July 24, 2013

Residency of all legislators under review

From the News Service of Florida

Legislative leadership wants to know where House and Senate members are when they say they're at home.

With Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, raising questions about a number of Democratic lawmakers living outside the districts they represent, the top attorneys for the House and Senate have been directed to recommend standards for residency.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Ken Detzner will be asked to get a list of where all 160 legislators are registered to vote.

"Neither the House nor the Senate has historically developed a clear set of principles to determine the residency of our members," House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said in letter Wednesday to Latvala. "The recommended guidelines should draw on any past rulings of the House and Senate on this question, as well as decisions from other bodies in related legal contexts."

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July 21, 2013

Cities could see more green over legislature's change to red light camera law

When South Florida cities began installing red-light cameras several years ago, most expected a revenue bump along with increased intersection safety.

But while most studies show few crashes at intersections with red-light cameras, many cities haven’t seen the money they expected, and at least one is several thousand dollars in the hole.

Now, some cities plan to use new changes in Florida’s red-light camera laws to wring more money out of strapped camera programs.

The new legislation, which went into effect July 1, requires municipalities with the cameras to set up local hearing boards for people who get violation notices and want to fight them. It gives drivers more time to appeal, and doesn’t force them to wait until after payment is due and their $158 notice of violation becomes a $264 Uniform Traffic Citation in order to contest it. More here from Jonathan Simmons.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/07/20/3510185/south-florida-cities-find-new.html#storylink=cpy

July 17, 2013

Dolphin CEO Mike Dee leaves fins to 'return to my roots' with San Diego Padres

Miami Dolphins CEO Mike Dee is leaving the franchise to take a similar role with the San Diego Padres, Dee and the teams announced Wednesday.

Dee, who has headed up the Dolphins’ business operations since 2009, worked with the Padres from 1995 through 2002. He will replace Tom Garfinkle, who resigned last week.

“I’m excited to announce that I’m returning to San Diego as President & CEO of the Padres,” Dee wrote on a Twitter message. “It’s not easy to make this move at such an exciting time for the franchise, but I could not turn down this incredible opportunity to return my roots.

“Despite my new role, I will always be a member of Dolfan Nation,” Dee said. “A big thank you to [Dolphins owner] Steve Ross + So. Fla. for four great years.” More here.

-- Adam Beasley

July 16, 2013

All aboard the SS Crisafulli

Even by Tallahassee’s standards, Steve Crisafulli’s idea for an upcoming fundraiser for House Republicans is pretty showy.

It’s a three-day trip to the Bahamas aboard the Disney Cruise Line’s “Disney Dream” where guests will stay in deluxe oceanview stateroom with Verandah (cabins that usually fetch about $3,000).  

Set to sail from Port Canaveral -- located in Crisafulli’s House district -- the Disney Dream and its 1,458 crew members and 4,000 passengers will anchor in ports of call Nassau and Castaway Cay, Disney’s “private island paradise.”

Floating atop international waters, lawmakers will soak in the contributions while luxuriating on the 14-passenger deck ship and its many bars (“Evolution Night Club, anyone?”). Guests will get a $200 onboard credit and all meals included.

When asked about the rumors of the upcoming fundraiser on Tuesday, Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, confirmed the fundraiser is set for an Aug. 1 launch.

All that guests have to provide so they can attend is a $50,000 contribution to the Republican Party of Florida.

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July 01, 2013

Lawyers file lawsuits challenging change in medmal law that takes effect today

Florida doctors won a big legislative victory this year with the passage of a top priority bill for Senate President Don Gaetz that would allow the attorneys for doctors in medical malpractice claims to collect information on the private conversations between patients and other doctors without the patient's permission. 

But the victory will be short-lived if a group of high powered attorneys have their way. In five separate complaints filed in federal and state court today, the lawyers claim that the so-called "ex parte" provisions of SB 1972 is an unconstitutional violation of the state's privacy laws and also violates the federal privacy protections in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountabilty Act, HIPAA.

The bill, which takes effect today, allows for lawyers to to learn about a patient's medical condition by talking to other treating doctors without the patient or his lawyer being present. The legal challenge was coordinated by the Florida Justice Association, the trade association for the state's trial lawyers.

"With everything that is happening in the federal government right now involving the invasion of privacy of U.S. Citizens by their government, it is appalling to know that in Florida, our Legislature and governor have authorized doctors to divulge their patients’ personal, private medical history to complete strangers,” said Debra Henley, executive director of the Florida Justice Association. 

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June 28, 2013

Gov. Scott signs bill to ban gun sales to mentally ill

Gov. Rick Scott signed a  gun control bill Friday to close a loophole in firearm sales to some mentally ill people, a controversial measure that has divided gun rights activists.

In his bill signing statement, Scott assures conservative supporters he is a "strong supporter of the Second Amendment" and has "signed legislation protecting the privacy of firearm owners and stopping local governments from overreaching in the regulation of firearms."

As for his support of this bill, Scott states that "Reasonable parameters on firearm purchases must be set forth in state law to ensure public safety...

"Mental health and second amendment advocates worked together to produce this bill that does not affect persons voluntarily seeking mental  health exams or treatments but rather closes a loophole in current law that could potentially put firearms in the hands of dangerous, mentally ill individuals who are a threat to themselves or others as determined by a court."

Scott notes that "other states, such as Virginia and Mississippi, have passed similar laws to ensure the protections of their citizens and visitors."

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Greasing growth machine, DEP to award staff for quickly issuing permits

In December, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection laid off 58 employees to cut costs. Several who were fired went public with allegations that the DEP is easing regulations on industrial plants and developers that could have far-ranging environmental consequences for years to come. And environmental groups are threatening to sue over lax water protections.

Yet on Friday, the seemingly embattled agency was held up as an example of good government by a legislative budget committee that awarded it permission to dole out more than $500,000 in bonuses.

Recipients will be “high-performing” employees who, among other things, were deemed to have improved customer service and reduced the time it takes to issue permits, a criteria that conservatives found refreshing and environmental advocates found vexing.

“Everywhere I go I hear my constituents tell me how efficient the agency is, whether they are for or against a permit,” said. Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. “The agency is doing its job and this vote will award that efficiency.”

“The thing that bothers me is when they start emphasizing speed, they threaten to turn the DEP into a Jiffy Lube,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Florida Audubon, who was in Tampa and couldn’t attend the meeting. “If they’re stressing that employees to get a job done quickly, rather than do the best job they can, we lose the guarantee that the DEP is properly focused on the environment.”

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June 27, 2013

Group aiming for gun veto intensifies battle; fights suit in Colorado

The Colorado-based gun group that has been waging an email campaign against a Florida bill that would help prevent some people who are mentally ill from buying guns has come under fire in its home state.

The National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR) and its affiliate, the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners (RMGO), both based in Colorado, have been named in a lawsuit over the misuse of an engagement photo of a gay New Jersey couple kissing in political attack ads.

The Southern Poverty Law Center in May added the names of the gun groups plus Dudley Brown (executive vice president of the National Association for Gun Rights and the executive director of the Rocky Mountain Gun Owners group) and and NAGR's Lucius O’Dell and Andrew Brown to a suit filed in the U.S. District Court in Denver. The lawsuit originally named just the anti-gay organization, Public Advocate of the United States.

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June 24, 2013

Gov. Scott signs 'landmark' foster care legislation

Gov. Rick Scott signed the Nancy C. Detert Common Sense and Compassion Independent Living Act Monday -- for the second time.

Scott initially signed HB 1036, which gives kids the option of staying in foster care until age 21, on June 14th, but Monday's ceremonial signing gave supporters a chance to celebrate a bill advocates call "landmark legislation." 

"This is the most important bill the governor will have signed all year. It immediately impacts the lives of thousands of children and I don't see a bill that's more important than that," said Senate sponsor Detert, who attended the signing at Valencia College in Orlando with House sponsor, Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins, Florida's Advocate for Foster and Adoption Tanya Wilkins, children's advocates and current and foster care youths from all over Florida.

Along with giving young adults the option of staying in foster care, the new law requires a transition plan be made for those who are leaving the child welfare system. 

“This new law will ensure kids entrusted in our care have the best start possible into adulthood and provide them the opportunity to obtain the life skills necessary so they may live the American Dream,” Scott said.

About 70 percent of teens in foster care have not graduated high school or received their GED by the time they "age out" of the system.

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June 20, 2013

NRA launches email campaign to support bill banning firearms sale to mentally ill

Gun rights Marion Hammer, who for decades has fought laws that restrict firearms in Florida, is mounting a campaign to urge Gov. Rick Scott to sign a bill that will ban gun purchases –- for the mentally ill

Hammer, the powerful lobbyist for the National Rifle Association and United Sportsmen of Florida, has started an email “alert” to about 200,000 of the group’s members  urging them to “Please email Governor Scott right away and urge him to sign HB-1355.”

The blitz is necessary, she said, to “counter the barrage of emails” loaded with “patently false” information filling Scott's “Sunburst” email inbox.

Since the bill’s passage, the governor’s office has received at least 17,008 emails and 2,711 calls in opposition to the bill (as of June 19). Many of the emails are identical, except for names of  the senders. In contrast, Scott has received a dozen calls and one email in support of the bill.

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