Ron DeSantis

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.”

 

 

It didn’t take long. LGBTQ group blasts DeSantis for exclusion from exec order

There probably wasn’t a love-fest to begin with, but Equality Florida wasted no time taking newly minted Gov. Ron DeSantis for failing to include LGBTQ protections in anti-discrimination executive order issued yesterday.

On the day he was sworn in, DeSantis signed two executive orders, including one which, according to a press release issued by the governor’s office, “reaffirms the policy of non-discrimination in government employment” established in orders signed by former Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 and former Gov. Jeb Bush in 1999.

“It shall be the policy of my administration to prohibit discrimination in employment based on age, sex, race, color, religion, national origin, marital status, or disability, and to ensure equal opportunity for all individuals currently employed in, and individuals seeking employment in my administration,” the executive order reads.

But the order doesn’t mention LGBTQ workers, something that drew the wrath of Equality Florida Senior political director Joe Saunders, a former state representative who was one of the state’s first openly gay legislators.

“Equality Florida is deeply disappointed to see that LGBTQ employees and contractors have been left out of the Governor’s executive order,” Saunders said in a press release.

“It’s hard to believe that Governor DeSantis and his staff are not aware of the LGBTQ communities call for these protections following the Pulse tragedy and therefore it is hard to interpret this as anything less than a purposeful omission. As Governors across the country establish these critical protections for LGBTQ families, this order draws a stark contrast. We look forward to a dialogue with Governor DeSantis about why LGBTQ employees have been omitted from this critical policy and how he plans to make sure that all Floridians, regardless of who they are or who they love, can be protected from discrimination.”

Will Bob Brooks return to his old stomping grounds at DOH?

A state House committee on Wednesday was briefed on the workings at the mammoth Florida Department of Health, the only health care related agency in Florida that remains leaderless.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, who was sworn into office Tuesday, has appointed secretaries for the Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Elder Affairs and the Agency for Persons with Disabilities.

But the Department of Health secretary — who doubles as the state’s surgeon general and is in charge of 13,410 employees and a $2.96 billion operating budget — remains a mystery.

Sort of.

Rumors are flying in Tallahassee that infectious-disease specialist and former state lawmaker, Bob Brooks, has emerged as the leading candidate to head the department.

bob_brooksOther candidates the DeSantis administration was said to be considering were Jacksonville surgeon Mark Dobbertien, and John J. Pirrello, a family physician from Hudson.

In an interview with The News Service of Florida Wednesday, Brooks said that he spoke with DeSantis before the holidays and  “gave him input and suggestions” about health care in the state.

But Brooks stressed  that he had not heard back from DeSantis and that  he has “not been offered anything.”

Brooks, who did not serve on the DeSantis transition committee on health and wellness, said the meeting with DeSantis provided an opportunity for him to share his thoughts.

Brooks said that the meeting was arranged by “someone who knows both of us,” but stopped shy of providing any more details, including whether or not he had a face-to-face meeting with DeSantis or how long it lasted.

If  DeSantis taps Brooks for the position, it will be a homecoming of sorts.

Brooks was first  elected to the Legislature in 1994, and during his tenure was known for his strident opposition to abortion rights. He also condemned Walt Disney World for offering benefits to gay employees’ partners.

In 1999, then-Gov. Jeb Bush  tapped Brooks to head the DOH. Among other things, Brooks increased spending on abstinence programs while secretary.

Following the Bush administration, Brooks joined Florida State University in 2001 and helped establish its  medical school. He joined the faculty at the University of South Florida in 2009. Brooks tried unsuccessfully to return to the Florida Legislature in 2012 but was edged by Democrat Linda Stewart.

The DeSantis administration remains tight-lipped but Alan Levine, who also worked for Bush and who serves as the vice-chairman of the transition committee on health and wellness, praised Brooks.

“I think he would be a great pick.” Levine said.

— By News Service of Florida staff writer Christine Sexton.

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