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7 posts from October 24, 2013

October 24, 2013

Pam Bondi challenges proposed medical marijuana amendment

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is contesting a proposed ballot initiative for a medical marijuana constitutional amendment and has asked the Florida Supreme Court for an opinion.

Bondi contends the proposal from People United for Medical Marijuana, a group led by high-profile attorney John Morgan, is misleading the public and is presented in a way that does not convey its “true meaning and ramifications.”

Bondi is required by law to send a ballot initiative to the state Supreme Court for review within 30 days after it’s submitted to her office.

The proposal, she wrote in a letter filed today to the court, implies that the amendment would allow medical marijuana in narrow, defined circumstances and only for patients for “debilitating diseases. But Bondi says that if the amendment passes, “Florida law would allow marijuana in limitless situations.”

She also writes that the amendment would call for the legal use of medical marijuana even though federal law still prohibits it.

Morgan argues that if the state legalized medical marijuana, the governor and legislature would still oversee licensing and regulations.

He said the proposal, being circulated in a statewide petition drive, includes language the public wants.

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AG Pam Bondi to FL Supreme Court: Medical marijuana group is "hiding the ball."

@MarcACaputo

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi told the state's high court that the backers of a proposed constitutional amendment calling for medical marijuana are misleading voters.

The proposed amendment and its ballot summary that voters would say, which needs to be reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court before being placed on the 2014 ballot, call for the legalization of medical marijuana for "debilitating diseases."

But Bondi, in her office's court filing, said the amendment goes farther than the ballot summary indicates and that the sponsor, People United for Medical Marijuana is "hiding the ball" about the true effect of the proposal.

"If the amendment passed, Florida law would allow mairjuana in limitless situations," Bondi wrote. "Any physician could approve marijuana for seemingly any reason to seemingly any person (of any age) -- including those without any 'debilitating disease.' So long as a physician held the opinion that the drug use 'would likely outweigh t' the risks, Florida would be powerless to stop it."

If the court agrees with Bondi and determines the measure is misleading, the court could strike the proposed amendment down.

Pervading the issue: partisan politics.

People United for Medical Marijuana is backed by Orlando trial lawyer and Democratic fundraiser John Morgan, the boss of former Gov. Charlie Crist, who's planning to challenge Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Republicans suspect PUFMM is a front group to help Charlie and hurt Republicans; PUFMM denies the claims.

Assuming it survives constitutional challenge, the medical marijuana issue won't get on the ballot unless PUFMM gathers 683,149 verified voter signatures by February. The group says it has gathered 200,000 so far, of which more than 110,000 have been verified.

Once it makes the ballot, the issue would need 60 percent voter support to pass. Recent polls suggest there's a good chance the measure would pass today. The liberal-leaning polling firm PPP recently reported the concept garnered 62 percent

NRCC makes "get out of jail" b-day card for Rep. Joe Garcia, hits him in new ad

@MarcACaputo

Garcia-jail-cardNow that his former chief of staff and top adviser pleaded guilty Monday in an elections scandal, Joe Garcia won't be able to escape the political fallout from Republicans as he runs for reelection in his Miami-to-Key West seat.

Even on his birthday.

Last night, the National Republican Congressional Committee staked out a birthday fundraiser for the Democrat and tried to hand him a mock Monopoly-style "Get Out of Jail Free" card that said "this card may be used for this scandal or your next unethical endeavor."

Garcia didn't take the card. And he denies any wrongdoing.

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Bill Nelson: "somebody ought to get fired" for Obamacare website fiasco

@learyreports

Sen. Bill Nelson today called the fiasco over the Obamacare enrollment website "inexcusable” and “somebody ought to get fired.”

But first he said the administration needs to fix the problems.

Nelson's comments came this afternoon during an interview with reporters in his Tampa regional office.  They echoed ones he made late yesterday in an interview with one of the state’s veteran political journalists, Michael Putney.

 “They should wait and get the thing up and running, and then determine and let somebody be held accountable,” Nelson told Putney, who hosts "This Week In South Florida with Michael Putney" on Miami's ABC affiliate, WPLG-Channel 10.

 “That’s the problem in government today,” Nelson said.  “People are not held to account.”

Florida Blue: though we're canceling 300k policies, we're giving 'migrating' options

@MarcACaputo

With the political world ablaze over Florida Blue's decision to drop 300,000 health insurance policies, the insurer finally responded (two days later) to the mess. Background here and statement is here:

The Affordable Care Act mandates that all health insurance coverage packages provide 10 categories of essential health benefits.  Because some plans offered by all insurers did not include all of these new services, they will no longer be available.  Approximately 300,000 current Florida Blue members are enrolled in plans that will not meet these new benefit requirements.

Florida Blue is proactively communicating to these members to help them understand how this transition affects them.   Prior to their 2014 renewal date, each member will receive a letter that instructs them to contact Florida Blue to review their migration options. These new plans will offer members access to more comprehensive benefits in 2014.

It is important to note that a person’s individual situation will be the key driver of what they will pay for coverage under the ACA. Subsidies will be available in the marketplace to lower the cost of coverage for eligible individuals, and the amount an individual will pay could vary significantly once his or her specific age, area in which they live, smoking status, family size, and income are factored in.Thank you,Mark Mark S. WrightMedia Relations Consultant

Deerfield Beach businessman entering race for CFO says he's qualified for the job

William D. Rankin, a 53-year-old Deerfield Beach businessman, U.S. Army veteran and “normal, middle-of-the-road kind of guy,” says he is prepared to take on Republican Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and his well-funded re-election effort.

The Democrat said, “I have the qualifications to be the CFO.” Those qualifications include his position as the former director of asset management for the Ohio State Treasury, responsible for the accountability of more than $120 billion public trust and public retirement funds.

Rankin was also a U.S. Army special agent for 11 years, specializing in investigations of white-collar crime and government contract fraud. Injured in the service, he was honorably discharged.

A Cincinnati native, the divorced father of two adult children has been living in Florida since 1999 when he became director of Florida’s 2000 Census operation. He previously served as an outreach director for the U.S. Congressional 2000 Census Oversight Board, and worked with the state’s Haitian and Cuban communities.

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Dade Medical College's chief executive resigns amid criminal charges

@MrMikeVasquez

As a former heavy metal musician/high school dropout, Ernesto Perez was an unlikely college president. And Perez did more than just run Dade Medical College, he started the whole thing from scratch.

But this week, faced with pending criminal charges that once again dredged up embarrassing details from his past, Perez resigned as Dade Medical’s president and CEO. Perez founded the school with his father — a retired physician — in 1999.

On Friday, prosecutors charged Perez with two counts of perjury, a misdemeanor, and one count of providing false information through a sworn statement, which is a third-degree felony.

All three criminal charges against Perez stem from his repeated failure to disclose prior criminal arrests and/or convictions when filling out government forms. Perez has a 1990 arrest for second-degree sexual assault of a child, and a 2002 arrest for aggravated battery. The earlier crime, which occurred while Perez was in a rock band touring in Wisconsin, involved a 15-year-old fan. Perez pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of battery and exposing his genitals to a child. He spent six months in jail.

State Sen. Rene Garcia, who is also Dade Medical’s vice president of external affairs, said he believed Perez’s decision was motivated by a desire to avoid hurting the college.

“The college is bigger than any individual,” Garcia said. “He doesn’t want this to put a black cloud over the college until he resolves it.”

More here.