Ron DeSantis

Whaaat? Big Pharma asks DeSantis to veto Canadian drug importation plan

Move over Don Quixote. Here comes PhRMA President and  Chief Executive Officer Stephen J. Ubl tilting at windmills.

Ubl, head of the officially known as the Pharmaceutical  Manufacturing and Research Association, sent a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday, politely congratulating the Republican governor on hitting the milestone of his first 100 days in office.

“I look forward to working alongside you to ensure Floridians have access to affordable medicines and hope you will not hesitate to call upon me if I can ever be of assistance,” Ubl wrote.

Then Ubl asks DeSantis for what seems impossible — a veto of HB 19, the  Canadian drug importation program. Getting Canadian drugs into Florida is DeSantis’ top health care priority, and is also a priority for House Speaker Jose Oliva.

“When this bill is officially sent to your desk, I encourage you to consider vetoing it.,” Ubl wrote. “While your goal of lowering the costs of prescription medicines for Floridians is one I share, the biopharmaceutical industry has serious concerns with any proposal that could put patient safety at risk.”

Ubl outlines several alternatives to the Canadian drug importation program.

“First, we believe that patients should benefit from the more than $166 billion in rebates and discounts provided to insurance companies, pharmacy benefit managers, the government and other entities in the supply chain in 2018,” he wrote. “On average, 40 percent of the list price of medicines are given as rebates, but too often, patients never reap the benefits of these discounts. Ensuring they do is one step you can take to provide relief to the Floridians struggling to afford their medicines.”

The prescription drug importation program was a hotly contested issue during the 2019 session. DeSantis on Saturday joked that the proposal (HB 19) was a “stimulus” for Tallahassee lobbyists who were hired to kill the proposal.

DeSantis was in Washington on Monday discussing the plan, which requires federal approval, with President Donald Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar on the issue.

DeSantis hasn’t received the bill yet; once he does, the governor will have 15 days to sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

“Usually people never want to touch prescription drugs because you see all the stuff coming down,” DeSantis told reporters Saturday, referring to an ad blitz blasting the drug importation plan. “But we said, let’s just do the right thing. Let’s hang in there, and that will be better for Florida. I think there was just a lot of opportunities to lead, and I took them, but then these guys in the Legislature took them as well, so that’s a good thing.”

By The News Service of Florida’s health care maven, Christine Sexton.

Dems to Putnam: Don’t let the door hit you …

Former Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s exit from the public sector — and from the Sunshine State — won’t be missed by the Florida Democratic Party.

unnamedMemphis-based Ducks Unlimited on Wednesday named Putnam, who was the “establishment” favorite in last year’s GOP gubernatorial primary but was trounced by Gov. Ron DeSantis, as its chief executive.

Florida Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Donohoe bid an actual “good riddance” to the former congressman from Bartow.

“Over the course of his twenty-year career in politics, Adam Putnam endangered Floridians’ safety, helped destroy our environment and turned the Department of Agriculture into a national embarrassment,” Donohoe said in a statement. “Putnam is the ultimate career politician and his name will forever be associated with scandal, incompetence and corruption in Florida. Putnam always promised to put Florida First, and he’s finally done that by leaving the state and giving up on public life. Good riddance.”

The announcement from Ducks Unlimited notes that Putnam “plans to move to Memphis in the coming months.”

“My vision for DU is to bring together conservation-minded folks from all walks of life, whether they’re farmers, city-dwellers, veterans, biologists, hunters…anyone who has a connection to landscapes, which is everyone,” Putnam said in DU release. “If we are going to fill the skies with waterfowl, we must build a coalition of people who believe waterfowl-filled skies matter. We need to work together to reach a common goal of healthy wetlands and abundant water for wildlife, people and their communities across North America.”

By Jim Turner.

Andrew Gillum’s a tease

Andrew Gillum’s toying with us.

The Tallahassee Democrat, who narrowly lost a bid for governor to Republican Ron DeSantis in November, teased supporters and critics today with a slick “save the date” video come on.

The promo features chants of Gillum’s iconic “Bring It Home” campaign slogan in the background, alongside tidbits from the trail.

Gillum, who lost to DeSantis by .4 percentage points last year, recently joined CNN as a political analyst.

After a surprise primary election victory, the former Tallahassee mayor had hoped to make Florida history by becoming the state’s first black governor. DeSantis dashed those dreams, but not before his gubernatorial effort skyrocketed the Florida Democrat onto the national stage.

Despite his November loss, Gillum’s been rumored to be considering a run for president in an already crowded Democratic field.

Will that be the “major announcement” coming on March 20, or will Gillum throw his support behind one of the other contenders?

In an email to supporters Friday morning, Gillum said “what we fought for last year still holds true today” and hammered on the anti-Donald Trump theme invoked against the president’s pal, DeSantis, last year.

“Health care should be a right and not a privilege. Teachers should be paid what they are worth. Our water and air should be safe for our children.

And most importantly: we need to do everything in our power to make Donald Trump a one-term president.

This fight is about the future of our state and our nation. I’m not going anywhere — and I know neither are you. We have to stand strong and speak out.

I believe that we will win. I’ll see you on March 20.”

 

Galvano on “awkward moment” in DeSantis SOS speech

DeSantis SOSGov. Ron DeSantis delivered his first State of the State speech to kick off the 2019 legislative session today, covering a wide range of topics and boasting about a variety of accomplishments since the Republican took office in January.

DeSantis bragged about ousting former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who was harshly criticized for how his office handled the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year. DeSantis replaced Israel with Gregory Tony.

Israel has appealed his suspension to the Florida Senate, which has the power to reinstate or remove elected officials.

During his remarks Tuesday, DeSantis noted that Israel’s suspension “will come before the Senate soon,” adding “the failures of the former sheriff are well-documented.”

“Why any senator would want to thumb his nose at the Parkland families and to eject Sheriff Tony, who is doing a great job and has made history as the first African-American sheriff in Broward history, is beyond me,” the governor said.

When asked about his remarks later, DeSantis spoke about the families of the 17 students and school staff who were slain.

“Those families were really frustrated that action had not been taken against him. I did it within a couple days because to me, I thought it should have been done. It was just a point that not only did that give satisfaction to families but we have a guy in there now who’s really making positive changes,” DeSantis told reporters.

The governor said he’s “not worried at all” about the Senate process.

“But I do think it was an important action we took early in the administration. I just wanted to highlight it,” he said.

Senate President Bill Galvano, who appointed former House Rep. Dudley Goodlette as special master to oversee Israel’s appeal and make recommendations, wasn’t keen on DeSantis’ veiled threat.

“Of everything that was in that speech, that was a bit of an awkward moment for the governor,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, told reporters.

Galvano said he asked himself if a senator made a comment about the Broward sheriffs but didn’t believe that was the case.

“Look, he has every right to suspend him and has his reasons for doing so. But the Senate also has a role, and we’re going to do it right. We’re going to have due process and we’re going to vet through the suspension and we’ll make a decision. I’ve asked our senators to give it the respect that it’s due and not to prejudge. That’s the role of the Senate. I’ve said this before. We’re not just going to be a rubber stamp for the governor,” he said.

Rick Scott gets hung up

He’s back. Sort of.

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With no fanfare we’re aware of, the official portrait of Florida’s 45th governor, Rick Scott, appeared on the wall beside other recent chiefs of state in the hallway.

The portrait of Scott, who’s now a U.S. senator, shows the former governor seated on the desk in what used to be his office. The background features a Florida flag and a picture of his wife, Ann.

Here’s a little Florida history about the portraits, from the Museum of Florida History:

Beginning with Governor Francis Fleming in the 1890s, every chief executive of Florida has had an official portrait painted and hung in the state capitol building. Over the years, an interesting variety of artistic styles has accumulated. In the mid-1950s, the state legislature commissioned Tallahassee artist Clarabel Jett (1908–96) to create oil-enhanced photographs of all Florida governors whose portraits were not yet in the state collection. In 1986, the legislature transferred custody of the portrait collection to the Museum of Florida History.

All of the Governor’s portraits are represented at the Historic Capitol. The more recent governors’ portraits appear in the first-floor hallway of the new Capitol, beginning with Claude Kirk (1967-1971). In keeping with the tradition of official governors’ portraits, our current governor, Ron DeSantis, will not commission his portrait until the end of his term.

By Jim Turner.

#Nosmokeisajoke: Florida laughing stock over MMJ smoking ban

Pot exclamation point!.pngLawyer Michael Minardi, the general counsel for Florida NORML unloaded on a Florida House committee yesterday over the state’s ban on smoking medical marijuana.

Minardi, whose website proclaims he’s “The Gold Standard of the Green Industry,” joined other MMJ smoke proponents to shake the Florida House Health and Human Services Committee into axing the prohibition.

Before hearing from the advocates, committee Chairman Ray Rodrigues made a significant concession by stripping a provision that would have required docs to get approval from a “case review panel” before they could order smokable marijuana for patients.

The House plan now would restrict patients to buying pre-rolled joints with filters from licensed medical marijuana dispensaries. The advocates aren’t crazy about that provision, but hey, they can always rip off the filters and stuff the weed into a bong or whatev once they get it home, per Ray Rod.

Minardi told the committee that smoke is the number one choice for patients in other states where medical marijuana is legal. (It’s much cheaper than tinctures or vape oils). The committee also heard from patients who admitted they’re smoking weed so they can benefit from the “entourage effect” you can only get from whole flower.

“Patients are going to continue to use flower whether or not you do this (legalize smoking) or not. They’re going to either get it from the black market, as they already are, because they know it’s what works for them. Every other state in this country is laughing at us, saying that we gave our patients tinctures, and we have wax and shatter on the shelves, and not flower,” Minardi said.

“Do you understand the impact of that and how ironic that is? You’re giving them the hard stuff, but not letting them have the beer but take a shot of tequila. That’s what that’s equivalent to,” he went on.

We’re pretty sure that most of the members of the committee have no clue what “wax” or “shatter” is, but who hasn’t had a Dos Equis followed by a shot of Cuervo Gold?

Lawmakers are taking the wrong approach with filters, if they’re concerned about screening toxins out of joints, according to Minardi.

“A bong hit is the best way to do that,” he advised.

The pre-rolled, filtered MMJ “cigarettes” are sure to be a negotiation point between the House and Senate as they try to meet Gov. Ron DeSantis’ March 15 deadline to nix the smoking ban.

Sen. Jeff Brandes’ proposal, approved by the Innovation, Infrastructure and Technology Committee yesterday afternoon, doesn’t have any restrictions on whole flower sold at dispensaries, and would allow patients to buy equipment at smoke shops.

The buy-your-bong-at-a-bong-shop provision will likely be another item on the negotiation table.

Gaetz takes on Cuomo after going viral over Parkland exchange with Parkland dad

After making international news for scolding the parents of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teens who were among the 17 students and faculty gunned down a year ago, Congressman Matt Gaetz spent nearly 11 minutes in a verbal slugfest with CNN’s Chris Cuomo last night.

Gaetz, a Panhandle Republican who is one of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ top advisors, made national news after a heated exchange with Manuel Oliver, whose 17-year-old son, Joaquin (Guac) Oliver, was among the 14 slain students killed at the Parkland school a year ago.

The confrontation between the former Florida House representative and the grieving dad came during a congressional hearing on gun violence. Oliver repeatedly yelled out when Gaetz, a fierce ally of President Donald Trump, brought up The Wall as a critical solution to the issue. Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter, Jaime, was also among the victims and who was sitting next to Oliver, also loudly objected to Gaetz’s take.

Video of Gaetz pointing his finger at Oliver and Guttenberg, and questioning whether  the men should be booted from the committee went viral.

Last night, Gaetz — a strong NRA proponent — told Cuomo he “wasn’t trying to get Mr. Oliver thrown out” of the committee.

Gaetz said he was concerned for a woman who was “violently raped in a gun-free zone” who was seated in front of Oliver.

“He didn’t mean to intimidate her, but they did,” Gaetz said.

When pressed by Cuomo about why he brought up illegal immigration during a debate about gun violence, Gaetz said he “wanted to highlight the fact that there are victims of gun violence who would be in a better position today” with a wall across the southern U.S. border.

“I did not want to throw the guy out,” he said. “A wall will mean fewer people will die at the hands of illegal aliens.”

Oliver later told CNN he found Gaetz’s remarks at the committee hearing, at which universal background check legislation was discussed, was “pretty offensive.”

“No. 1, I don’t think you’re qualified for this. No. 2, you’re asking us to waste time. You are wasting time from us really to go ahead and solve the problem,” Oliver said. “If this is how this is going to work, I have to stop this guy. I have to let the nation know he’s wrong.”

Watch Oliver on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.