Florida Cabinet

“Freed” or “Fried?” Ag commish stand-up segment in agency promo

It’s not exactly a page out of a David Letterman skit, but Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried did a brief comedy bit to promote her agency’s new website.

Fried used the pronunciation of her last name — “freed” — to tout the launch of the fdacs.gov in a video.

Fried, whose name is pronounced “freed,” says on the video that her agency is giving Floridians “an opportunity to have a more user-friendly website, whether to renew a license, “find your local farmer’s market,” or file a consumer complaint.

Fried then demonstrates the ease of filing a consumer complaint by typing one into her laptop. (A random observation: Why is her desk so neat?!)

After posting the complaint, the ag commish immediately receives a call from someone asking for “Miss Nikki Fried?” The unfortunate telephone rep, however, mispronounces Fried’s name as “fried.”

Fried corrects the pronunciation, but before the operator mistakenly refers to her again as “Miss Fried” before the call ends. Fried takes it in stride.

“I guess the new website can’t fix everything, but why don’t you check out fdacs.gov and see for yourself,” she quips.

Dispatch from Dept. of We Used To Serve Together, starring Patronis and Kriseman

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis engaged in a tweetstorm earlier this week with St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman over a lawsuit involving a city firefighter diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

Patronis, who also serves as the state’s fire marshal, took shots at Kriseman after hearing a report that the city had denied benefits for Lt. Jason Francis, who began his cancer treatments two months before a new state law that expanded cancer benefits for firefighters went into effect.

Patronis, who has more than 15,000 Twitter followers, accused the city of “splitting hairs with a first responder’s life,” adding in the tweet, “We must not allow these heroes to slip into a bureaucratic hole.”

Kriseman, a Democrat who has roughly 2,000 more Twitter followers than Patronis, replied: “Jimmy, happy to provide you with facts. Let me know.”

That prompted Patronis, a Republican, to up the ante by noting that he and Kriseman served in the state House together.

“I know your heart. You can change any policy you wish with a simple majority of your @StPeteFL Council. It’s time to step up to provide the necessary changes for this hero,” Patronis tweeted, with the addition of “#Dotherightthing.”

Kriseman shot back: “Not council purview. We’re doing the right thing. My comms director tweeted our statement and facts to you. Thanks.”

The new law, pushed by Patronis, provides benefits to firefighters diagnosed with certain types of cancer. It also helps firefighters pay their bills while undergoing cancer treatment by providing lump-sum payments of $25,000 upon diagnosis. The Florida League of Cities opposed the measure, raising questions about how local governments would pay for the expansion of benefits.

Francis’ problem, from the city of St. Petersburg’s view, is that it’s uncertain whether the law, which went into effect after the firefighter was diagnosed, is retroactive.

But that wasn’t good enough for Patronis.

“Mayor @Kriseman, sometimes the legislature has to pass policy that can’t seem to get resolved at the local government level. Legislative intent was to cover Firefighters with cancer, there is nothing prohibiting you create a local solution for this hero,” Patronis tweeted, drawing another volley from the obviously irked mayor.

“Classic Trump playbook from my GOP friends: tweet first, facts never. Like Lt. Francis & his legal team, we are seeking clarity on the statute either from the court or Tallahassee. Hoping the Legislature offers clarity so cities like mine can provide firefighters their due,” Kriseman snapped.

But it didn’t end there.

Patronis, in a post that included the hashtag “#leadership failure,” retorted that the city should just act.

That led Kriseman to post a release from the city, which said Francis has received more than 100 hours of donated annual leave from colleagues and city officials, and that the “city, as well as Lt. Francis’s own lawsuit, seek clarity from a court or from the Florida Legislature to clarify this benefit.”

— By Jim Turner.

Nikki Fried goes for GOP jugular: “Don’t grab us” and more …

Meow.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried — Florida’s top Democrat — issued a scathing “welcome” to President Donald Trump in advance of the part-time Florida Man’s campaign rally in the Sunshine State this week.

Fried lambasted Trump — and the rest of his party — for his now-notorious remarks about women, caught on a hot mike several years ago.

Here’s Fried, a lawyer from Fort Lauderdale, speaking of Republicans in her own words:

“It has become the party that says not only is it OK to grab a woman’s pussy but we’re going to legislate it and tell you what you can and, more importantly, what you can’t do with it.”

It gets better. Watch the whole video, compiled from her speech at the Florida Democratic Party’s gala last weekend and released by her political committee:

 

Here’s the tweet Fried posted this morning:

Jerusalem hearts DeSantis

It appears Gov. Ron DeSantis and his cast of 100 lawmakers, business leaders and university officials earned some love from the locals during an economic-development mission in Israel.

The sojourn, which included a “ceremonial” meeting of DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet generated some controversy back home.

But The Jerusalem Post editorial board gave the Republican governor a big thumbs up as the tour wrapped up Thursday.

“Thank You, Gov. DeSantis,” the headline on the editorial read, right above a pull-out quote from DeSantis: “Florida will always stand with Israel, our greatest ally in the Middle East.”

Below are some excerpts:

“Florida Governor Ron DeSantis showed once again that he is a true friend of Israel during his visit to the country this week.

Even before his trip to Israel, in the weeks after DeSantis was elected governor last year, he immediately took action on behalf of the Jewish state. Florida’s cabinet recognized Jerusalem as “Israel’s eternal capital,” invested $10 million in Israel Bonds and blacklisted Airbnb because of its plan to boycott listings in West Bank settlements, which the global company has since reversed,” the editorial begins.

The editorial board also praised DeSantis for trashing the BDS movement:

This week, DeSantis repeatedly spoke out against the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, leading the first official trade mission to the West Bank led by a US governor – with two dozen business leaders. He is also leading the largest-ever official governor-led delegation to Israel.

“Antisemitism is driving the BDS movement, and you cannot separate the two,” he said at the Gush Etzion Industrial Zone on Wednesday, meeting with Jewish and Arab businesspeople who oppose boycotts. “We are not going to discriminate against certain Israelis – and if people do… we will take action accordingly.”

DeSantis pointed to the blatant hypocrisy of the BDS movement, whose leadership’s stated goal is the elimination of the Jewish state and that Jews do not have the right to self-determination.

“You have people that are willing to trade with Iran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world – some of the worst regimes in the world – and yet they only want to boycott the one Jewish and democratic state in the world,” he said.
“If you support BDS in Florida, you are dead, politically,” he added.

And here’s the kicker:

DeSantis’ friendship with Israel is at a level that should not be taken for granted. He has backed up his statements with actions, and showed a willingness to continue.

Thank you, Governor DeSantis.

Inquiring minds headed to Israel

Gov. Ron DeSantis is about to lead a four-day trip to Israel, with nearly 90 tag-alongs that include Cabinet members, top-tier lobbyists, state lawmakers and religious leaders.

The governor publicly announced the trip in April, but since then the planning of the trip and questions about it have largely been kept secret. But as the voyage gets closer, the drip-drop of details are putting a spotlight on some of what’s in store.

One lingering question is how much the trip will cost Florida taxpayers. DeSantis’ spokeswoman Helen Ferre said about 80 members of the entourage are paying their own way.

At least one person footing their own bill said they’re staying at the Hilton in Tel Aviv, where they’ll be joined by a number of other members of the delegation who may be traveling on the taxpayer dime.

What’s the cost for one of those rooms? Accommodations range from $556 to $1,133 per night, according to the hotel’s website.

While questions about the cost and the substance of state officials’ meetings remain, two news organizations have announced they will be sending reporters to keep Floridians informed.

As of Thursday afternoon, two reporters have signed on to take the trip to Israel: Jeff Schweers, a state government reporter with the USA TODAY Network in Florida, and AG Gancarski, a reporter with Florida Politics.

“Coming next week (and assuming he gets past customs), intrepid reporter @AGGancarski will be reporting from @GovRonDeSantis and the Florida Cabinet’s historic trip to Jerusalem,” tweeted Peter Schorsch, the publisher of Florida Politics.

Schweers also got a last-minute OK from his company to make the trip.

By Ana Ceballos.

Fried: State should crack down on rogue pot docs

img_1116State medical boards should take action against Florida physicians who are inappropriately recommending medical marijuana for their patients, Florida Cabinet member and state Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried said Tuesday.

“Our priority is making sure we have professionals inside of this program,” said Fried, a Democrat and former medical marijuana lobbyist who ran for the statewide Cabinet post last year  on the promise of making medical marijuana more easily accessible to those who qualify.

“But, of course, if any doctors are getting in the program and are unethically prescribing and recommending the medical marijuana, that’s something that we need to look into and that’s something for the Board of Medicine to have some swift action on,” she added.

The News service of Florida reported in December that a new state analysis prepared for the Legislature shows that the number of Floridians using medical marijuana continues to grow despite a slow rollout.

In the first nine months of 2018, more than 136,000 patients across the state received certifications from 1,070 physicians to receive medical marijuana.

In all, those patients received 174,254 certifications — some could have received multiple certifications — for a host of medical conditions that qualify them to use marijuana. That included 41,143 certifications, or nearly 24 percent of the overall total, for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The report, issued by the Physician Certification Pattern Review Panel, also shows that physicians in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Palm Beach counties accounted for more than 30 percent of the medical marijuana certifications between January and Sept. 30.

The average medical-marijuana dose ordered was 372 milligrams per day, according to the data. But in Highlands County, where 470 patients were certified to receive the drugs, the average dose was 3,956 milligrams.

And in Nassau County, where two patients were reported as being certified, the average dose ordered was 17 milligrams.

Thirty-one states allow patients to use medical marijuana, including nine states that also have approved marijuana for recreational purposes.

Lawmakers in 2017 passed a state law authorizing the use of medical marijuana, which was approved by Florida voters in November 2016.  The new law required Florida’s two medical boards to form a joint committee that examines and analyzes the ordering patterns for physicians who certify patients. The panel is required to annually submit a report to the governor and legislative leaders. The new report is the first time such a document has been produced and submitted to the Legislature.

The Legislature is expected to address medical marijuana when it meets in its regular 60-day legislative session that is scheduled to begin March 5.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has said the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana runs afoul the intent of amendment, and has given lawmakers until March 15 to repeal the smoking ban.

— By The News Service of Florida staff writer Christine Sexton.

“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.