Thursday, August 2, 2018

State News in Review - July 2018

There's little to feel good about in July’s news about our state government. It's another reminder that it's important to stay informed so we can hold elected officials accountable at the ballot box.

Top stories


  • Gov. Scott declares state of emergency over algae bloom. The order allows the Department of Environmental Protection and the South Florida Water Management District to waive restrictions in order to help alleviate the water discharges that are causing the blooms. Sun-Sentinel, 7/9/18; News Release, 7/9/18
    • Related: How Florida's algae crisis is affecting tourism and other businesses. Naples Daily News, 7/14/18
  • Editorial kick: a disgraceful disenfranchising of the majority of Southwest Florida voters. Attorney Joseph P. Hoffman’s filing as a write-in candidate for State Attorney, 20th Circuit, prevents at least 438,500 registered voters from having a say in the Fox-Crowley primary. Naples Daily News, 7/20/18
    • Related: Editorial: Disenfranchising state attorney voters is shameful. Blame members of the  Florida Constitution Revision Commission, every member of the Lee and Collier legislative delegations, and just about all members of the Florida Legislature for that matter. Naples Daily News, 5/12/18

The “good news”


  • Florida lawmakers OK use of $19M federal grant for election security after hack attempts, a week after a federal indictment alleged Russian hackers targeted county offices before the 2016 presidential election. Associated Press via Naples Daily News, 7/20/18
  • Judge strikes down Florida's campus ban on early voting. In a scathing ruling, he called the ban put in place by Secretary of State Ken Detzner unconstitutional, saying it appeared to be done to stop younger voters from casting ballots. Tallahassee Democrat via Naples Daily News, 7/25/18
  • State fixes voter registration problem with simple updates. A problem that had activists worried about voter suppression was solved by informing users they had to enter personal information “EXACTLY” as it appears on their driver license. Politico Florida, 7/23/18
  • Army Corps pledges $500 million to fix Lake O's aging dike. State leaders have pressured the federal agency to fix the dike since a 2006 engineering report pronounced the massive earthen ring around Florida's largest lake "a grave and imminent danger to the people and environment of South Florida." Miami-Herald, 7/6/18
  • Army Corps approves reservoir to cut Lake Okeechobee discharges. The plan to build a reservoir south of Lake O can now be included in the federal Water Resources and Development Act, the list of water projects throughout the country to be done by the Corps. The federal government is to pay half the project’s $1.6 billion cost. News-Press, 7/11/18

Gun permit saga continues


  • Problems with concealed weapons permits in Putnam’s office were first discovered in 2012. Forty-eight Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services employees made mistakes while issuing concealed weapon permits and armed security guard or similar licenses. In all, two concealed weapons permits and one armed security guard license were revoked. Associated Press via Tampa Bay Times, 7/3/18
  • Ex-supervisor in Adam Putnam’s gun-license unit warned of ‘gross misconduct,’ sued and got $30,000 settlement. In a whistle-blower lawsuit, the former chief of the Bureau of License Issuance said she was threatened with retaliation for saying workers were deficient in processing licensing applications, and that her bosses told her she "worked for the NRA." Tampa Bay Times via Naples Daily News, 7/16/18
  • Auditors reviewing Putnam’s office over concealed carry background checks. It’s not clear when the audit will be finished, but the review was underway before news stories revealed problems in the office. Herald Tribune, 7/24/18

Education


  • Florida Board of Education adopts rules on scholarships for bullied students. After questioning by Board member Tom Grady of Naples, the Board was satisfied there are safeguards in place to prevent fraud. Tampa Bay Times, 7/18/18
    • Related: Commentary: Florida’s new school-voucher plan for bullying is a farce. Orlando Sentinel, 11/24/17
  • Rush job on school safety law causes mental-health conundrum for families, no help from state. A little-noticed provision requires that students – at the time of initial school registration — disclose if they’ve been referred for mental health services. Florida Phoenix, 7/20/18
  • Sides battle over 'high quality' schools requirement. The Florida Supreme Court agreed to hear a long-running case about whether the state has met its constitutional requirement to provide a “uniform, efficient, safe, secure and high quality” system of public schools. News Service of Florida, 7/23/18
  • Florida risks losing $1.1 billion in federal funds over ESSA spat. Since the law was passed in 2015, Florida has resisted complying with several of its new accountability requirements. Education Week, 7/23/18

Other state government news


  • Troubled SunPass vendor linked to Gov. Rick Scott. The company won the lucrative, seven-year contract with the help of one of Scott’s top supporters, despite allegations of favoritism and the company’s history of problems, records show. News-Press, 7/25/18
    • Related: Florida halts payments to company with $287 million contract to upgrade SunPass. Sun-Sentinel, 7/16/18
  • Florida Legislature keeps stomping on local laws. Twenty Florida mayors challenged a state law making local gun laws illegal. The state and several others – including AG Pam Bondi, Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam and CFO Jimmy Patronis – filed a motion to get the suit dismissed. Florida Phoenix, 7/17/18
  • Backing beachgoers: Gov. Rick Scott signs executive order to protect public's access. State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, sponsored the Senate version of the bill that caused widespread confusion about what is and isn't a public beach and left local governments scrambling. Naples Daily News, 7/13/18
    • Related: Commentary: Customary use beach bill widely misunderstood. By State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, via Naples Daily News, 4/9/18
  • Florida’s embattled director of medical marijuana steps down. He had been appointed in 2015 to lead what was then known as the Office of Compassionate Use, though his job application documented only 15 months of experience consulting on medical marijuana issues and his job was not publicly advertised. Miami-Herald, 7/27/18
    • Related: Legalized smokable medical pot won’t happen anytime soon in Florida, court rules. An appellate court refuses to allow smokable medical marijuana while a legal fight continues to play out. News Service of Florida via Tampa Bay Times, 7/5/18
  • State Supreme Court blocks Gov. Scott’s judicial appointment. At issue is whether Scott or the voters should fill a vacancy that occurred before the start of an election-qualifying period. News Service of Florida via TheLedger.com, 7/12/18

The governor’s race


  • DeSantis, Graham lead primaries for Florida governor in new Mason-Dixon poll. For Republicans: DeSantis - 41%, Putnam - 29%, undecided - 28%. For Democrats: Graham - 27%, Levine- 18%, Greene - 12%, Gillum -10%, King - 7%, undecided - 25%. Florida Today, 7/27/18
    • Related: RealClearPolitics - Florida governor raceshere.
  • Democrat Jeff Greene discloses finances as part of governor run. Greene, who has promised to spend “whatever it takes” to become Florida’s next governor, is worth about $3.3 billion. His fortune eclipses that of Gov. Rick Scott, worth $232 million, and President Donald Trump, worth $3.1 billion according to Forbes. Palm Beach Post, 7/3/18
  • Who does the Florida House Speaker support for governor? Depends which one you ask. Current Speaker Richard Corcoran endorsed Putnam. Incoming Speaker Jose Oliva, a close ally of Corcoran's in the House on nearly every policy issue, endorsed DeSantis. Tampa Bay Times. 7/2/18

By this time next month, we’ll have the outcome of the August primaries. Stay tuned.

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