Florida Legislature

Dueling Dems go after Trump, cigar-toting Republicans in latest ads

Democrats Gwen Graham and Jeff Greene launched new TV ads this week, as time runs out before voters start casting ballots in the Aug. 28 primary.

Greene, the Palm Beach billionaire who lives next door to President Donald Trump, takes aim at his neighbor in one of two ads totaling a $2.7 million weeklong buy, according to Greene’s camp.

Or rather, Trump is the one taking aim in the ads — with his golf club.

The spot features the president swinging away on the golf course, and complains that “Florida taxpayers are paying for it — literally ” every time Trump visits the Sunshine State. The presidential drop-ins cost millions in overtime and road closures, according to the ad, in which Greene pledges “to put a stop to that, day one” if elected governor.

A second Greene ad’s more upbeat, and stars the candidate, his wife and his three young sons — Malcolm, Brandon and Cameron — he says are the reason he’s in the race to succeed outgoing Gov. Rick Scott.

Greene is a late entry into the crowded Democratic field, but he’s pledged to spend what it takes to move into the govenror’s mansion.

In her latest ad, Graham — who ousted former U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland in 2014 and served a term in Congress before deciding to seek re-election after her North Florida district was redrawn — continued what appears to be a general-election strategy by going after Republicans.

“It has been really bad for Florida that, for twenty years, the Republican Party has been in total control. It’s these high-paid lobbyists that are in charge in Tallahassee,” Graham says while black-and-white images of GOP legislators posing with cigars on the floor of the state House flash on the screen.

Graham and Greene are facing off in the primary against Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando entrepreneur Chris King.

 

Speaker-D Oliva backs DeSantis over Putnam

desantis-familyThe day of the first debate between Congressman Ron DeSantis and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Trump darling DeSantis snagged a major endorsement from state Rep. José Oliva, a Miami Republican who’s soon to be one of the three most powerful men in the Capitol.

DeSantis, a Palm Coast Republican who’s also nailed the support of the president, is trailing Putnam, who’s viewed as the “establishment” candidate as he’s racked up a ton of endorsements, in fundraising in the polls.

But the backing of Oliva, who’s family emigrated to the U.S. from Cuba, is a coup for DeSantis, an immigration hardliner running for governor in a state with a significant Hispanic voting bloc considered crucial for a November victory.

“Ron’s commitment to this country and the values that made it great are second to none,” Oliva, who lives in Hialeah, said in a press release that praises DeSantis’ military service.

Jose-Oliva-head-shot-croppedDeSantis is a Yale grad who got his law degree from Harvard, and served in Iraq alongside a Navy SEAL team. .

DeSantis “always puts America first,” Oliva said in the release.

“He’s a tax cutter, budget hawk, education reformer, and the rarest of elected officials in Washington, a demonstrated conservative,” Oliva gushed. “Florida has consistently shown what conservative governance can do for our schools, economy, job creation and quality of life. We must continue that legacy of conservative leadership and we can trust Ron Desantis to do that.”

Marijuana patient database hits 100,000 mark on 4/20 day. Coincidence?

purple bud.JPGAccording to Sigmund Freud, accidents don’t exist.

So how to explain the state’s medical marijuana patient database hitting the magical 100,000 mark on 4/20, better known as “weed day” among acolytes of the Grateful Dead, Phish and whoever else pot aficionados are listening to these days. (We could give you the soundtrack to our cloudy college days, but we’ll spare you.)

Whether it’s a coincidence or not, Florida patients may have as much to mourn as to celebrate.

The state’s pot czar, Christian Bax, and his troupe have yet to finalize rules regulating the state’s rapidly growing pot industry.

But, worse yet, major marijuana-related lawsuits — including one initiated by Amendment 2 big daddy John Morgan — have a long way to go before they’re settled.

Morgan’s suit, which features marijuana patient-icon Cathy Jordan as a plaintiff, challenges a state law passed last year that bans patients like Jordan from smoking cannabis. Vaping makes Jordan, who has ALS, gag, and her doctors have recommended smoking as the best route of administration.

Meanwhile, Tampa strip club owner Joe Redner — who revolutionized the “gentleman’s club” industry in Florida — won a victory from Tallahassee Judge Karen Gievers, who gave the 77-year-old lung cancer survivor permission to grow his own weed for juicing purposes.

Redner’s doc says that eight ounces of whole plant juice daily — which would take about three pounds of raw plant material, or about 40 plants in varying stages of growth — is the best way for his patient to keep his cancer in remission.

The state quickly appealed Gievers’s decision, and it’s unknown whether the appellate court will let him move forward while the case is under appeal.

The legal challenges are only a few of the issues facing the pot industry. Medical marijuana purveyors are having a hard time finding retail locales to ply their wares, and some in the industry are complaining there aren’t enough doctors to handling a quickly growing patient base.

But, hey, it’s 4/20 day, so, sit back, crank up whatever, and chill.

Broxson defends vote that made him a Hammer target

Panhandle Republican Sen. Doug Broxson shot back at a both-guns-smoking attack from Florida NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer, who targeted the Gulf Breeze lawmaker for what she considered caving on a school-safety measure earlier this month.
Hammer targeted Broxson this week in one of her venerable “alerts” issued to NRA supporters.
The focus of the attack was SB 7026, the school-safety measure passed in response to the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
To put it mildly, Hammer was less than pleased with provisions in the measure that raised from 18 to 21 and imposed a three-day waiting period to purchase long guns, such as the rifle — purchased legally and without any waiting period last year — used by 19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz to kill 14 students and four faculty members on Valentine’s Day.

 

Broxson, Hammer wrote in red highlights in her email missive, was “the linchpin” in the vote in favor of the Senate measure.

“If Doug Broxson had kept his word, the bill would have been killed in the Senate and Senate leadership would have had to start over and bring back a true school safety bill without the gun control provisions. But at the last minute, Broxson caved to threats and promises from Senate leadership and switched his vote and sold you out,” she wrote.

We reached out to Broxson yesterday to give him an opportunity to respond to Hammer’s attack.

Here’s what he had to say:

“I am a strong defender of the second amendment and a strong defender of the NRA, and that will never change. What we did with the school safety bill is harden our schools, increase school security, and increase measures to stop mentally or emotionally ill individuals from causing carnage in a one-day, one-moment transaction. I am proud of my role in that effort, and I know that the one thing the voters in my district will reward every election is decisive leadership,” he said.

¡Queremos nuestras boletas!

A handful of Democratic state legislators are asking Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, to make sure that every county has bilingual ballots on hand during the upcoming election season.

The lawmakers, including Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando, warned Detzner that “failure to accommodate Florida’s large influx of Spanish-speaking American citizens” from Puerto Rico could violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

It’s unknown exactly how many Puerto Ricans sought refuge in Florida following Hurricane Maria, which ravaged the island in September and left tens of thousands of island dwellers without power even now — six months after the storm.

“Florida is home to over 20 million individuals and more than 4 million of them are of Hispanic or Latino origin,” Torres, who is of Puerto Rican descent, wrote to Detzner. “Additionally, with the influx of evacuees from Puerto Rico, there are an additional 300,000 American citizens who are eligible to vote in this upcoming election cycle.  Providing election information and ballots in Spanish-language are essential for some qualified electors to participate in the 2018 Florida elections process.”

Elections officials in more than a dozen counties said they aren’t going to provide ballots in Spanish, according to the release issued by the Senate Minority Office today. That may put them at odds with Gov. Rick Scott, who’s running for the U.S. Senate and has gone out of his way to court the Puerto Rican community, in Florida and on the island.

“Florida has a long history of failing to accommodate citizens whose native language may be other than English,” Torres said in the release. “With more than 4 million Hispanics now living in Florida, there is no excuse for not providing election services to citizens in the language with which they feel most confident.”

More from the Senate Minority Office press release today:

The letter, signed by Senators Torres, Annette Taddeo, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Linda Stewart, and Representatives Robert Asencio, John Cortes, Carlos Guillermo Smith, and Amy Mercado, follows efforts last week by several Hispanic and civil right organizations, including Demos and Latino Justice, calling for 13 of Florida’s 67 Supervisor of Election offices who are not currently supplying election materials and information in Spanish-language format to do so under requirements of the Federal Voting Rights Act. Their letter similarly asserts that under Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, bilingual ballots, election materials and poll worker assistance should be provided to America citizens whose primary language is Spanish.

The lawmakers are seeking reassurances that federal law will be obeyed.

“We are requesting that you respond to the allegations that some Supervisor of Elections offices may be in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act by failing to provide required Spanish-language elections materials.  We further request you outline any plans your office has to ensure that no qualified electors are discouraged from exercising their Constitutional rights to participate in the 2018 election due to a failure of the local Supervisor of Elections to provide this information,” they wrote.

 

 

Corcoran cozies up to Trump over welfare

IMG_2734House Speaker Richard Corcoran performed some colossal cozying up to President Donald Trump in a letter genuflecting to the president for his efforts to overhaul welfare programs.

Trump this week ordered federal agencies to strengthen work requirements in federal assistance programs. The move could affect recipients of food stamps, cash assistance and housing aid.

“Your comprehensive plan to move struggling Americans off government assistance and into the ranks of the working class is proof you’re doing the job that the American people elected you to do,” Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who is purportedly mulling a bid for governor, wrote in a two-page letter to Trump dated yesterday.

Corcoran used Trump’s proposed welfare reforms as an opportunity to trash former President Barack Obama, without naming him.

“Unlike your predecessor, you recognize the dignity and self-respect derived from a hard and honest day’s work,” Corcoran wrote, accusing “the previous administration” of fostering “a culture of government dependency.”

In contrast, according to the speaker, Trump has “reinvigorated the pioneering spirit with your ‘can-do’ attitude.”

Corcoran’s love note came the same day excerpts from a new tell-all memoir by FBI director James Comey, whom Trump fired, were released.

Not surprisingly, Comey, the political version of a bitter ex-wife, paints a very different picture of the president than Corcoran, likening Trump’s handling of the White House to that of a mob boss.

“We are experiencing a dangerous time in our country, with a political environment where basic facts are disputed, fundamental truth is questioned, lying is normalized and unethical behavior is ignored, excused or rewarded,” he wrote in “A Higher Loyalty,” due out next week.

 

 

 

“Manufactured crisis” or special interest shakedown?

Apparently, Truth or Dara isn’t alone in viewing a potential special session with dread.

John Sowinski, the head of No Casinos, asked legislative leaders to ignore what he’s calling “a fictional crisis manufactured by gambling lobbyists who want you to re-convene the legislature so they can try to make one more run at a major expansion of gambling before the November elections, when Florida voters will likely approve Amendment 3.”

Sen. Bill Galvano and Rep. Jose Oliva, Republicans who will take over as the leaders of their chambers later this year, last week resuscitated persistently elusive gambling issues, as they explore a deal with the Seminole Tribe.

They — and House Speaker Richard Corcoran — say the urgency is required because of a potential $400 million hit to the state budget, should the tribe decide to stop making payments to the state.

But Sowinski’s not buying it.

Here’s the full text of the letter he wrote to the leaders today:

Dear Speaker Corcoran and President Negron:

I have recently read press reports that there is discussion of holding a special session on the issue of gambling in the hopes of coming up with a “deal.”  If ever there was an issue that the legislature has already spent too much time, energy, intellectual capacity and political capital, it is gambling.  And whenever this issue comes up in Tallahassee, negotiations between the chambers seem to be more focused on coming up with a “deal” that satisfies competing gambling interests than enacting solutions that are in the best interests of the people of Florida.

Some articles have indicated that the reason convening a special session is being considered is because there are concerns about a potential revenue loss if the Seminole Tribe does not keep making payments to the state for banked card games, now that the state has failed to meet a deadline to provide for strict enforcement related to “designated player games” at pari-mutuel facilities.  The urgency of this matter is curious, since no facts have changed since the end of session that would now make this such an enormous priority that it could merit a call for a special session of the Legislature.

Most observers see this as a fictional crisis manufactured by gambling lobbyists who want you to re-convene the legislature so they can try to make one more run at a major expansion of gambling before the November elections, when Florida voters will likely approve Amendment 3.

But of even greater concern is that many people suggest a political fundraising benefit to holding a special session, given the gambling industry’s sordid reputation for seeking gambling approvals by making huge contributions to campaigns and electioneering committees.  Their views on the matter were summed up by one pari-mutuel owner who recently told a reporter that if the Legislature didn’t pass a gambling bill to benefit his industry, “They’ll never see any of my money ever again,” the owner said. “Why bother?”  I know it is not reflective of your intent, but their attitude seems to be that they are owed something because of their political contributions.

You can tell the gambling interests and assure the people of Florida that public policy is not for sale in Tallahassee by resisting gambling lobbyist pressure for a special session.  Convening a special session that will be seen as a genuflection to the gambling industry would provide voters with a perfect illustration of why Amendment 3 is so badly needed.

The simplest way to ensure continued compact revenues would be for the state to take steps to comply with the consent agreement it entered into with the Seminole Tribe.  At the very least, use your oversight authority and budgetary discretion to ask the Division to present to you a plan for vigorous enforcement.  Ensure that they take whatever steps are available to them and have whatever resources are at their discretion and yours to do the job.  At the very most, fixing this problem would require a one page bill. But only in the world of gambling legislation and the myriad of lobbyists who influence it would such an easy fix come at a price of expanding gambling throughout the state.  Sadly, that is what any proposed “deal” has always included.

I’d also like to add two other points to the discussion.  First, it is not just my opinion, but proven history that revenue promises made by the pari-mutuel industry, and specifically their promises about slot machine revenue, simply can’t be trusted.  In 2004, Florida voters narrowly approved with 50.8% of the vote (before 60% was required for constitutional amendment passage) the amendment approving slot machines at seven existing facilities in Miami-Dade and Broward Counties.  Voters were promised that these machines would generate a half-billion dollars per year in revenue for education.  These revenues have never exceeded $188 million.  Then a few years ago these same pari-mutuels promised that if their tax rate was cut from 50% to 35%, revenue to the state would increase because of the capital improvements they would make, even convincing state revenue estimators.  Last year your revenue estimators put forth a report showing that they were wrong, and these cuts resulted in less revenue to the state.  Now they want their tax rate cut from 35% to 20%.  Banking on pari-mutuels to provide a reliable source of revenue to the state is, pardon the pun, a bad bet.

 

Finally, I would like to bring to your attention how Amendment 3 would likely impact any expansion of gambling that you might pursue at this time.  When we drafted the amendment, we considered the possibility that some gambling advocates might want to “beat the buzzer” with gambling expansion prior to passage of the amendment.  The last thing we wanted was to have our own amendment trigger an expansion of gambling.  So we wrote the amendment, not to govern “expansion” of gambling, but to set a constitutional standard for whether a form of casino gambling is authorized in the state.  Under Amendment 3, in order for a form of casino gambling to be authorized in the state, it must be approved by Florida voters through statewide voter initiative.

 

As it turns out, the only existing forms of gambling that would be impacted by Amendment 3 are those that exist through loopholes, including the vexing designated player games and internet cafés.  But if the legislature enacts new forms of casino gambling, such as gifting slot machine licenses to pari-mutuel operators outside of Miami-Dade and Broward Counties without voter approval through constitutional initiative, even before passage of the amendment, Amendment 3 was written to de-authorize any such expansion.  Therefore, any revenue you might seek to add by authorizing additional gambling now is speculative at best.  The analysis done of Amendment 3 by your revenue estimators sitting as the Financial Impact Estimating Conference is consistent with this assessment.

 

We appreciate your leadership, and the fact that the Legislature has, for the past seven years, resisted continued attempts to expand gambling.  We ask you to resist this last ditch effort by gambling interests to force a major expansion of gambling upon our state.