August 12, 2014

Movers & Shakers

Former Junior League president and police chief appointed to human trafficking council 

Lee Lowry, a former president of The Junior League of Tampa, and Philip Thorne, Springfield's police chief, have been picked by Gov.Rick Scott to fill the two remaining seats on the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking.

The council, which was created during the legislative session to develop recommendations for programs and services for victims of human trafficking and maximize existing resources, will have its first meeting at 2 p.m. Aug. 18 in Room 214 of the Knott Building at the Capitol. 

The other members of the 15-member council are Attorney General Pam Bondi, the council's chairman; Mike Carroll, interim secretary of the state Department of Children and Families, who will serve as vice chairman; State Surgeon General Dr. John ArmstrongElizabeth Dudek, Secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration; Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey; Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Interim Secretary Christina Daly; and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart; Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle; Martin County Sheriff William Snyder; Terry Coonan, executive director of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights; Dotti Groover-Skipper, chairwoman of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking; Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring; and Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami.

New faces on the Commission on the Status of Women

Nancy Acevedo and Dhyana Ziegler have been appointed to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

Acevedo, 65, of Winter Springs, is an intelligence analyst with the Seminole County Sheriff's Office.

Ziegler, 65, of Tallahassee, is the Garth C. Reeves eminent scholar chair of journalism at the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

August 08, 2014

Pam Bondi: Let the U.S. Supreme Court decide gay marriage

@SteveRothaus

Rather than argue Florida's gay-marriage debate at the state Supreme Court, Attorney General Pam Bondi says she'd rather wait until the U.S. Supreme Court settles the issue nationally, once and for all.

“Neither this Court nor the Florida Supreme Court can decide this federal issue with finality,” Bondi wrote in a filing late Thursday to the state’s 3rd District Court of Appeal. “The United States Supreme Court, however, ‘has the final word on the United States Constitution.’”

Bondi told the appeals court she expects the U.S. Supreme Court will act soon on the gay marriage issue. She cited filings this week from the states of Utah and Oklahoma asking their gay-marriage cases be heard by the nation’s highest court.

“A ruling from the United States Supreme Court would end the constitutional debate, end this appeal, and end all related cases,” Bondi wrote. “The State of Florida will respect the United States Supreme Court’s final word. In the meantime, this Court should preserve taxpayer and judicial resources by staying briefing until the United States Supreme Court rules.”

More here.

August 04, 2014

Movers & Shakers

Sen. Grimsley named to new human trafficking council

Sen. Denise Grimsley, R-Sebring, has been appointed by Senate President Don Gaetz to the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, which was established by the legislature this session.

The first meeting of the 15-member council will be held at 2 p.m. Aug. 18th in Room 214 of the Knott Building at the Capitol.

Grimsley, chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, is the newest addition to the council. Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, was appointed by House Speaker Will Weatherford. The two remaining members will be appointed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, the council's chairman, appointed Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle; Martin County Sheriff William SnyderTerry Coonan, executive director of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights; and Dotti Groover-Skipper, chairwoman of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking to the council.

The other members are Mike Carroll, interim secretary of the state Department of Children and Families, who will serve as vice chairman; State Surgeon General Dr. John ArmstrongElizabethDudek, Secretary of the state Agency for Health Care Administration; Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey; Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Interim SecretaryChristina Daly; and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Florida ethics commission elects a new chairman

Linda McKee Robison, the former vice chairman of the Florida Commission on Ethics, was elected its chairman at the panel's July 25th meeting.

Robison, who is a partner in the Corporate Transactions Group of Shutts & Bowen, LLP, has served on the commission since 2011.

Continue reading "Movers & Shakers" »

July 25, 2014

Bondi calls on emergency medical workers to help fight human trafficking

Attorney General Pam Bondi is turning to emergency medical workers to help fight human trafficking in Florida, which is the third highest ranked state for the crime.

Emergency medical providers are at the “front line to help to identify possible victims of human trafficking,” Beth Brunner, CEO of the Emergency Medicine Learning and Resource Center in Orlando, said in a press release.

But the emergency workers don’t always recognize the signs, according to healthcare officials.

A study from the Family Violence Prevention Fund found that “28 percent of trafficking survivors said they came into contact with a healthcare provider during the trafficking situation, and were not recognized.”

“Medical treatment during an emergency may be one of the few opportunities that emergency medical personnel have a chance to help save a human trafficking victim,” said Bondi, who announced the plan to involve emergency personnel at a press conference in Orlando.

Continue reading "Bondi calls on emergency medical workers to help fight human trafficking" »

July 23, 2014

Movers and Shakers

Legislative director leaves

A longtime presence in state government, Darrick McGhee has left his job as director of legislative affairs for Gov. Rick Scott, and will be starting a new position as vice president of government relations for the lobbying firm, Johnson & Blanton, on Aug. 4th.

Darrick is “an outstanding human being, a really good guy,” said Travis Blanton. “He’s very knowledgeable of the (state) agencies because he’s worked in several and he’s very knowledgeable about how Florida government works.”

McGhee’s 17 months as director of legislative affairs included two legislative sessions. His other state posts included interim executive director, and also chief of staff, of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity; director of the Office of Legislative and Cabinet Affairs; and director of the Office of Governmental Relations among other positions.

A graduate of Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, McGhee is also an ordained minister and pastor of the Bible Based Church in Tallahassee.

New human trafficking council taking shape

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is among the four members appointed to the newly created Statewide Council on Human Trafficking by Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Bondi, who will chair the 15-member council, also appointed Martin County Sheriff William SnyderTerry Coonan, executive director of the Florida State University Center for the Advancement of Human Rights; and Dotti Groover-Skipper, chairwoman of the Community Campaign Against Human Trafficking.

The council’s purpose, said Jennifer Meale, communications director for the Attorney General’s office, is to “bring everyone to the table who may be able to assist in the effort to end human trafficking in the state and build on the state and local efforts that are already underway.”

Mike Carroll, interim secretary of the state Department of Children and Families, will serve as vice chairman. Also on the council: State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong; Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudek; Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey; Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Interim Secretary Christina Daly; and Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.

Other members to be announced will be a senator, appointed by Senate President Don Gaetz; one representative, appointed by House Speaker Will Weatherford; and two members appointed by Scott.

The council is expected to start meeting at the end of August.

Continue reading "Movers and Shakers" »

June 03, 2014

Bondi: I'm being taken out of context, harm equates to federal meddling

Bruised by an avalanche of negative press over her recent brief defending Florida's ban on gay marriage, Attorney General Pam Bondi released a new statement late Monday.

At issue is this sentence in the brief: "The Court should also deny the preliminary injunction motions because there is no likelihood of success on the merits, there is no immediacy requiring a preliminary injunction and disrupting Florida's existing marriage laws would impose significant public harm."

Not reading beyond the headline, many in the social media sphere have interpreted that to mean that Bondi believes that gay marriage would impose public harm. She says that she meant it would harmful to Florida's law, which she is charged to uphold.

Nowhere in her statement does Bondi say that perhaps her brief could have been better said, or more carefully worded. She says she is defending the law and any interpretation otherwise is an attempt to inflame. Her statement: 

Continue reading "Bondi: I'm being taken out of context, harm equates to federal meddling" »

May 30, 2014

Pam Bondi: Gay marriage would cause harm

From the Associated Press with additions:

The attorney general of Florida says in court documents that recognizing same sex marriages performed in other states would disrupt existing marriage laws and "impose significant public harm."

Eight gay couples and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state in federal court in March. The lawsuit argues Florida is discriminating against the couples by not recognizing same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican who was named in the lawsuit along with fellow GOP Gov. Rick Scott and other state officials, earlier this month filed a lengthy response that asks a federal judge to throw out the lawsuit for several reasons, saying a federal court shouldn't rule on a state's marriage laws.

Bondi's office also argues that the state has a legitimate interest in defining marriage as between a man and woman. Florida first banned same-sex marriages nearly two decades ago and voters reinforced that ban when they passed a constitutional amendment in 2008.

Continue reading "Pam Bondi: Gay marriage would cause harm" »

April 04, 2014

Attorney accuses Bondi of violating public records law

A Tallahassee attorney engaged in a bitter property fight with the state is accusing Attorney General Pam Bondi of destroying emails, failing to retain text messages and violating the state’s public records laws.

Bondi, the chief custodian of the state’s Sunshine law, has acknowledged some documents were inadvertently missing from the records request of Stephen R. Andrews, but her office vigorously rejects his claims.

“These allegations are without merit,’’ said Bondi spokesman Whitney Ray.

In court documents filed this week in Leon County Circuit Court, Andrews portrays a department that allows employees to manually delete emails before they are archived, relies on an outdated email archival system and allows metadata to routinely be destroyed.

He claims that in at least 19 instances, emails were destroyed and the attorney general's office failed to properly retain text messages after he filed a request for a document hold.

Continue reading "Attorney accuses Bondi of violating public records law" »

March 13, 2014

Proposal would limit Medicare coverage for some Florida drug testing

Attorney General Pam Bondi is fighting a plan that would limit Medicare coverage for some drug testing in Florida and could allow accidental deadly drug combinations.

The proposal, by the Jacksonville-based Medicare contractor First Coast Service Options, would restrict reimbursement for confirmatory tests, which are used to check the accuracy of drug screenings.

In a Tuesday letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Marilyn Tavenner, Bondi cited Florida’s “protracted battle against prescription and illicit drug use,” and said the new guidelines would “restrict access to one of the most critical tools for identifying drug abuse and misuse.”

“Our fear is if Medicare goes down this road, Medicaid will soon follow suit,” Bondi said.

Read more here.

March 06, 2014

Donald Trump, Giuliani fundraise for Atty. Gen. Pam Bondi in Palm Beach

@MarcACaputo

Picture 15Donald Trump and former NY Mayor Rudy Giuliani plan to attend a Friday, March 14 fundraiser for Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi at Trump's Mar-a-Lago mansion in Palm Beach.

Minimum contribution: $3,000.

The host committee represents a broad spectrum of political powerbrokers [Note to organizers: Mike Haridopolos is a FORMER Senate President, as noted below]:

Sebastian Aleksander, Brian Ballard, Mark Belissimo, Brad Bondi, Gaston Cantens, Capital City Consulting, Jorge Chamizo, Colodny, Fass, Talenfeld, Kalinsky, Abate & Webb, P.A., Dickstein Shapiro
Pepe Fanjul, Jr., Nat’l Committeeman Peter Feaman, Florida Chamber of Commerce Murray Goodman, [former] Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos, Finance Chairman Mike Hightower, Lori Kalani, Syd Kitson, GOP County Chair Anita Mitchell, Bernie Nash, Ambassador John Rood, Carol Stewart