According to Trump, Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, isn’t just a “thief,” he’s a “stone-cold thief.” Trump was referring to a ticket for the Broadway smash hit “Hamilton,” supplied by undercover agent “Mike Miller” two years ago.

“The FBI offered him tickets at $1,800 apiece and he took them. He took a trip with the same FBI agent. I guess he was posing as a developer or something. The man, stone-cold took this stuff. I don’t even think he should be allowed to continue on with the race,” Trump said.

Gillum is mayor of a city “known as one of the most corrupt in Florida and one of the most corrupt in the nation,” the president went on.

“He’s a disaster and how he’s even close to being tied is hard to believe,” Trump said of Gillum.

Recent polls have shown DeSantis trailing or tied with Gillum, who’s trying to make history as the state’s first black governor.

Trump also warned that “Florida will become Venezuela” if Gillum is elected.

“It will be a disaster,” the part-time Florida man predicted.

DeSantis, on the other hand, “is a Harvard, Yale guy” and “a very good person,” Trump went on.

“This other guy, is a stone-cold, in my opinion, he’s a thief,” Trump said of Gillum.  “How can you have a guy like this?”

Trump’s intervention on DeSantis’ behalf has only intensified the widespread focus on the spectacle known as the Florida governor’s race, and Gillum took to national media to pooh-pooh the president’s accusations.

Last night on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, Gillum said Trump needs to “grow up.”

Trump targeted Gillum with his tweets as the nation was reeling from the worst anti-Semitic shooting in history. Eleven congregants at a Jewish temple in Pittsburgh were shot and killed on Saturday. The mass shooting came a day after authorities arrested a Florida man who mailed pipe bombs to at least a dozen of Trump’s Democratic critics — including the Clintons and the Obamas.

“Our president instead of rising to the occasion, every opportunity that he gets, to really show that he’s a leader, a leader that can cut through, cut across in the moments where the American people could really use leadership the most, he repeatedly fails us,” Gillum told Maddow.

Trump “spent his day today tweeting about me, tweeting at me, tweeting lies, rather than working to tamp down the kind of division and derision that he himself has helped to stoke,” he went on.

Maddow asked Gillum to elaborate on a tweet in which he called Trump “weak.”

“He performs as all weak people do, by bullying others. You’re talking about the most powerful position in the free world and the president of the United States takes time to badger me, to bully me on Twitter? I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense. The president needs to grow up. He needs to do his job. He needs to lead. This country could use leadership at this moment, and instead he’s throwing insults across Twitter,” he said.