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10 posts from January 22, 2014

January 22, 2014

House leadership adds hurdle for parents seeking help from marijuana extract

The proponents of a proposal to decriminalize a non-euphoric marijuana strain that helps kids with seizures are winning hearts, but not the support they need from Florida House leadership.

A key legislator, Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, fears the idea will get confused by voters who think it’s a sign lawmakers support a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for some medical use.

“I don’t want to be the first to start down a slope of approval on the use of illicit drugs under the claim of medical protection,’’ he said. “But I’m not saying I wouldn’t vote for something that would help these families.”

Baxley, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, wants a stand-alone bill that is not tucked into a criminal-justice package as its House sponsor, Rep. Matt Gaetz, has done. Baxley’s approach has the support of House Speaker Will Weatherford but is opposed by supporters of the bill, who say it will make it easier for naysayers to kill it.

The proposal supported by parents with children suffering seizures would allow a marijuana strain known as Charlotte’s Web to be legally developed in Florida.

“I think the supporters make a compelling case for the use of Charlotte’s Web to treat children with severe seizures. There is currently no member bill filed on the matter,” Weatherford said in a statement to the Herald/Times.

Meanwhile, the Florida Sheriff’s Association and the Florida Medical Association, which represents doctors, say they remain vigorously opposed to legalizing marijuana for medical use, but they acknowledge the value of strains high high in cannabidiol (CBD), the ingredient that controls seizures, but is low in tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the compound that creates a high. More here.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/04/3852689/parents-of-children-with-epilepsy.html#storylink=cpyThose strains have shown promise for stopping or slowing the seizures in children with severe epilepsy and provides other medical benefits for people with other conditions. More here.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/22/3886681/house-leaders-add-hurdle-for-parents.html#storylink=cpy

A short tortured life, and a history of repeated abuse for dead boy

On his mother’s Facebook page, Ghanson Debrosse is the picture of a healthy, carefree boy, grinning broadly, his hands shoved jauntily into the pockets of his baggy jeans.

But behind the brilliant smile was a life of torment and pain.

According to police, Ghanson was burned by his mom with a lighter when he urinated on the floor. He was beaten with an aluminum broom handle when he soiled himself. He was hurled across a room and hit a table.

The abuse went on until he could endure no more. He died Tuesday.

The sordid details spilled out Wednesday through police reports and the testimony of a North Miami detective, a day after Ghanson’s mother, Fafane Caze, 21, was arrested on charges of aggravated child abuse and torture. The judge tacked on another charge of attempted felony murder, Wednesday, which kept her in jail with no bond. A murder charge is pending as the medical examiner’s office catalogs the toddler’s injuries. More here.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2014/01/22/3886748/the-short-tormented-life-of-ghanson.html#storylink=cpy

Mayor Philip Levine on tech start-ups in Miami Beach: "dumbest idea"


Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine garnered headlines on Wednesday after saying that turning Miami Beach into a tech start-up hub is “the dumbest idea in the world.”

Levine was speaking at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington, DC. The Washington Post Wonkblog took notice, writing up a piece with the provocative headline: “Miami Beach mayor: Take your tech start-up gospel, and shove it”

"People cling on to things that are not the highest and best use for their city. Miami Beach is never going to be a high tech hub. As much as it sounds great, it's sexy, that's not who we are,” the blog quoted Levine as saying.

Levine took to Twitter to respond. 

"Tech quote taken out of context. As an entrepreneur, I support all business startups. MB is a boutique tourism & conference destination," he tweeted. 

Read the Wonkblog post here.

Miami-Dade's Jackson hospital reaches deal with unions to restore workers' pay

@PatriciaMazzei @dchangmiami

The Jackson Health System announced Wednesday something that has eluded Miami-Dade County government for months: It reached a tentative deal with labor unions.

The public hospital network and two unions that represent more than 10,000 workers announced agreements to phase out an unpopular pay concession and award employees one-time bonuses.

Jackson would reduce the pay contribution, which goes toward group healthcare costs, to 2 percent from 5 percent, retroactive to Jan. 1. The remaining 2 percent would go away at the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Executives who have not been making the contribution would begin to pay the 2 percent, also retroactive to Jan. 1. Rank-and-file employees had said it was unfair to exempt executives, who had seen pay cuts and other benefit suspensions, though not always equal to a 5 percent pay contribution.

The unions also agreed to end discussions on pay raises through Sept. 30, marking the fourth consecutive year that Jackson employees forgo such increases.

In addition, because the hospital system closed its last fiscal year with a better-than-expected $45 million surplus, Jackson would award one-time bonuses to employees amounting to 3 percent of their base pay.

Jackson’s two unions were among seven at impasse with the county over the disputed healthcare contribution.

“It’s great that we found a way to resolve this,” Jackson Chief Executive Carlos Migoya said. “We’re hoping this excites our employees and continues to help us in the transformation and improvements to the system.”

More here.

OIR report: No-fault auto insurance reforms causing rates to drop

The reforms to no-fault auto insurance -- formally called personal injury protection, or PIP -- passed during the 2012 legislative session are saving Florida motorists money, according to a report from the Office of Insurance Regulation. Because PIP is just a small fraction of auto insurance policies, the savings are slight, but they still pose a reversal of a yearslong trend of rate increases and could temper calls to eliminate PIP all together.

Here is more from the News Service of Florida:

Auto insurance costs will come down slightly, more than a year after reforms aimed at reducing fraud in the state's "no-fault" auto insurance system were implemented, according to a preliminary analysis of rates by the state.

The Office of Insurance Regulation announced Wednesday that Personal Injury Protection coverage is projected to drop an average of 13.2 percent based upon on a review of 20 insurers that provide coverage for more than 75 percent of the Florida market.

The result of the decrease would be an overall 1.2 percent reduction in rates, because "no-fault" accounts for a small portion of auto coverage, the state insurance regulatory office stated in a release.

A spokesman for Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, who was a proponent of the 2012 law, called the report a "positive trend" for consumers.

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House speaker 2020? For Eisnaugle, the race is on

EisnaugleEric Eisnaugle, a 36-year-old Republican from Arcadia isn't a member of the Legislature but he is already campaigning to be speaker of the the Florida House in 2020. Sound like a long time away? It is, but it's the latest dance in the term-limits foxtrot politicians in Florida engage in behind the scenes, with little public attention.

Eisnaugle, who stepped aside after serving two years when his district was conflated with Rep. Steve Precourt's under redistricting in 2012, isn't the only candidate for House Speaker 2020. Also on the list is Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, who was elected in a special election last year, Rep. Shawn Harrison, a Tampa lawyer and Republican who is trying to regain a seat he lost in 2012 to Rep. Mark Danish, a Democrat, and Chris Sprowls, another Tampa lawyer and Republican.

Fundraising for Eisnaugle is happening now. A flyer announcing a mega-fundraiser on Jan. 28 at the Rosen Shingle Creek in Orlando features Reps. Frank Artiles, Ritch Workman, David Santiago, Mike LaRosa and Jason Brodeur and is being promoted as "an event to support Eric Eisnaugle in his Speaker's race." If elected, Eishaugle, like Hill, will have an extra year of seniority over the other legislators elected in November who will also be termed out of office in 2022. 

Rep. Frank Artiles, R-Miami, is a leading Eisnaugle advocate. "He has the most experience. He has the advantage,'' he said.

Precourt resigned earlier this month to take a $175,000 + job at the Orlando-Orange County expressway and Eisnaugle is the leading candidate in a March 11 special election to replace him. 

If elected, Eisnaugle would technically be a "red shirt" freshman, like Hill. Preceding him in the speaker office, if all goes as planned, would be Reps. Steve Crisfulli, Richard Corcoran and Jose Oliva. Obviously, Hill is seen as competition for Eisnaugle, with his name also being mentioned as future House speaker material. 

Scott seeks $130 million for 'Glades projects

Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday he will ask the Legislature to include $130 million in the next state budget for Everglades-related projects in an effort to improve water quality and lessen the impacts of discharges from Lake Okeechobee on estuaries.

The money includes $40 million to speed up completion of the C-44 Stormwater Treatment Area for Martin and St. Lucie counties, Scott's office said, in addition to $30 million for a three-year installment for the Tamiami Trail project to provide water to Everglades National Park, $32 million as part of the governor’s Everglades Water Quality Restoration Plan and funds to complete Kissimmee River restoration. The final dollar amount will be set by the Legislature in the session that begins March 4.

Scott's second environmental announcement in as many days took place at a meeting of the governor and Cabinet in Kissimmee. On Tuesday, Scott called for $55 million to protect springs from the polluting effects of septic tanks, wastewater and runoff.

-- Steve Bousquet

Rep. Workman taking new approach to alimony reform

The Zephyrhills Cinema 10 is playing more than Oscar contenders and popcorn flicks this week.

Also on the marquee: an obscure documentary about alimony.

“‘Divorce Corp.’ has just arrived at the theater!” the independent moviehouse trumpeted on Facebook this month. “This documentary uncovers how children are torn from their homes, unlicensed custody evaluators extort money, and abusive judges play God with people's lives while enriching their friends.”

The screenings, scheduled through Thursday, are part of an aggressive push to change Florida’s alimony laws.

The laws were nearly overhauled last year, when the state House and Senate passed a controversial proposal to end permanent alimony payments. But the bill fell victim to a last-minute veto by Gov. Rick Scott.

This year, the nonprofit Family Law Reform is working to build support for alimony reform before the session begins, president Alan Frisher said.

Read more here.

Hillary Clinton to speak at University of Miami Feb. 26

From a press release:

The University of Miami will welcome Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former Secretary of State and Former U.S. Senator from New York to deliver remarks at a special event for the university campus and invited guests on February 26 at the BankUnited Center on the UM Coral Gables campus. Keynote remarks will begin at 8:30 p.m. Tickets to the event are intended for UM students, faculty, staff and invited guests.

Hillary Rodham Clinton served as the 67th U.S. Secretary of State from 2009 until 2013, after nearly four decades in public service. Her "smart power" approach to foreign policy repositioned American diplomacy and development for the 21st century. Clinton played a central role in restoring America’s standing in the world, reasserting the United States as a Pacific power, imposing crippling sanctions on Iran and North Korea, responding to the Arab Awakening and negotiating a ceasefire in the Middle East. Earlier, as First Lady and Senator from New York, she traveled to more than 80 countries as a champion of human rights, democracy, and opportunities for women and girls. Clinton also worked to provide health care to millions of children, create jobs and opportunity, and support first responders who risked their lives at Ground Zero. In her historic campaign for President, Clinton won 18 million votes.

PPP: Rick Scott gaining ground -- 10 points since September -- on Charlie Crist


Gov. Rick Scott is gaining ground on former Gov. Charlie Crist in the latest survey from Public Policy Polling, which shows the Democrat leads the incumbent by just 2 percentage points.

In late September, when PPP last polled the Florida race, Crist led by 12 points.

That net loss of 10 for Crist is fueled in great part by Republicans, who appear to be coming home to the once-deeply unpopular Scott.

GOP voters have shifted 22 points in Scott’s direction as the governor solidifies his base, according to a comparison of the two surveys by the firm, which tends to poll for Democrats and liberals.

The poll indicates Democrats have shifted 9 points in Scott’s favor. Independents have barely changed on balance. Put it all together, and Crist’s 58-30 percent lead in September is now 43-41.

Scott’s improvement was bound to happen in Florida, an evenly divided state where close elections are the norm. Indeed, Scott isn't a strong candidate. He barely beats former Weston state Sen. Nan Rich, a Democrat, 40-34 percent.

Still, Scott's fortunes appear to be improving along with the overall condition of the economy. Scott and the Republican Party of Florida also spent money on paid TV ads in November bashing Crist, once a Republican governor, as an “opportunist.”

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