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.

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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Andrews portrays a department that allows employees to manually delete emails before they are archived, relies on an outdated email archival system and allows metadata to routinely be destroyed.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.

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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

February 10, 2014

Scott laps Crist four times in January fundraising

@TBTia

Gov. Rick Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” committee raised $3.4 million in January, but, for the first time, he got an additional boost from his own campaign account, according to finance reports due Monday.

Scott reported raising $734,036 in January, giving his candidacy a combined $4.1 million for the month. It’s the first month his personal campaign account raised money and it’s four times what his rival, Charlie Crist, managed to raise.

Crist raised $636,800 through his "Charlie Crist for Florida" committee. Combined with the $374,767 his own campaign raised, Crist brought in $1,011,567.

Lagging behind Scott is hardly good news for Crist, considering that Scott has already raised $32,262,936 through January, while Crist, who announced his run in November, has raised a total of $5,048,031.

But at least Crist is slow to spend what he’s got, blowing through only $380,237 of his total through January. But Scott has been miserly as well, spending about $519,569.

Attorney General Pam Bondi continued to outpace her three rivals, raising $10,000 in her "And Justice for All" committee and another $178,000 from her "Justice for All committee". Of course, you already read that in this blog post.

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February 04, 2014

Bondi, legislators call for passage of "Aaron Cohen Act" to crack down on hit-and-run drivers

Attorney General Pam Bondi, legislators and law enforcement leaders are joining the widow of a Miami cyclist killed in a 2012 hit-and-run crash on the Rickenbacker Causeway in her campaign to crack down on hit-and-run drivers.

At a press conference Tuesday, Patty Cohen said she has been pursuing a change in the law, which now gives drunk drivers an incentive to leave the scene of a hit-and-run, since her husband Aaron was struck by a motorist on the Causeway’s William Powell Bridge on Feb. 15, 2012.

The proposal, known as the “Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act,” aims to eliminate that incentive.

Under current Florida law, drunk drivers who kill someone receive a minimum mandatory sentence of four years in prison. But those who leave the scene to avoid being caught drinking face less stringent penalties, said Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Coral Gables, sponsor of SB 102.

“It is a growing epidemic,” said Diaz de la Portilla, who was flanked by a nonpartisan group of legislators as well as a cadre of uniformed officers and representatives of police and sheriff’s associations at the press conference.

Florida motorists were involved in 69,994 hit-and-run crashes in 2012, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Of that total, 168 were fatal -- roughly three people a week. And most were pedestrians.

“No family should have to suffer like ours has,” said Cohen, whose daughter Lily was 3 ½ and her son, Aiden 9 months, when her 36-year-old husband was killed. He had been riding with cycling partner Enda Walsh, who was injured, when they were hit by Michele Traverso, who fled the scene. 

“He kept driving,” Cohen said. “He ran, he hid his car, he never even stopped, he never even called 911.”

 

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January 29, 2014

Bondi fundraising draws fire from Democratic challengers

@mikevansickler

Do we have a real race for Attorney General?

It’s early, but according to a Jan. 16-24 Public Policy Voting survey of 591 voters, Attorney General Pam Bondi is running 37 percent to 34 percent against George Sheldon, and 37 percent to 35 percent against Perry Thurston.

Despite those numbers, Bondi has one insurmountable edge: a huge and largely untapped campaign warchest of about $2 million. Sheldon, a former secretary for the Florida Department of Children and Families, and Thurston, who is House Minority Leader, D-Fort Lauderdale, have raised a mere fraction of that, some of which will be diverted in the contest for the Democratic nomination between the two of them.

But during Wednesday’s annual AP Legislative Planning Session in Tallahassee before editors and reporters, Sheldon and Thurston attacked Bondi's strength by strongly criticizing her campaign fundraising.

In answering a question about what he would do different than Bondi, Sheldon said he would focus his attention on white collar crime.

“I’m very concerned, for instance, about the open investigation on a cyber university involving Donald Trump and that investigation kind of evaporated after a $25,000 contribution was made,” Sheldon said. “We have to be very careful not to adopt a pay-for-play mindset. If you open an investigation, I think an attorney general should not accept any contributions from that company even if you close it with no findings because it taints the appearance of the action the attorney general takes.”

 

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Bondi says she'll intervene in gay marriage lawsuit, if asked

Attorney General Pam Bondi said Wednesday that she is prepared to enter into one of the most divisive issues of the election year by joining in opposing a lawsuit that is asking a judge to throw out the state's ban on gay marriage. 

"If I am asked, yes (she will intervene) because it is my obligation as attorney general,'' she told reporters at the annual Associated Press Legislative Planning Summit in Tallahassee. "This is a constitutional amendment that voters passed by 60-something percent. My job is to defend that."

Six same-sex couples last week sued the Miami Dade County clerk of court seeking the right to marry, saying the 2008 ban violates their right to equal rights under the law. Voters amended the state Constitution by a vote of 62 percent to ban gay marriage and reject the recognition of legal same-sex marriages performed in other states. 

She compared it to opposing the proposed constitutional amendment on medical marijuana. If it were to become law, she said, "I have said I'll not vote for it but I'll defend it as attorney general,'' she said. 

Although Bondi campaigned on the promise that she would "vigorously defend Florida’s law banning gay adoption in our state,'' she did not revive the issue after she was elected since the state had lost its lawsuit attempting to stop gay couples from adopting children. The policy had been vigorously fought by her predecessor Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum and the time period on appeal expired before Bondi took office, her office said.

"Gay adoption is fully legal in Florida,'' she said. 

If Bondi joins the lawsuit, she would enter into one of the most polarizing issues of this election season. A March 2013 survey by Public Policy Polling found 75 percent of Florida voters favor allowing gay people either to marry (38 percent) or to have civil unions (37 percent).

Gov. Rick Scott has indicated he supports the gay-marriage ban. Democratic challenger and former state Sen. Nan Rich repeated her support for gay marriage at the reporters forum on Wednesday.

And Democrat Charlie Crist — who as the Republican governor in 2008 supported the ban — now sides with Rich and wants the constitutional amendment repealed.

"No one would want to be told they can’t marry the person they love. It’s an issue of fairness and I’m proud to support it," Crist said in a statement issued after the suit was announced.

 

January 08, 2014

Scott brushes off Castor, defends DEO, and laments flood insurance

Gov. Rick Scott visited Brandon Honda on East Adamo Drive on Wednesday to talk about his plan to cut auto registration fees by $401 million

He's planning to cut a total of $500 million in next year's budget, but he told reporters that he doesn't quite know where he'll find that additional $100 million. 

"My budget comes out at the end of the month," Scott said. "We'll have it done in the next few weeks."

Scott gave reporters some spirited answers to their subsequent questions, including an icy retort to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor. When asked by Creative Loafing's Mitch Perry about what he thought about Castor calling Florida's new $63-million website a "disaster" and a "debacle", Scott said Castor should be focused on her job in Washington.

"Well, first thing I think is that I think Kathy Castor should focus on some of the federal issues that they have," Scott said. "Let’s think about some of them. They raised the flood insurance on so many of our Florida families, we’ve got the 300,000 families who were told they were going to lose their insurance at the end of last year, so maybe she could focus on some of those issues."

 

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December 16, 2013

Movers & Shakers

Longtime legislative analyst retiring from Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee

Carol Preston will be retiring after a long career with the legislature at the end of the year. Preston, the chief legislative analyst for the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, served for five years in the Senate and 14 years in the House.

Praising Preston at a Dec. 10th meeting of the Senate Committee on Children, Families and Elder Affairs, Sen. Nancy Detert, said the analyst “personally wrote most of the laws that we’re dealing with and fixed the ones that needed fixing.

“I know I couldn’t do my work on this committee without Carol Preston,” said Detert, R-Venice. "Just want her to know how grateful I am for her and always will be for her wonderful work. I think what people want to know at the end of their work career is ‘Did your life matter?’ And Carol Preston’s life certainly mattered to all of us.”

The committee also announced the addition of two new staffers. Peggy Sanford, who was an attorney with the Department of Children & Families, will be replacing Preston as the new chief legislative analyst. Barbara Crosier, an attorney who was the director of the Division of State Group Health Insurance at the Department of Management Services, is replacing Ashley Daniell as chief attorney. Daniell left the Senate for the private sector.

New communications director for Sen. Bean

Meghan Tarsitano is the new communications director for Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach. Tarsitano previously worked for U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw's re-election campaign.

Governor appointees

Elena Spottswood, a Key West community activist, has been appointed by Attorney General Pam Bondi to the Florida Commission on the Status of Women.

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