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Associated Press

State begins process of issuing medical marijuana ID cards

Florida health officials who oversee the medical marijuana program have started processing identification card applications for patients and caregivers.

The cards, which are issued through the Office of Compassionate Use, are part of regulations passed by the Florida Legislature last year. Department of Health spokeswoman Mara Gambinieri says the rule became effective Feb. 19.

To apply for a card, a patient must be a Florida resident and qualify to receive medical marijuana. Current conditions covered are cancer, epilepsy, chronic seizures and chronic muscle spasms, along with patients with terminal conditions.

Amendment 2, which was passed last year, expands the conditions to HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder, ALS, Crohn’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis or other similar conditions.

 Gambinieri adds the department is in the process of updating their website to accept applications electronically.
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Rick Scott joining with other governors in D.C.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is joining with the nation’s governors who are scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Scott is leaving Thursday for Washington D.C. where he will attend events connected to the winter meetings of the National Governors Association and the Republican Governors Association. Reports indicate Scott is the favorite to become Vice Chair of the Republican Governors Association, putting him in line to the lead the organization in 2018.

This includes a Friday luncheon with Pence and a visit to the White House on Sunday.

Scott is also scheduled to take part in the “State Solutions Conference” hosted Friday by POLITICO.

The GOP governor, who constantly criticized former President Barack Obama, is friends with Trump and backed his bid for president right after he won Florida’s presidential primary.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Jeff Sessions: U.S. to continue use of privately run prisons

Attorney General Jeff Sessions signaled Thursday his strong support for the federal government’s continued use of private prisons, reversing an Obama administration directive to phase out their use. Stocks of major private prison companies rose at the news.

Sessions issued a memo replacing one issued last August by Sally Yates, the deputy attorney general at the time. That memo directed the federal Bureau of Prisons to begin reducing and ultimately end its reliance on privately run prisons.

It followed a Justice Department audit that said private facilities have more safety and security problems than government-run ones. Yates, in her announcement, said they were less necessary given declines in the overall federal prison population.

But Sessions, in his memo, said Yates’ directive went against longstanding Justice Department policy and practice and “impaired the Bureau’s ability to meet the future needs of the federal correctional system.” He said he was directing the BOP to “return to its previous approach.”

The federal prison population — now just under 190,000 — has been dropping due in part to changes in federal sentencing policies over the past three years. Private prisons hold about 22,100 of these inmates, or 12 percent of the total population, the Justice Department has said.

The federal government started to rely on private prisons in the late 1990s because of overcrowding. Many of the federal prison inmates in private facilities are foreign nationals who are being held on immigration offenses. The Yates policy did not extend to prisons used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which hold tens of thousands of immigrants awaiting deportation.

Immigration and human rights advocates have long complained about conditions in privately run prisons. An inspector general audit from last August said problems at private prisons in recent years included property damage, injuries and the death of a corrections officer.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Rick Scott to court: Throw out Richard Corcoran’s Lottery lawsuit

Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration is asking a judge to throw out a lawsuit filed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

A Leon County circuit judge held a brief hearing Thursday over Corcoran’s lawsuit that maintains the Florida Lottery broke the law when it approved a more than $700-million contract with IGT Global Solutions to help run lottery games.

Corcoran’s lawsuit contends the contract is illegal because it exceeds the department’s authorized budget.

Barry Richard, an attorney hired to represent the state’s lottery secretary, argued the agency followed the law because the contract states it is contingent on state funding.

Richard told reporters after the hearing that if the Legislature “doesn’t like it, they don’t have to fund it.”

The case could get decided quickly. Judge Karen Gievers scheduled a March 6 trial.

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Lottery fight between Gov. Scott and House could be costly

Florida could spend up to $100,000 in the skirmish between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and the administration of Gov. Rick Scott.

Corcoran last week asked a court to block a contract the Florida Lottery approved last fall. The contract with IGT Global Solutions is worth more than $700 million.

Corcoran’s lawsuit maintains lottery officials broke the law because they approved a contract that exceeds the department’s authorized budget.

The Florida Lottery this week hired attorney Barry Richard with the Greenberg Traurig firm to represent them in the legal battle. Richard represented President George W. Bush during the presidential election recount battle in 2000.

Richard’s contract calls for him to be paid up to $60,000 for a trial and an additional $40,000 for any appeal. The Florida House is using lawyers who work for the state on the case.

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Rick Scott says fellow Republicans — he’s looking at you, Mr. Speaker — are spreading fake news

Gov. Rick Scott is now saying that his fellow Republicans in the Florida House are using “fake news” to justify their plan to scrap the state’s economic development agency.

Scott used his campaign Twitter account on Wednesday to distribute a video critical of House Speaker Richard Corcoran and House Republicans. The video labels Corcoran a “career politician” who wasted money by having the House produce a video that trashed programs championed by Scott.

The House video released last week blasted Visit Florida, the agency that promotes tourism, and Enterprise Florida, the organization that uses taxpayer money to lure companies to the state. The House is considering a bill that would eliminate Enterprise Florida.

Scott’s video points out that the House criticized incentives handed out before Scott was governor.

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Conservatives welcome Donald Trump with delight – and wariness

For the past eight years, thousands of conservative activists have descended on Washington each spring with dreams of putting a Republican in the White House.

This year, they’re learning reality can be complicated.

With Donald Trump‘s presidential victory, the future of the conservative movement has become entwined with an unconventional New York businessman better known for his deal-making than any ideological principles.

It’s an uneasy marriage of political convenience at best. Some conservatives worry whether they can trust their new president to follow decades of orthodoxy on issues like international affairs, small government, abortion and opposition to expanded legal protections for LGBT Americans — and what it means for their movement if he doesn’t.

“Donald Trump may have come to the Republican Party in an unconventional and circuitous route, but the fact is that we now need him to succeed lest the larger conservative project fails,” said evangelical leader Ralph Reed, who mobilized his organization to campaign for Trump during the campaign. “Our success is inextricably tied to his success.”

As conservatives filtered into their convention hall Wednesday for their annual gathering, many said they still have nagging doubts about Trump even as they cheer his early actions. A Wednesday night decision to reverse an Obama-era directive that said transgender students should be allowed to use public school bathrooms and locker rooms matching their chosen gender identity has thrilled social conservatives.

“He’s said that on multiple occasions that he’s not a conservative, especially socially,” said Zach Weidlich, a junior at the University of South Alabama, “but my mind-set was, give him a chance, especially now that he’s elected.'”

“He was the better of two evils given the choice,” added Timmy Finn. “I agree with his policies, however, I think he’s moving a little too fast.”

Trump has a somewhat tortured history with the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual convention that’s part ideological pep talk, part political boot camp for activists. Over the past six years, he’s been both booed and cheered. He’s rejected speaking slots and galvanized attendees with big promises of economic growth and electoral victory.

At times, he has seemed to delight in taunting them.

“I’m a conservative, but don’t forget: This is called the Republican Party, not the Conservative Party,” he said in a May interview on ABC’s “This Week.”

Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC, said Trump’s aggressive style is more important than ideological purity.

“Conservatives weren’t looking for somebody who knew how to explain all the philosophies. They were actually looking for somebody who would just fight,” he said. “Can you think of anybody in America who fits that bill more than Donald Trump?”

Trump is to address the group Friday morning. Vice President Mike Pence is to speak Thursday as are White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and senior advisers Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

The tensions between Trump’s brand of populist politics and conservative ideology will be on full display at the three-day conference, which features panels like: “Conservatives: Where we come from, where we are and where we are going” and “The Alt-Right Ain’t Right At All.”

Along with Trump come his supporters, including the populists, party newcomers and nationalists that have long existed on the fringes of conservativism and have gotten new voice during the early days of his administration.

Pro-Brexit British politician Nigel Farage will speak a few hours after Trump.

Organizers invited provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos after protesters at the University of California at Berkeley protested to stop his appearance on campus. But the former editor at Breitbart News, the website previously run by Bannon, was disinvited this week after video clips surfaced in which he appeared to defend sexual relationships between men and boys as young as 13.

Trump “is giving rise to a conservative voice that for the first time in a long time unabashedly, unapologetically puts America first,” said Republican strategist Hogan Gidley. “That ‘America First’ moniker can very well shape this country, but also the electorate and the Republican Party and conservative movement for decades.”

Trump’s early moves — including a flurry of executive orders and his nomination of federal Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court — have cheered conservatives. They’ve also applauded his Cabinet picks, which include some of the most conservative members of Congress. The ACU awarded his team a 91.52 percent conservative rating — 28 points higher than Ronald Reagan and well above George H.W. Bush who received a 78.15 rating.

But key items on the conservative wish list remain shrouded in uncertainty. The effort to repeal President Barack Obama‘s health care law is not moving as quickly as many hoped, and Republicans also have yet to coalesce around revamping the nation’s tax code.

No proposals have surfaced to pursue Trump’s campaign promises to build a border wall with Mexico that could cost $15 billion or more or to buttress the nation’s infrastructure with a $1 trillion plan. Conservatives fear that those plans could result in massive amounts of new spending and that Trump’s penchant for deal-making could leave them on the wrong side of the transaction.

“There is wariness,” said Tim Phillips, president of Koch-brothers-backed Americans for Prosperity.

But with a Republican-controlled Congress, others believe there’s no way to lose.

“He sits in a room with Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. Is there a bad a deal to made with those three in the room?” asked veteran anti-tax activist Grover Norquist. “A deal between those three will, I think, always make me happy.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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‘Refugees Welcome’ banner unfurled at Statue of Liberty

The National Park Service is trying to figure out who unfurled a giant banner at the Statue of Liberty saying “Refugees Welcome.”

Park Service spokesman Jerry Willis says the 3-by-20-foot banner was hung from the public observation deck at the top of the statue’s pedestal Tuesday afternoon. The banner was taken down more than an hour later.

Willis says regulations prohibit anything fixed to the statue.

The stunt happened the day the Department of Homeland Security announced expanded immigration enforcement policies.

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Defense cites Stand Your Ground law in theater shooting case

A Florida judge is hearing evidence to determine whether a retired police officer acted in self-defense when he shot a man in a movie theater in 2014.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Susan Barthle is being asked to decide whether Curtis Reeves should be immune from prosecution under Florida’s controversial stand your ground statute. The hearing started Monday and continued Tuesday.

The law says a person has no duty to retreat when faced with a violent confrontation and can use deadly force if he or she fears death or great bodily harm.

Reeves shot 43-year-old Chad Oulson during an argument over cellphone use as movie previews played.

Prosecutors say the 74-year-old Reeves provoked the confrontation. Reeves’ attorneys say Oulson’s actions made him think he was in danger of serious assault.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Donald Trump denounces ‘horrible’ threats against Jewish centers

President Donald Trump on Tuesday denounced recent threats against Jewish community centers as “horrible” and “painful.” He said they are a “very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”

Trump made the remarks after touring the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“This tour was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said.

His comments about recent threats at Jewish community centers across the country marked the first time he had directly addressed a wave of anti-Semitism and followed a more general White House denouncement of “hatred and hate-motivated violence.”

That statement, earlier Tuesday, did not mention the community center incidents or Jews. Trump “has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable,” that statement said.

The FBI said it is joining with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to investigate “possible civil rights violations in connection with threats” to the centers.

On Monday, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, wrote on Twitter, “We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers,” and used the hashtag #JCC. She converted to Judaism ahead of her 2009 marriage to Jared Kushner. She joined her father at the African American museum tour.

The White House was criticized by Jewish groups after issuing an International Holocaust Remembrance Day statement last month that did not mention Jews.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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