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.

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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.

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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: 

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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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