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All Trump All the Time

July 31st, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

Hours before President Donald Trump arrived in Tampa, the man he came to campaign for released a new ad showing he’s all in for the President.  Republican Gubernatorial hopeful Ron DeSantis is making sure voters know he’s for Trump and vice versa.

If you didn’t know that Ron DeSantis had been endorsed by Donald Trump, his latest ad shows he’s in with the President one hundred percent.

“He’s also an amazing dad” says wife Casey in the spot. “Ron loves playing with the kids.” DeSantis is then seem helping the child with building blocks saying “Build the  wall.” “He reads stories” says Casey. DeSantis, reading Trump’s book Art of the Deal says “Then Mr. Trump said, You’re Fired. I love that part.”

Political scientist Carol Weissert calls it…

“Very Clever. It’s funny, it’s cute. It’s gonna be tweeted and retweeted and watched a lot more than more substantive ads would be.”

Conventional Wisdom suggests that any candidates that goes as far right as DeSantis did in this spot hurt themselves in tNovember, but this might be the year conventional wisdom is thrown out the window.

“I don’t think he’s worried about the general election at this point” says Weissert.  “I think he’s worried about the primary and it’s going to help him in the Primary, I think.”

Also seen in the spot, DeSantis teaching his child to read by holding up a Trump sign and reading from it. “Make America great again.People Say Ron is all Trump, but he is so much more…to which DeSantis responds: “Big Lead…so good.”

Polling suggests that DeSantis has overcome Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s once commanding lead…due almost exclusively to the Presidents endorsement says Democrat Political Consultant Steve Vancore.

“There’s no doubt that the Trump bump is real and DeSantis got a lift from it. Now, with about fifteen to twenty percent undecided, the question will be who’s better for Florida.”

And as one political scientist put it, Democrats who think the President will be DeSantis’s downfall in November might be taking their cues from Hillary Clinton’s playbook.


While Governor Rick Scott was scheduled to appear with the President this afternoon, he has drastically curtailed both his appearances and praise for Donald Trump since the US Senate race began heating up. 

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Reproductive Coalition calls out “Fake Clinics”

July 31st, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

The coalition for Reproductive Rights today delivered fifty-five hundred signatures to the Governors Office. The coalition is calling on the state to enforce requirements in a new law granting funding to at least 105 counseling centers which the coalition is calling fake, because they appear to offer women seeking abortions support. But coalition spokesperson Amy Weintraub says the clinics often mislead women about their services.

“The fake clinics must provide services in a non coercive manner. They must not try to persuade women to do one thing over another. They may not include any religious content in service delivery. They must provide current and accurate information. 

The legislation also says the clinics must provide references for any medical statements, and conduct background screenings on staff and volunteers. The coalition says it wants the Department of Health to conduct frequent surprise visits to the clinics.   

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Yes on 13 Gets Cash Infusion

July 30th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda

The effort to ban Greyhound racing is getting a shot in the arm, thanks to a one point five million dollar contribution from famed actress Doris Day and her foundation to protect animals. But the amendment must first survive a legal challenge.

Florida TV viewers may soon be seeing a lot more of this “Yes on 13”spot and another one in development. 

“Every three days, a greyhound like this one dies on a race track in Florida” says the announcer.

Yes on 13, the effort to ban dog racing, is getting a one point five million dollar infusion of cash.

“They’re talking like they were very dear friends” said Doris Day in the 1956 a 1956 movie.

It’s coming from movie icon Doris Day’s animal foundation. 

Kate McFall with Yes on 13 calls the cash…“great news. We’re thrilled to have the support of Doris Day.”

Yes on 13 says the Foundation reached out to them. The group is making a one point eight million TV buy this fall.

“Floridians loves dogs and they deserve to be protected. We know once they realize what this is about…a phase out to protect dogs, we fell confident they’ll vote yes on 13” says McFall.

But first, Yes on 13 must survive a legal challenge. 

“The title, end all racing, is false” former Supreme Court Justice Major Harding told a court last Thursday.  Greyhound lawyers are asking the amendment be taken off the ballot.”

Greyhound supporters say Doris Day’s money would be better used saving animals already in a shelter.

Statewide statistics from the University of Flordia show that for every four animals that go into a shelter, fewer then 3 come out. Jack Cory represents the FL Greyhound Association.

“For a million five, we could have taken Flordia to a No Kill state. Saved over a hundred thousand animals a year, over three hundred today and every single day in the shelters throughout the state of Florida” say Cory.

Both sides say polling shows them winning. To pass, the amendment must get 60 percent of the vote. If it does, racing would be phased out in 2020.

The first decision on whether the ballot measure is misleading or not could come this week.

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Gillum Calls on Governor to Suspend Stand Your Ground

July 30th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda


Democratic Gubernatorial hopeful Andrew Gillum today called on the current governor to use is emergency powers to suspend the state’s Stand Your Ground law. The request comes after an emotional weekend in Tampa as it mourned the death of 28 year old Markeis McGlockton. The father of three was shot by a man who was arguing with McGlockton’s wife over a handicapped parking spot. The shooter was not charged.

Gillum says Governor Rick Scott could clarify the law, just as he has done under his emergency powers with beach access.

“I would argue that this case and the involvement of Stand Your Ground and how it is being asserted in the state of Florida is indeed an emergency” says Gillum. “It is particularly an emergency in communities of color.” 

Gillum also sited Governor Charlie Crist’s extension of early voting hours as an example of declaring a state of emergency that is not weather related. 

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Mail Ballot Requests Setting Record

July 26th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
A record number of voters are choosing to vote by mail this year.
Elections officials say 2.6 million mail ballots, accounting for about one fifth of registered Florida voters, will be sent out this week.
The total is up from the 2.3 million that went out for the Primary two years ago.
“Both parties have taken their likely voters and they’ve turned them into absentee or vote by mail voters because you want to make sure that you get those votes in,” said Andrew Wiggins with the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
In at least two counties the number is ever higher.
In Pinellas and Manatee 30% of all registered voters have asked to vote by mail.
The high number is due in part to the high voter turnout in 2016.
“People that were engaged in 2016 and went out and requested an absentee ballot, they’ll get it again this time if they selected the four-year cycle,” said Wiggins.
Mail in voting has been fraught with problems in the past.
In the 2016 election, it was commonplace for ballots to be thrown out because of a missing or mismatched signature.
“There were a number of ballots that were being rejected due to the lack of the match,” said Ron Labasky with the  Florida State Association of Elections Supervisors. “And believe it or not people would go to all the trouble to vote their ballot, put it in the secrecy envelope, put a stamp on it and forget to sign it.”
But the Legislature changed the law after losing a battle in federal court.
“We’ve corrected that methodology and I think that’s gonna increase the number of votes that we actually get to count.,” Labasky.
Now if there is a problem with a mail ballot, supervisors must notify you.
Then you can submit an affidavit to prove that it is indeed your signature.
To count, the affidavit must arrive back at the Supervisor of Elections before 5 pm on the day before the election.
You still have a few days left to register to vote in the primary.
July 30th is the cut off.
You can register online, in person at your local supervisor of elections office or through the mail.

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Candidate Says Ad Was Blocked Because of Facebook’s ‘Liberal Agenda’

July 25th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
A contender for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture is blasting Facebook after the social media site flagged one of his campaign ads.
Representative Matt Caldwell is staunch supporter of the NRA and the second amendment.
“And that’s all there is to it,” Caldwell in a recent ad he released for Florida Commissioner of Agriculture.
This advertisement was supposed to inform voters of Caldwell’s position, but soon after paying to promote the video on Facebook it was flagged and removed.
Facebook’s justification was that it promoted the sale of weapons or ammunition, but doesn’t do either of those things.
“We were being prevented from talking about a fairly straightforward American value,” said Caldwell.
In an e-mail sent to media outlets Caldwell said, “Facebook’s liberal agenda is keeping our campaign for Commissioner of Agriculture from sharing our message. Facebook has mislabeled our ad in an effort to censor our pro-Second Amendment support and endorsement from the NRA.”
Social Media Expert Ryan Cohn says he doubts the removal was politically motivated.
Flagging potentially controversial ads is standard practice at Facebook now-a-days.
“They’re trying to play it safe with anything that could potentially draw them into more criticism and controversy,” said Cohn.
Caldwell’s ad was approved by the end of the day.
He attributes the quick action on the issue to his campaign contacting the media.
“Everyday citizens they don’t have that opportunity and that distresses me whether we’re talking about this situation or any situation,” said Caldwell.
Cohn says Caldwell’s experience was fairly typical.
He says Facebook generally processes ad appeals within a few hours, regardless of the person who posted it.
Caldwell declined to say how much money was spent on the Facebook ad, saying only that the campaign would have expected a refund if the ad wasn’t allowed to run.

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New Poll Says Expected the Unexpected to Vote in November

July 25th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
A new poll by the Florida Chamber of Commerce suggest nearly one in three voters this election cycle won’t be your typical voters.
Restaurant owner Pam Buchanan is one of those voters who surprised pollsters two years ago.
She registered and cast her first vote ever for Donald Trump.
She’s still a staunch supporter.
“He is our President. I don’t care if you like him or not, you need to show that man some respect,” said Buchanan.
The new poll suggests 30% of the people who vote this cycle will be either new voters or those who vote infrequently.
Most will be motivated one way of the other by their perception of Donald Trump.
“The 30 percent are not your traditional voters,” said Andrew Wiggins with the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “The one’s who turned out in 16 who had not turned out before because of energy in the race. Was it a little bit Donald Trump? Yes. It was also a little bit of anti-Donald Trump.”
The Chamber says Trump was the major factor Tuesday in the Georgia GOP primary for Governor.
It was won by a gun-toting Brian Kemp
“Two things if you gonna date one of my daughters?” Respect. And? A healthy appreciation for the second amendment, sir,” Kemp said in a campaign advertisement.
“The sitting Secretary of State took out the sitting Lt. Governor based upon being being mobilized with the Trump endorsement,” said Wiggins.
Contrary to pollsters conventional wisdom, Pam Buchanan won’t be voting this election.
Her reason. Trump isn’t on the ballot
“ I don’t listen to it enough to make an opinion, so it would be wrong for me to vote,” said Buchanan.
A county map compiled by the chamber shows no party leading the new registrations in most of the counties with the GOP increasing the most in North Florida.
Democrats won the registration battle in only two counties.
704,439 voters have registered in Florida since the 2016 election.
The Chamber data also shows young people are registering to vote, but not at a pace much larger than they did two years ago.

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FDC Withdraws Proposed Rule to Cut Prison Visitation Hours

July 24th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Prison reform groups are celebrating a victory after a proposed rule to cut visitation hours in Florida prisons was withdrawn after extensive public outcry.
The Florida Department of Corrections had been trying to cut prison visitation hours since February.
The department was met with outrage from families of those behind bars.
“I have done nothing wrong, but be a mother,” said Jodi Chambers during a public hearing in May. “Let me be a mother to my son and let these people… Look at them! Every one of them wants what I want!”
The Legislature’s Joint Administrative Procedures Committee ordered FDC to start over because the rule process took longer than the 90 days allowed by law.
Lakey Love with the Campaign for Prison Reform says it’s major victory for families of inmates.
“Humans are family oriented people, which means that they will find a family if they’re not given access to their own family and what a family behind bars is, is a gang,” said Love.
The Department of Corrections denies the assertion that public testimony was responsible for the rule being withdrawn saying in a statement, “Public testimony did not delay the rule’s implementation. We welcome further comments as we move forward with implementing the new draft.”
Barney Bishop with the Florida Smart Justice Alliance says he believes the push to reduce visitation is a result of staffing shortages at FDC.
“Without having enough staff you can’t do these visitations and some of the other things they need to do on a basis that makes it safe,” said Bishop.
The FDC says it plans to re-submit the rule, but with election day less than four months away, prison reform advocates say it’s likely dead on arrival.
“Once November comes all of this will be out of play anyway because we’ll have a new governor and we can hold it over their head,” said Love.
The Campaign for Prison Reform says it’s currently working on Legislative initiatives to increase prison visitation hours.
The group hopes to announce their ideas next month.

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Jeff Greene Making Rounds in State Capitol as Poll Numbers Rise

July 24th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Billionaire Jeff Greene has been in the race to be the Democrat’s gubernatorial nominee for about six weeks.
It’s a blink of an eye in statewide politics, but his wealth has helped him become a contender in a very short period of time.
Greene made the rounds in the state Capitol Tuesday, meeting with the local paper’s editorial board and reporters.
A recent poll shows him in third place, but within striking distance.
“Money is part of it, but what we’re going to do is keep getting our message out. We’re going on a bus tour all over the state,” said Greene.
Greene is taking on the NRA.
A new mailer depicts school children as targets.
“A state with more guns than anywhere, and unfortunately, shootings left and right,” said Greene. “So I think the NRA is responsible and I’m putting them on notice that when I am Governor, I’m going to stand up to them.”
Greene is an avowed Trump opponent.
“I hope that that I will inspire others like me to get involved, open up their pocket books, and try to get our state and our country charted into a new direction,” said Greene.
Where Greene isn’t in lockstep with most other Democratic contenders is legalizing marijuana. At least not yet.
“I want to see in places where it has been made completely legal, recreational marijuana use, has consumption increased among young children, young kids under 18,” said Greene. “If it has, then we really have to think it’s not a good idea to legalize it. If it hasn’t, then I say absolutely. Legalize it. Tax it. Regulate it. End of story.
Green is also promising to use some of his $3 billion bankroll to help Democrats up and down the ticket, but first he has to get past four other democrats on August 28th.
So far, Greene has put $10.6 million into his own campaign.
His latest reports shows eight other individual contributors, none of which contributed more than $30.
Greene said previously he may spend up to $200 million.

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Virginia Pastor on Hunger Strike Protests in Tallahassee

July 23rd, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Virginia Pastor Ray Porter is on a mission and a hunger strike.
Porter took both to the steps of the state Capitol in Tallahassee Monday morning.
The pastor says it was his 53rd day without a solid meal.
His mission is to ban the AR-15 in America.
“We are on a mission to end the senseless murders in America with automatic assault weapons. This is a type AR-15 Assault weapon that need to be banned on the streets of America,” said Porter before sawing a plastic gun in half. “That’s what I think of those weapons.”
Porter is calling on Marco Rubio to take congressional action to ban the AR-15.
He says his next stop is Montgomery Alabama, but for now he says he’s going to spend the next few days at the state Capitol here in Florida.

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Florida Students Will Have to Report if They’ve Accessed Mental Health Services

July 23rd, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Following the Parkland school shooting the Legislature sprung into action.
In addition to increasing funding for mental health screening, part of a new law passed in the wake of the tragedy requires school districts to ask students to report if they’ve ever received mental health services.
The new reporting requirement is unique to Florida and has mental health advocates concerned.
Jane Johnson with the Florida Council for Community Mental Health says language in the law is vague, leaving many questions unanswered like what exactly needs to be reported.
“Some parents are afraid that putting that information on their child’s record could impede them from getting into college or enlisting in the military,” said Johnson. “I don’t think either of those things are true, but there’s a misunderstanding about what that information could do for a child.”
Another uncertainty  is how will the information be used.
“We don’t know what they want it so if we knew what the intent was it could help narrow down the types of information that need to be reported,” said Johnson.
The Department of Education hasn’t provided much guidance, saying in a statement, ““The department is committed to ensuring we provide school districts with the information necessary to keep students safe while they are at school. Decisions on how parents report their child’s mental health services are made at the local level.”
The department went on to explain, “As a general practice, areas of statute the FDOE does not have written approved guidance, or authority to provide guidance, we encourage districts to work with their school board attorneys.”
When we tried asking Education Commissioner Pam Stewart about the issue in person, she declined.
Some mental health advocates are raising concerns the requirement could lead to children being stigmatized.
“There is a stigma so people think it’s going to be looked down upon and kids could be judged. They don’t know who will have access to that information,” said Johnson.
While awaiting clarification, some districts say they will include a single box on registration forms indicating whether students have received services.
Mental health advocates say they hope to work with lawmakers in the 2019 Legislative session to clarify the law.

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Stand Your Ground Law Faces New Criticism After Parking Lot Shooting

July 23rd, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
In 2017, State lawmakers changed Stand Your Ground to require prosecutors prove someone didn’t fear for their life when asserting stand your ground instead of the other way around.
Now a deadly shooting in a Clearwater parking lot is renewing calls for the law’s repeal.
Shifting the burden of proof in stand your ground cases was supported by both defense attorney’s and public defenders.
“We want to make sure people accused of a crime have as many rights as possible,” said President of the Florida Criminal Defense Attorney Association, Richard Greenberg,
Greenberg likened the shooting by 47-year-old Michael Drejk to the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, calling Drejk a parking space vigilante.
Surveillance video shows Drejk getting pushed down.
Now prosecutors must decide if he really feared for his life.
“That’s as very subjective point. Whether the person himself, him or her self, feels that they are in a reasonably, imminent danger,” said Greenberg.
Since it’s inception, black Democrats have continually pushed to get rid of stand your ground.
They say the law affects their constituents more than anyone else’s.
Freshman State Representative Ramon Alexander voted no on changes to the law.
Now he’s calling for its total repeal.
“Stand Your Ground is a bad law, and Stand Your Ground needs to be repealed. Point blank and simple,” said Alexander.
Tallahassee based prosecutor Jack Campbell supports a person’s rights to defend themselves, but says the law has resulted in injustice.
“We’re having far too many shootings,  We’re having far too many people who are dying without any consequence at all,” said Campbell.
Prosecutors are meeting this week in South West Flordia.
Campbell says no one there is second guessing how this case will turn out.
The NRA declined to comment on this story.
Changing the burden of proof in stand your ground cases with the group’s number one priority in 2017.

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Banking for Marijuana Growers Could Get Easier

July 20th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Medical Marijuana is a cash cow.
One Florida license recently sold for $55 million dollars.
However, many in the business haven’t had a place to bank since First Green Bank, the only bank willing to handle their money, dropped all of it clients last December.
“This is a real public safety issue with all this cash, not just in Florida, all over the country, swirling around. People can’t pay their taxes, they’re paying everything, payroll in cash,” said Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association.
Because medical marijuana remains illegal under Federal law, most banks won’t do business with dispensaries
In the absence of First Green Bank, Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers have turned to alternative ways of doing business.
The most common is a closed loop system where patients use cash to load cards that are then used to purchase products.
“Without any options MMTC’s are trying their best to make it a safe and secure transaction point of sale,” said Sharkey.
MMTC’s are supposed to report all transactions with the federal government, but without backing from a bank it’s nearly impossible to do so.
Now a new company has its eyes on Florida’s budding industry.
Seattle-based GRN Funds is looking to fill the vacancy the First Green Bank left open.
“We’re providing traditional banking services. It’s a little bit different than what’s going on currently with the closed loop systems,” GRN Funds CEO Justin Costello.
GRN Funds operates in five states.
The company serves more than 300 accounts.
Costello says it would operate much like First Green Bank did, helping legitimize the industry.
“We’re trying to get the professional services around the industry to help the industry to assimilate into regular business,” said Costello.
GRN Funds says it plans to begin offering its services to Florida MMTC’s in the near future.

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State Approves $13.2 Million for Medical Marijuana

July 19th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Unhappy with the progress of the state Office of Medical Marijuana Use, state lawmakers agreed to spend an additional $13.2 million to cover unforeseen costs of implementing medical marijuana in the state.
More than half of the money will go towards processing applications for four new growers licenses.
Some questioned why the department didn’t anticipate the need earlier.
Representative  Janet Cruz attending by phone said it was on purpose.
“A blend of intentional ineptitude and simple sabotage,” said Cruz.
Some grudgingly approved the request, hoping the money would get the ball rolling.
“I want to see these dollars spent and I want to see this law put into effect,” said State Senator Rob Bradley.
Top brass at the Department of Health had their pay withheld beginning in July because they hadn’t issued four of ten new growers licenses that were supposed to be completed last Fall.
Three of those still haven’t been issued.
Lawmakers say they stand by their decision.
“I think that the department is moving at a quicker pace then perhaps they have in the past. We just want this done,” said Bradley.
While officials push to expand new licenses, roughly half of the current growers could be temporarily shut down.
They have to pass a health inspection for edibles, which they currently can’t produce or sell.
“It was in the law. So to their credit they’re complying with the law. I think these MMTC’s that are trying to get up and operational, you know it’s a complicated business and some of them missed it,” said Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association.
The rest of the $13.2 million will go towards implementing a universal tracking system for medical marijuana products and pay for the numerous lawsuits brought against the department.
With all the delays in implementing medical marijuana support for recreational use continues to grow.
Numerous polls suggest more than half of Florida voters would support full legalization.

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State Approves Funds to Beef Up Election Security

July 19th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Everyone of the state’s 67 elections supervisors met Wednesday’s deadline to apply for a share of $19 million for cyber security.
Thursday, state lawmakers approved the cash, but the big questions is how quickly they’ll get the money to spend.
Russian hackers tried at least a hundred times to breach Florida’s elections systems in 2016.
Lawmakers were told none were successful.
“And the Florida voter registration system was secure, is secure, and will remain secure,” said Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
A special panel of state lawmakers approved spending of $19 million from the federal government.
It will be used to beef up election year security.
The biggest worry supervisors have is having to rush to spend the money.
A use it or lose it string attached will require the money to be spent now, but time is running short.
“We’re taking about some, in many instances, some very complex equipment. Cyber security protections,” said Ron Labasky with the Florida State Elections Supervisors Association. “Those types of things. Not something you go down and pick off the shelf.”
The cash can’t go toward things already purchased.
The Secretary of State also says it can’t be spend on people, even though that’s how the state is using its $3.7 million share.
“I think it would be duplicative and I think they should use the resources we are making available to them,” said Detzner.
Every county will get as base of $50,000.
The remaining $12 million will be distributed according to an eight-year-old census of voting age people in each county.
Local supervisors will welcome the cash.
“But, I might have held some in reserve to see what happens this election cycle,” said Leon County  Elections Supervisor Mark Early.
One reason the state wants unspent money back is because they’ll need it to update security for the next election.
The State is using its share to hire five top level cyber security specialists.
Four are already on board and a fifth starts soon.

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