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DOH Still Holding Out on New Grow Licenses

June 18th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The State Department of Health continues to delay the issuance of four new medical marijuana growers licenses required by law when the number of patients hits 100,000.
Every Friday, the Department of Health releases an update on medical marijuana statistics.
Two numbers updated each week are the number of patients in the registry and the number of approved ID Card applications.
On Friday the number of cards issued broke 100,000, which many believed meant four new growers licenses would become available.
“I think there’s a lot of folks out there, patients included who are waiting for that threshold trigger to happen so that we can have more competition, more product in the marketplace,” said Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association.
However, the Department says the number includes card renewals and says some previous card holding patients may no longer be active, arguing the threshold for new licenses has not been reached.
This is the second time there’s been confusion over the new licenses.
In April the number of patients in the registry broke 100,000, but the department said, not all of the patients had cards so it didn’t count.
Four out of five Democratic candidates for Governor have criticized the department for it’s job of rolling out medical marijuana in the state.
“We need to fully implement medical marijuana and get that available for the people of Florida,” Candidate Gwen Graham said in an interview Friday.
Advocates say the lack of competition in the market place is hurting patients.
“We need to expand the number of medicine makers so that our patients have easier access,” said Josephine Cannella-Krehl with Cannabis Therapeutics.
Advocates are calling on the Department of Health to start including the true number of patients in its weekly report so everyone can be on the same page and prepared for when the new licenses do in fact become available.
The Department of Health issued this statement regarding the new licenses, “The department fully expects that, once we have the ability to accept new MMTC license applications, that four new licenses will be available.”

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Gillum Qualifies for Governor’s Race

June 18th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Monday afternoon, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum became the third Democrat to officially qualify for Governor.
Gillum filed the paperwork at the State Division of Elections with his wife and children at his side.
Gillum is running the most progressive campaign.
He says the campaign is about every child in Florida.
“For all of the kids of the state who deserve to grow up in a state where they can go to school and their parents can be relatively sure they are going to come home safe and alive,” said Gillum. “What we pay our teachers what they are worth, where we’re not testing our kids to death, but, um, teaching them and inspiring them for the futures they want to lead.”
Gillum joins Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levin, who qualified Monday morning and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who dropped off her paperwork on Friday.

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Levine Qualifies for Governor’s Race

June 18th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Noon Monday marked the beginning of the official qualifying period for state and local offices in Florida.
A smiling Former Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine arrived at the State Division of Elections just after 9 am on the first day of qualifying.
Right now, Levine is the frontrunner in the Democratic race for Governor.
He’s spent upwards of $6 million of his own cash on TV.
Billionaire Jeff Greene has also said he will run, but Levine was mum on what Greene’s entry into the race could mean.
“We never really talk about my opponents , if you’ve noticed. We just talk about our campaign and what we are doing,” said Levine.
We asked if that meant no negative campaigning.
“Well you know what. We really don’t attack anybody or talk about anybody,” said Levine. “We just don’t do it. We’ve just got so much to talk about about with our own candidacy.”
Across town, the former Mayor greeted supporters as he opened a campaign office blocks from the Capitol.
“I’m not running for Governor to do small things. I’m running for Governor to do big things, and to change our state,” Levine told the crowd.
Offices in Tallahassee, Panama City, Pensacola, and soon to be Jacksonville suggest Levine is not writing off the Panhandle.
Candidates have until noon Friday to get everything in order.
After that, if they haven’t qualified, they are out of luck.
Levine’s financial disclosure was not immediately available, but his net worth is said to be north of $100 million.
He says if elected, he will create a blind trust to avoid any conflicts with state business.
“I think that when you become governor, your number one priority needs to be Governor, every single day, twenty-four- seven,” said Levine.
The Primary takes place in just 70 days.
Monday afternoon, the lowest polling Democrat in the race, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum qualified.
Two unknown Republicans, an NPA and a Reform Party candidate all submitted their paperwork by mail and paid qualifying fees to run for Governor

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Off to the Races

June 16th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Qualifying for Governor and other state and local offices begins Monday at noon, but at least one Gubernatorial candidate got a jump on the field, dropping her paperwork off Friday.
Gubernatorial hopeful Gwen Graham was greeted by about forty supporters outside the State Division of Elections.
Graham came to personally file her paperwork to put her name on the ballot in the Democratic Primary for Governor. 
Qualifying doesn’t begin for another 3 days, but she wasn’t taking any chances. 
State law allows the division to accept the paperwork up to two weeks in advance.
Graham-paid the $5,200 fee, which is equal to 5% of the governor’s salary, then spoke to reporters.
“It’s not going to be the special interests. It’s not going to be the lobbyists,” said Graham. “The people of Florida are going to be in charge of Florida again when I am the next Governor.”
She’s a moderate who angered some constituents when she was in Congress because she didn’t always vote along party lines.
Graham is the only Democrat so far to say she isn’t in favor of recreational marijuana.

“I think its so important that you firmly implement the will of the people in the area of medical cannabis. Then we can move forward,” said Graham.

Candidates don’t have to show up. 
They can submit the paperwork, but as Graham proved, when they do show up, people take notice.
There is also a certainty of making sure the paperwork gets filed. 
In 2002 a Fed Ex plane on the way to Tallahassee on the last day of qualifying crashed with paperwork from at least seven candidates. 
After that plane crash, the Governor ordered qualifying extended for a day and a half. 
We won’t know until Monday which other candidates have taken advantage of the early filing.

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Judge Sides With Environmentalists on Land Acquisition Trust Fund Spending

June 15th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
A circuit court judge says the Florida Legislature ignored the will of voters when the approved Amendment 1 in 2014.
After a three year battle, environmentalists scored their first major victory in the fight over environmental spending.
Circuit Court Judge Charles Dodson ruled the Legislature failed to follow the will of voters and improperly fund environmental protection programs.
“I think this sends a very clear message to the Legislature that they have to take voters seriously,” said Aliki Moncrief with Florida Conservation Voters. “They have to honor the will of the voters in their actions as lawmakers.”
The Land Acquisition Trust Fund was established by voters in 2014 when 75%  approved Amendment 1.
It’s purpose was to use a portion  of the tax from real estate transactions to preserve the environment.
“The main driving force here in promoting this amendment was to acquire land,” said Joseph Little, an Attorney representing environmental groups.
When the Legislature implemented the amendment it allowed the money in the trust fund to go towards salaries and ordinary expenses for state agencies, leaving almost nothing to actually purchase new lands.
The new ruling says the state can only use the money in the fund to purchase and maintain new lands.
Environmentalists say the ruling is the first step in ensuring voters get what they asked for back in 2014.
“When people amend the constitution, the courts will say it counts. So this is a big day for the people of Florida,” said another attorney representing environmentalists, David Guest.
The one question not addressed in the courtroom, is what will be done about the funds that have already been improperly spent for the past three years.
The state will likely appeal the ruling, sending the case to the 1st District Court of Appeals, but a final decision may well have to come from the State Supreme Court.

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Democrats Pushing Medicaid Expansion as Key Issue in 2018 Election

June 14th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Democrats are pushing Medicaid expansion as one of key issues in the 2018 election.
They say Governor Rick Scott’s decision not to accept Federal money to expand the program has hurt Florida’s poor and left the state less healthy.
In 2013 Governor Rick Scott said he was in favor of accepting federal dollars to expand Medicaid in the state under the Affordable care act, but in the end, he sided with the Florida Legislature’s rejection of the Federal aid.
“It’s according to whether it’s an election year or not as to what he has to say,” said Barbara DeVane with the National Organization for Women.
A recent report by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed Floridians without health insurance in 2017 had risen to 20%.
That means one out of five in state state aren’t covered.
“There’s a huge number of people out there who would have benefited from access and coverage under the Medicaid program,” said Karen Woodall with the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy.
A 2015 Senate proposal and opposed by Governor Scott would have provided coverage for about 800,000 of the state’s working poor.
Democrats say the lack of coverage is making Florida a sicker state.
The Commonwealth Fund ranked Florida 47th in the nation based on a study of 43 health care metrics.
Florida has also joined a multi-state lawsuit aimed at repealing certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act, including some protections for patients with pre-existing conditions.
Scott told reporters Wednesday, “If you have a pre-existing condition you need to still be able to get healthcare.”
He stopped short of denouncing the suit.
“He’s trying to have it both ways,” said Woodall. “You can’t say I believe that people with pre-existing conditions should not be denied and then support a lawsuit that will undo that.”
Democrats have launched what they call, “The Time is Now: Medicaid Expansion Tour”.
The campaign will travel the state highlighting Scott’s flip flop on Medicaid Expansion.

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Clemency Delays, A Federal Appeal and a Pending Amendment

June 14th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Florida’s Clemency process has a July date in Federal court to justify the absence of standards it uses in denying or restoring civil rights.
Convicted felons come from across Florida to pour their hearts out.
“I had a very troubled young life,” said Arthur Rosenthal, who traveled three hours from Jacksonville Florida to appear before the board.
They plea, even beg.
“How long does he have to be punished for the stupid things that he did as a very young man,” Delores Hawthorne who came from Tavares Florida.
More often than not the answer is a denial.
Ladetra Johnson traveled 300 miles to be here.
She walked away with her voting rights, but the process took years.
“It was sort of discouraging because I didn’t think it wold take that long,” said Johnson.
Tallahassee native Rick McElroy waited almost 20 years to be able to vote again, he says he plans to vote for automatic restoration come November.
There are at least ten thousand people waiting for their day before the Executive Clemency Board. On this quarter’s agenda, 101 cases.
Earlier this year a Federal judge ruled the process unconstitutional. An appeal will be heard next month.
Afterwards, Attorney General Pam Bondi, who helped orchestrate a more conservative approach seven years ago, said looking people in the eye is important.
“If these people go out and we give them a gun and they kill somebody, who does it come back on…all of us,” said Bondi. “The violent crimes and the public. And its our job to look out for victims.”
No matter what happens during the Federal appeal next month the stage is set for a November vote on whether the process should be automatic once someone has done their time.
The felons’ rights amendment needs a sixty percent vote to replace the current system.
Earlier this week a Florida Chamber poll showed it with 40% support.

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Which Candidates for Governor Support Legalizing Marijuana?

June 13th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
At the federal level, President trump has said he will likely support efforts to remove a federal prohibition on marijuana, and here in Florida.
Legalizing recreational marijuana is becoming a central issue in the Democratic Primary for Governor.
Three of the five Democrats running for Governor favor legalizing recreational marijuana.
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum was the first to propose the idea.
“We begin by legalizing and we take those proceeds and we invest it in paying teachers,” Gillum told us last week.
Front runner Phil Levine staked out his pro legalization policy in a video last week.
“All growth and distribution will be highly regulated. All says to anyone under 21 will be banned,” said Levine.
And Orlando Businessman Chris King is also on board.
“If you are black, you are six times more likely to be arrested for the use of marijuana than if you are white,” said King.
Gwen Graham has stopped short of full legalization.
She would decriminalize its use.
“Anytime there is an opportunity to alleviate pain, I’m a mom, I want to do that,” said during the Democratic debate Saturday night.
Billionaire Jeff Greene, who got in the race last week and says he’ll spend whatever it takes to sit in this office, has yet to weigh in on pot.
On the GOP side, front runner Adam Putnam wants to fully implement medical pot, but draws the line at legalization.
“I do not support recreational, the legalization of recreational marijuana in Florida,” said Putnam. “I don’t think its a good idea as a dad. I don’t think its a good idea as an employer, I don’t think it’s the right thing for Florida.”
But whether for or against legalization, pot is going to be a topic of the coming election.
 
We did reach out to GOP Gubernatorial candidate Congressman Ron DeSantis, asking for his position on legalization.
We have not yet heard back, but DeSantis is supported by President Trump, who last Friday said he would likely not oppose ending the federal ban on marijuana.

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FSU Softball Team Recognized by Governor and Cabinet

June 13th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The FSU women’s softball team was recognized by the Governor and Cabinet Wednesday morning for winning the Women’s College World Series.
The team defeated Washington earlier this month for the title of national champions.
It was the team’s first World Series in its 10th trip to the WCWS.
The team, lead by Coach Lonni Alameda was able to pull off the victory, despite having a rough start to the season.
“What I really love about our team is they really engaged in the moment and they had fun in the moment. So they understood that the process of the game can be so enjoyable if you love your teammates and you love what you’re doing it for and you’re not worried about the outcome so much,” said Alameda. “That really showed up at the World Series and I was proud of them for that because they’ll have those moments forever.”
Alameda says one of the biggest victories coming out of the team’s win is the renewed interest in the sport of softball and the new fans gained.

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Florida Cabinet Honors FSU Baseball Coach

June 13th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Long-time FSU Baseball coach Mike Martin was honored by the Governor and Cabinet Wednesday morning for securing the most wins in NCAA history.
Martin broke the previous record, set in 1948, back in May when he scored his 1,976th victory.
Since breaking the record, the FSU alumni has secured eleven more victories, making the new record to beat 1,987 games.
Martin says he couldn’t have done it with out the rest of his FSU family.
“It’s not that one coach doesn’t care about other sports,” said Martin. “They all care about each other and that’s what makes our job so much fun when we go to work everyday, because we know that our peers care if we have success.”
Coach Martin’s future at FSU is uncertain.
He said he’s be discussing what comes next with FSU leadership later Wednesday afternoon.

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Linemen Honored by the Governor and Cabinet

June 13th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
27 Florida lineworkers were given special recognition this morning by the Governor and Cabinet for their performance in two recent lineworker competitions.
They represented the best of 130 lineworkers who competed in the Florida Municipal Electric Association’s 18th annual Florida Lineman Competition.
Some of those honored also participated in the 17th annual National Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo, where Florida took home awards in every event category except one.
“Governor it’s my honor to recognize our Florida public power lineworkers. The men and women who get it done every day,” said Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. “Who work tirelessly in all kinds of conditions to help ensure the reliable delivery of electricity and the recovery after a disaster all over our state and frankly places all over the country and through the Caribbean.”
Florida is home to 34 public power companies, which employ about 5,400 lineworkers.

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Putnam Says Public Was Not At Risk from Concealed Carry Permitting Errors

June 13th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam went face to face with the Capitol Press Corps. for the first time this afternoon following reports his agency failed to conduct background checks on concealed carry applicants.
Initial reports suggested the Department of Agriculture failed to conduct any background checks for an entire year.
The report was wrong.
Just 365 applicants weren’t properly vetted after they were flagged for further review because of the failure of an employee.
“It was a serious enough issue without being exaggerated,” said Putnam. “The fact of the matter is that of the 350,000 applications that came in over that period of time, all received a background check. 365 were not acted upon as they should have and that’s why the employee is no longer with the agency.”
291 of those applicants had their permits revoked once the problem was recognized.
Putnam says there was no threat to the public, noting the department would have been alerted if any of those applicants had committed a crime after incorrectly being granted a license.
“We have done that. We know that there were no flags on the 291,” said Putnam. “We have not received information on any of the 291 having been arrested.”
Putnam also added, the individuals improperly awarded licenses wouldn’t have been able to legally purchase a gun in the state, as they would have still been subject to further background checks at the point of purchase.

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Florida Coconut Founder Wins Governor’s Young Entrepreneur Award

June 13th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Alex Hill, a 26-year-old army combat veteran turned entrepreneur was awarded the Governor’s Young Entrepreneur Award this morning.
Hill, a Pensacola native and University of West Florida student started his company, Florida Coconuts when he returned from his service in Afghanistan.
“While on vacation Alex noticed that visitors and beach goers loved their fresh coconut water directly from fresh coconuts and decided to bring that idea to gulf breeze. Alex started Florida Coconuts and now sells coconuts all along the gulf beaches,” said Governor Rick Scott. “I’m proud to present Alex with the young entrepreneur award today for his hard work and innovation.”
Hill’s company has expanded to also sell other tropical plants well as coconut themed decor.
You can check out his business at florida-coconuts.com.

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Vigil For Pulse Victims Held at State Capitol

June 12th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
More than 100 people gathered on the state Capitol steps this evening to honor the 49 individuals who lost their lives in the Pulse Night Club shooting on this day two years ago.
Speakers read the names of the deceased aloud and joined in song, with lyrics that spoke to the struggles of marginalized people.
It’s a struggle those in attendance say still persists for members of the LGBTQ community.
There are still no statewide protections for housing or employment in Florida.
“You know, Pulse broke a lot of people and what I’ve been sharing with people all day long is we’re like this Crayola box of crayons that were created and designed to color the fabric of humanity,” said Reverend Joseph Parramore with the group Faith in Public Life. “And we represent that fabric of humanity tonight. We represent that 49. And even though in our brokenness, we can still color.”
LGBTQ activists point at three shootings in Jacksonville that targeted trans-women as a recent example of the hostility that continues to persist towards the Pride community.

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Activists Remember Victims and Demand Change On Two Year Anniversary of Pulse

June 12th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
It’s been two years since 49 people died in Florida’s worst mass shooting at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando.
The dead will be remembered Tuesday night in Orlando and at the State Capitol.
“It’s solemn, but it’s also one of the things we’ve learned from Pulse and from other years is that our community comes together when you hurt one of us,” said Lakey Love with Equality Florida.
One point of the memorials is to combat discrimination.
Immediately following the tragedy blood banks had to turn away donors, but after the initial out pouring of support activists say little has changed when it comes to discrimination the LBGTQ community continues to face.
“We lack civil rights in a lot of areas like employment and housing,” said Love.
In recent months three trans-women in Jacksonville have been shot, two of which were killed, but the crimes can’t be considered hate crimes, because Florida doesn’t grant those protections for gender identity.
“The police will dead name you, call you a man over and over and over again. We’ve seen this in Jacksonville. That’s not right,” said Cea Moline, a trans student and LGBTQ activist at FSU.
“It’s time for our community not only to be recognized, but also to be defended by law enforcement and by state agencies,” said Love.
Organizers say the vigil held at the Capitol Tuesday will not only honor those lost at Pulse, but also those who lost their lives in the recent murders in Jacksonville.
On Monday, Governor Rick Scott proclaimed June 12th Pulse Remembrance Day.
Flags are to be flown at half staff and a statewide moment of silence held at 9 am this year, and for years to come.
While Governor’s proclamation seems to be too little too late for many in the community, LGBTQ activists say they’ll be voicing their anger at the ballot box, come November.

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