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Florida Democrats Demand Action From Rick Scott on Homestead Facility

June 19th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The above photos were released by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in 2016.
They depict a facility in Homestead, Florida, which at the time housed hundreds of immigrant children.
The 1000 bed facility was shut down in 2017, but silently reopened earlier this year.
Democrats and faith leaders are blaming President Donald Trump’s “Zero Tolerance” policy on immigration.
“Children are being used as pawns. They’re being held as hostage for one to negotiate a deal,” said Pastor Lee Johnson with Trinity United Presbyterian Church.
Maria Rodriguez Migrated to the U.S. legally in 2000 from Columbia.
“My family was being persecuted by the FARC. The revolutionary armed forces in Columbia,” said Rodriguez.
While her journey was legal, she expressed extreme concern over the idea Florida is being used to detain immigrant children.
“How much lower can we go,” asked Rodriguez. “To what depths is this government going to go to try to prevent people from coming into the United States?”
Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is leading the call for Governor Scott to intervene anyway he can.
“Go and talk to his friend Donald Trump and ask him to stop this process in Florida,” said Cruz.  “We don’t need to be a part of this.”
Governor Scott announced early Tuesday evening that he had reached out to HHS, demanding and end to the mandatory separation of children and families.
He had three requests for the agency…
  • Will you notify federal, state and local authorities immediately of any current or future unaccompanied minors – or children who were separated from their families under President Trump’s zero-tolerance policy toward illegal entry into the United States – coming to, or placed in, Florida?
  • Are you conducting health screenings both at the border and again at the time the children are placed in shelters?
  • What health, educational, or other social services have been provided to any children placed in Florida?

Scott pointed the finger at Congress, saying decades of failed immigration policies had led to the current situation.

In order to help reunite children already separated, Scott offered assistance on behalf of the state and requested information on any potential measures the state could take to expedite the process.

Scott has no authority over the camp or its future, but he does have the President’s ear.
U.S. Senator Bill Nelson U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz attempted to tour the facility Tuesday morning, but were not cleared.
They’ll have to wait at least two weeks before they can enter.

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Rising Seas Could Affect 1/10 Florida Homes By 2100

June 19th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists suggest Florida is the most at risk state for sea level rise, with hundreds of thousands of homes worth billions of dollars potentially at risk in the next 90 years.
The report looked at flood models from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and data collected through the home listing company Zillow.
The report found NOAA’s prediction of 6 1/2 feet of sea level rise by the year 2100 would put 1 out of 10 Florida homes at risk of flooding on an almost daily basis.
Florida Conservation Voters say this study is yet another wake up call for lawmakers to take action, who have previously chosen to hit the snooze button.
Jonathan Webber with the group says less well off populations are at the highest risk.
“I think government at every level from the Governor’s Office down to city commission, local government needs to be thinking about the people who don’t have the means to leave,” said Webber. “The elderly, the paycheck to paycheck people, those who work in the service industry, which is as we know very popular here in Florida.”
The report suggested 93 percent of Florida’s at-risk homes could be saved by the end of the century if the world keeps fossil fuel emissions low.
The authors cited the standards in the Paris Climate Agreement as an example.

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Networks Pushing Tallahassee Crime Stories

June 19th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
For four years running, Tallahassee, the state Capitol has had a higher per-capita crime rate than any other city in the state.
This week, two high profile cases have drawn national attention.
Denise Williams along with her husband’s best friend Brian Winchester, who was her lover, is accused of conspiring to murder her husband, Mike Williams back in 2000.
The case unraveled two years ago when Winchester tried to kidnap her.
He has since confessed.
“And I ended up shooting him [Brian Williams],” said Winchester in a recording played in the courtroom.
Denise Williams was asking for bond, but it was denied.
The trial is set for September 26th.
“Of course we’ll be ready for this. We’ve been waiting for 17 years,” said Prosecutor Jon Fuchs.
In court Tuesday, was Sigfredo Garcia, a Miami man accused of stalking and murdering an FSU law professor for money.
His accomplice Luis Rivera, had already confessed and told police the motive was custody of the law professors two kids.
“And the lady wants her two kids back. She want full custody of the kids,” Rivera told police.
Police have asked for a warrant to arrest the professor’s mother-in-law.
They say she paid for the hit, but prosecutors say there isn’t enough evidence.
Two major newsmagazines are in town this week, shooting for soon to be aired stories.
Network news producer Jaime Hellman says it is unusual to have two such high profile cases in what many consider to be a sleepy southern town.
Both cases go to trial this fall.
The news magazine stories will air shortly thereafter.
Producers from both Dateline NBC and CBS’s 48 Hours declined to be interviewed on camera.
Both networks are covering both murder stories, as are other network magazines.

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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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