Peter Schorsch - 7/2477 - SaintPetersBlog

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

Orlando Democrat Chris King files to run for Governor in 2018

Orlando Democrat Chris King filed papers today with the Florida Secretary of State to run for Governor in 2018.

King. 38, will launch his campaign with an announcement in April, when he says he’ll lay out a fresh vision for what our state can and should be.

“I believe Florida can do so many things better if we have the courage to do things differently,” King said. “We’re going to run a campaign driven by a spirit of innovation and can-do optimism. We’re going to give voice to millions of Floridians who are struggling to make it and haven’t given up the hope that we can do better.  We are going to answer the call of every Floridian who wants a governor with the strength, vision and integrity to tackle important problems and provide innovative solutions.  And we are going to invite every Floridian who wants to rise up and be part of something big, bold, and better, to join this campaign.  I look forward to an exciting kick-off in April and an inspirational campaign to reclaim Florida’s bright future.”

King is taking this step today pursuant to Florida law, which requires this filing in order for a candidate to seek contributions or make expenditures with a view to win an election.

He joins Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who entered the race earlier this year.

A third generation Central Floridian, King graduated from Harvard University and earned his law degree from the University of Florida. He is the founder and CEO of Elevation Financial Group, which creates quality, affordable housing for seniors and families in Florida and across the Southeast, and leads a non-profit that offers mentorship to low-income Florida students to pursue their college dreams. Chris and his wife Kristen live in the Orlando area with their three young children.

He has been outspoken about his desire to see more affordable housing developed.

Gillum welcomed him to the race.

“Floridians in every corner of our state deserve a contest of ideas, and I’m looking forward to Chris adding his thoughts,” Gillum said in a statement his campaign issued. “Floridians deserve to hear how each candidate plans to create jobs at every level of the income ladder, ensure Florida’s children have both quality health care and a quality public education, and how we protect Florida as a welcoming place for immigrants, same-sex couples, and people of every faith and background. Our campaign is laser-focused on those issues, and I am excited to share my thoughts on how we can rebuild Florida into a state that works for all of us.”

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Lawmakers consider making Secretary of State an elected position again

Lawmakers will consider a measure that would make Florida Secretary of State an elected position when the 2017 Legislative Session kicks off Tuesday.

SJR 882, a joint resolution, was filed by Republican Sen. Aaron Bean in February. The proposal would alter the state constitution to make the Secretary of State an elected member of the Cabinet beginning with the 2022 General Election.

An identical bill was filed by Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell in the House, though it has not yet been scheduled for a committee hearing.

Currently, secretaries of state are appointed by the governor, and SJR 882 would continue that trend for the first few years after it takes effect on June 1, 2019, meaning the next governor would still get to appoint someone to the position after the 2018 election cycle.

If lawmakers vote in favor of SJR 822, it would be placed on the 2018 ballot, where it would need approval by at least 60 percent of voters to become law.

The bill will go before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee during their meeting at 4 pm Tuesday. If successful, the resolution would move on to the Senate Rules Committee before it is ready for the Senate floor.

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AIF announces 2017 Legislative Session priorities

Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) on Thursday released its “2017 Session Priorities” publication, outlining its legislative agenda on behalf of its members for the 2017 Legislative Session.

“As the collective voice of businesses from the Panhandle to the Keys, …we are proud to continue the fight to protect Florida’s job creators,” AIF President and CEO Tom Feeney said.  “Each year, Florida’s business community faces a variety of tough issues and this year will be no exception.

“AIF stands ready to lead the business community on issues ranging from lowering increasing costs on business as it relates to workers’ compensation, opposing legislation making it more expensive for businesses to operate, such as prejudgment interest, and fighting to preserve the insurance premium tax salary credit, among others,” he added.

The business lobby also expects to see numerous legislative proposals that revolve around Gov. Rick Scott’s $83.5 billion budget proposal for FY 2017-18, including $618 million in tax cuts and $85 million for economic incentives to businesses.  

“From the proposed business rent tax reduction of $454 million, to the corporate income tax exemption, and the increase in the number of sales tax holidays, Gov. Scott is clearly on a mission to ensure Florida job creators are excelling and Florida families are benefitting from a pro-business environment in their home state,” Feeney said. 

AIF’s “2017 Session Priorities” publication is distributed to all 160 members of the Florida Legislature, the Florida Cabinet and agency secretaries, as well as AIF membership. To read an electronic version, click here.

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Why is a pro pot lawyer advocating a denial of access to medical marijuana?

If you are part of the NORML crowd, you probably know Mike Minardi.

He is kind of a thing in the world of weed and, frankly, being a pro-marijuana attorney has become his calling card.

Minardi is on the board, listed as “Legal Director,” of NORML of Florida. He is part of CannaMoms and the words “cannabis” and “marijuana” are ALL OVER his firm website.

Heck, the site is even colored green.

So, what’s the deal with Minardi now?

Last week he was speaking at the Florida Cannabis Coalition Green Carpet event in Sarasota (see, I told you he is a big deal) and Mike — the pro-pot, pro-legalization lawyer who is even pushing a constitutional amendment to make the stuff 100 percent legal — is now advocating that we stop the sale of medical marijuana in Florida.

Crazy, right?  His exact words were: “I do support moratoriums. Um … moratoriums are good for us right now …”

Say what?  Right NOW? Is there some business advantage you see in stopping the sale of medical cannabis?

His logic, if you can call it that, appears to be that by stopping access to medical marijuana now that somehow it will give him and his unnamed but repeatedly mentioned “clients” some unspecified advantage later.

What about the people he supposedly wants to help have access to marijuana? Why stop them from having access?

I don’t understand where he is coming from.

Here is more from Minardi:

“ … we can be able to go in there and have an equal opportunity to these nurseries that can open up as many dispensaries as they want throughout the state right now, in order to have that equal access, because they’re not going into areas where there are moratoriums right now and opening places up …”

OK, I still don’t really understand, but those are his exact words; I wouldn’t want anyone to think I took him out of context.

Are his clients the other license applicants who did not make the cut? (Shame on him.)

Are they people who don’t qualify under Amendment 2? (Way to sell out sick patients who sure could use a break.)

Does it matter?

It is blatantly disingenuous (IMHO) for someone who hails himself — often and loudly — as a pro-marijuana advocate to publicly support shutting down access to patients who desperately need access to medical marijuana.

But it gets worse.

This is the same Minardi who went on ABC Action News in Tampa and blamed the board of medicine for — I swear he said this — “continuing to prevent access for patients in Florida who are suffering and dying.”

It’s kind of like those evil doctors support a moratorium or something.

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Poll finds Florida voters are against campus carry and corporate tax cuts

Florida voters don’t want changes to gun laws and are against plans to cut corporate tax rates according to a new poll released Thursday by the University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Laboratory.

The poll, which surveyed nearly 1,000 voters, found 63 percent of respondents were against proposed legislation to allow concealed handguns on college campuses, with nearly half of those polled saying they “strongly opposed” the measure.

“If the legislature is paying attention to public opinion, this signals that House Bill 6005 might not make it to the governor’s desk for the second time in two years,” said Michael Binder, the faculty director of the UNF lab.

Voters also opposed a bill (SB 140) to allow Floridians to openly carry firearms except in police stations, prisons, schools, athletic events and venues that serve alcohol, though the split was closer.

About two-fifths said they were strongly opposed, while 14 percent said they were only somewhat opposed to the bill. Strong supporters made up 23 percent of the group, and 21 percent said they somewhat support the bill.

“In what could be another signal to Tallahassee about Senate Bill 140, voters aren’t supportive of bringing open carry laws to Florida,” Binder said. “While Floridians might not be open to expanding gun laws, they don’t support prohibiting the sale of assault weapons, which could signal that House Bill 167 isn’t going to get passed either.”

Overall, 50 percent of respondents said they favored HB 167, while 46 percent said they were against the bill.

When it came to taxes on commercial leases, Floridians were clear. More than three-quarters said they the proposed $454 million tax cut should be nixed, with the money raised through the tax heading to either public universities or improving infrastructure.

Just 13 percent said they were in favor of the plan, which has been tossed about by the Florida Legislature for years. Currently, Florida is the only state that charges sales tax on commercial leases.

The UNF survey also included questions on making feminine hygiene products tax exempt, as found in SB 176, and outlawing employment discrimination based on gender identity, as found in SB 410, both of which crossed the 50 percent support threshold.

The last policy question in the survey gauged voters’ opinion on the use of out-of-school suspension for elementary schoolers. Two-fifths said they were in favor of sending kids home as punishment, while just under half opposed the practice.

“This should bolster support in the legislature for Senate Bill 438 on out-of-school suspension and encourage legislators to take further measures to limit the use of these practices in schools,” said Dr. Angela Mann, UNF assistant professor of psychology. “Florida currently leads the country in the use of exclusionary discipline practices, which increases student risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system.”

The UNF poll was conducted by live phone interviews from Feb. 13 through Feb. 26. The bulk of survey responses came from cellphone users with 27 percent coming from landline users. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percent.

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Sunburn for 3.2.17 – Putnam, Latvala post monster $ totals; Legg not running; CRC picks; Poll has Scott up on Leg.

Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.

By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.


The shadow campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination is well underway.

With 544 days until the August 2018 primary, it’s still might be a little too early endless handshaking, baby kissing and everything that goes into retail politicking. (Well unless you are Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, the only person officially in the Governor’s race so far.)

But it is never too early for the oft-mentioned likely contenders — including Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Senate Appropriations Chairman Jack Latvala — to begin testing the waters, raising a little campaign cash along the way.

And that push to see who can raise the most has already begun, something clearly evident this week when both Putnam and Latvala released February fundraising figures ahead of the March 10 deadline.

In an email Wednesday, Florida Grown chairman Justin Hollis told supporters the political committee, which is expected to fuel Putnam’s gubernatorial bid, raised more than $2.25 million in February. If accurate, that would be one of the largest monthly fundraising totals posted by the committee since it was created in 2015.

Florida Grown does post contribution data on its website; and according to the site, the committee raised at least $538,170 between Feb. 1 and Feb. 16. However, as of Wednesday afternoon, the committee hadn’t listed contributions covering the final 12 days of the month.

Latvala’s committee is also touting a strong February. According to contribution data posted to its website this week, Florida Leadership Committee raised at least $870,083 during the one-month period. Campaign insiders expect the sum to be more than $1 million when final numbers are calculated and reported to the state later this month.

A prolific fundraiser, the February numbers would also mark one of the largest month fundraising totals the committee has reported since 2013. By comparison, the committee raised $487,625 in February 2015.

If Putnam and Latvala can raise this much money in just 28 days, how much can they pull in as the months get longer and the anticipation greater?

HOW ANDREW GILLUM’S ROLLOUT PLAYED – Palm Beach PostTallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum: ‘I’m running for governor’ – “Gillum posted on Facebook … with a link to his video, which stresses his upbringing as the son of a municipal bus driver.” Washington PostThe 2018 Florida governor’s race just got its first serious candidate– “Gillum plans to pitch himself as the progressive in the primary race.” South Florida Sun-SentinelAndrew Gillum declares candidacy, Donald Trump gives coherent speech – “’Bring it home’ … one part biography, one part inspiration and a complete attempt to hit sentimental voters right in the feels.” Sunshine State NewsAndrew Gillum Officially Declares Run for Governor – “Gillum’s campaign has already faced bumps in the road, since the video was professionally produced before he officially filed for governor … Under Florida law, candidates cannot accept potential contributions until they’ve opened a campaign account.” Orlando SentinelAndrew Gillum says he’ll run for governor in 2018 – “But Gillum, who was elected mayor in 2014, comes from the state’s isolated capital city, nestled in a sparsely populated news media market.”  Orlando WeeklyTallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum is running for Florida governor – “Nothing about my background suggest[s] I should even dream, let alone think about running for Governor. And yet, here we are.” Miami HeraldTallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum to announce for Florida governor – “Gillum … has been viewed as a rising star in a party that is clamoring for relevance after Donald Trump’s win in November.”

GILLUM’S LAUNCH VIDEO (Click on the image below to watch the vid):

RGA DEMANDS GILLUM DISCLOSE ENTIRETY OF IMPROPER CAMPAIGN EMAILS via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – The Republican Governors Association wasted no time in its counterstrike on Tallahassee Mayor and new Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gillum … after it was discovered he used city email to conduct campaign business … the RGA hit back at Gillum, filing a public records request to find out just how many times Gillum had improperly communicated using a campaign email address on taxpayers’ dime. The request comes after the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Gillum had used city tax dollars to blast out emails for his newly-minted gubernatorial campaign. One email included Gillum’s campaign logo and campaign post office box address. Another included an invitation to an event featuring former Vice President Joe Biden in Tallahassee.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine will speak at the Palm Beach Democratic Party Meeting at 7 p.m. at the S. County Civic Center, 16700 Jog Road in Delray Beach.

SOCIAL CONSERVATIVES OPPOSE LENNY CURRY FOR CFO JOB OVER LGBTQ PROTECTION via Michael Auslen of the Tampa Bay Times – The Florida Family Policy Council … told its members to call Gov. Scott and demand he stop considering Jacksonville Republican Mayor Curry for the CFO’s job … Their opposition has nothing to do with financial experience. The council has advocated loudly against rights and protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Florida, and that’s why they oppose Curry’s possible appointment. As mayor, Curry last month allowed an anti-discrimination ordinance protecting LGBTQ residents to go into effect in Jacksonville. But there’s more to the story than just that. “Lenny’s refusal to veto the deceptive and unconstitutional “Human Rights Ordinance” (HRO) in Jacksonville puts women and children in danger by allowing men to use women’s showers, locker rooms, and bathrooms in domestic violence shelters and in other nonprofit charities with residential facilities,” the council, headed by attorney John Stemberger, wrote in a call to action for its members.

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by Spectrum Business. Bright House Networks Business Solutions is now Spectrum Business, and we are committed to delivering your business with superior business Internet, Phone, and TV services to help power your success. We offer the best value in business with the fastest Internet for the price, advanced phone with unlimited long distance, cloud-based Hosted Voice and reliable TV – all delivered over our reliable, state-of-the-art, fiber-rich network.  Find out why so many businesses in your area trust their communications needs to Spectrum Business. Learn more.***

IT’S OFFICIAL: JOHN LEGG NOT RUNNING IN 2018 via Florida Politics – “After 12 years my family and I need a break,” he said. “Also, I am enjoying working on education issues and innovation both national and statewide. I feel like I can make a bigger difference in education right now outside of the Florida Legislature. However, that may change in time.” Many pondered whether Legg was considering in 2018 in Senate District 16, the seat currently held by Sen. Jack Latvala. Legg backed during the contentious leadership battle, and Legg indicated in the past the north Pinellas seat was one of several options he had been considering. But Legg said there is no state race in his immediate future, saying “we are not running in 2018.”


DAVID SMITH FILES TO RUN IN HD 28 via Scott Powers of Florida Politics – Smith, 56, of Winter Springs, is a retired Marine Corps colonel and former director of the Marines simulation and modeling center in the University of Central Florida’s Research Park. He ran against then-U.S. Rep. John Mica in the 2014 Republican primary, finishing second … Smith is the second candidate to enter the race for [JasonBrodeur’s seat, following 19-year-old Devin Guillermo Perez, a Democrat.

2 PINELLAS REPUBLICANS ANNOUNCE 2018 HD 66 RACES – Pinellas County Republican Party chairman Nick DiCeglie confirmed he will be running for the House District 66 seat in 2018, and will make a formal announcement sometime this spring …  The seat is currently occupied by Larry Ahern, who is term limited out in 2018. The news comes as another Republican, former Pinellas County assistant state attorney Berny Jacques, announced that he is running for the HD 66 seat next year. Jacques works in private practice with the St. Petersburg law firm of Berkowitz and Myer.

VANCE ALOUPIS FILES TO RUN FOR HD 115 SEAT – Aloupis, CEO of The Children’s Movement of Florida, has filed to run for the seat held by Rep. Michael Bileca, who will be term-limited. Aloupis, 33, practiced law for several years after graduating from the University of Miami and the University Miami School of Law … In 2010, he joined The Children’s Movement, where he now serves as the CEO. Through his leadership, Aloupis has built support for smart investments in early education and common sense policies that will ensure a competitive workforce in Florida.

FORMER LAWMAKERS REGGIE FULLWOOD, DWIGHT BULLARD FINED FOR CAMPAIGN VIOLATIONS via Florida Politics –The Florida Elections Commission found Tuesday that former state Rep. Reggie Fullwood had committed 17 violations of Florida’s campaign financial disclosure rules and fined him $1,000 on each count. … The case involved failure to disclose more than $17,000 in contributions to Fullwood’s 2014 campaign, and contributions worth more than $13,000.  Additionally, his bank records showed $2,600 in expenditures not reflected in his campaign documents, according to the commission’s legal staff. … Fullwood did not appear during the hearing. On Feb. 7, he was sentenced to time served and house arrest on federal wire fraud and tax charges. Also on Tuesday, the commission imposed a $1,000 fine on former state Sen. Dwight Bullard for failure to file a campaign disclosure form on time. Bullard also skipped the hearing.

***The State of the Taxpayer Dinner — March 8 (6-9 p.m.) — The one event in 2017 you can’t afford to miss. While the annual State of the State address and opening statements of each legislative chamber cover the accomplishments and future of our elected leadership, none specifically highlight the issues affecting taxpayers. This unique event puts the spotlight back on the taxpayers. Florida TaxWatch and Host Committee Chairman Gov. Bob Martinez present the 2017 State of the Taxpayer, the premier event for Florida’s elected leaders to discuss the issues that will impact taxpayers over the next year. The 2017 event welcomes speakers Lt. Gov. Carlos López-Cantera, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner Adam Putnam, Speaker Richard Corcoran, Sen. Jack Latvala, and Rep. Jim Boyd. Last year’s event sold out and just a few tickets remain for next week’s event – visit for more info or to purchase tickets.***

FIRST ON FLORIDAPOLITICS.COM – RICK SCOTT PICKS CARLOS BERUFF AS CRC CHAIRMAN; JEFF WOODBURN NAMED EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR via Florida Politics — Gov. Scott announced Wednesday that Beruff, the Manatee Republican homebuilder who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, will serve as chairman of the Constitution Revision Commission. “My goal for the CRC is to fight for policies that will ensure a strong future for Florida and I know Carlos also shares this vision,” he said in a statement. “As we undertake this historic review, I am hopeful that this Commission will propose policies that build a legacy upon which the families and businesses in our great state will thrive for generations to come.” … Scott tapped​ Woodburn, currently the Policy Director in the Executive Office of the Governor, as the executive director.

HEARING that among Scott’s 15 picks for the CRC will be Tim Cerio, Brecht Heuchan, and former Rep. Jimmy Patronis.

ARTHENIA JOYNER VOWS TO FIGHT JUDICIAL TERM LIMITS via Jim Ash of WFSU – On  the Constitution Revision Commission … [RichardCorcoran’s lieutenants are expected to push judicial term limits, but newly appointed Commissioner Joyner will fight it every step of the way. “I have always believed in the three, independent separate branches of government and the court’s job is to interpret the laws and that’s what they do. And I will stand up for that because that’s why we have this great system of checks and balances.”

OFF EMBARGO – POLL: SCOTT MORE POPULAR THAN THE LEGISLATURE – As Gov. Scott steels himself for a Session showdown with the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature, he got some good news from a new poll. A University of North Florida survey shows that, among registered voters in Florida, Scott is more popular than the legislative branch. 46 percent of those surveyed approve of Scott, with 40 percent disapproving. Scott’s strength is with Republicans, according to the UNF poll; 74 percent approve of the Governor, compared to 24 percent of Democrats and 39 percent of NPAs. Meanwhile, the Legislature sees that same mark of disapproval, but only 39 percent approval. The approval numbers for the Legislature, asserted UNF polling director Michael Binder, were a “surprise … a very positive number for them compared to most polling on Congress.”

FLORIDA INSIDER POLL PREDICTS RICHARD CORCORAN TO DOMINATE STATE POLITICS FOR NEXT TWO MONTHS via Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times – As we head into another legislative session … Corcoran looms over virtually other public official in the state. In a Florida Insider Poll of nearly 180 of the state’s most experienced and plugged-in political players, a whopping 71 percent predicted the 51-year-old Land O’Lakes Republican would dominate the session, while only 12 percent touted Gov. Scott and 9 percent Senate President Negron … Given the overt animosity between Scott and Corcoran and with both men interested in running for statewide office in 2018, the Florida Insiders are highly pessimistic about what’s in store.

SMELLS LIKE AN OPPO DUMP FROM GOV’S SHOP – HOUSE MEMBER OPPOSES STATE BUSINESS INCENTIVES — BUT GOT PUBLIC DOLLARS FOR JOB CREATION via Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida – State Rep. Alex Miller has joined House leaders in opposing Gov. Scott’s push for giving taxpayer-funded incentives for businesses statewide, even though the Sarasota lawmaker’s own company has taken advantage of a county grant for creating a few dozen new local jobs. In 2013, Mercedes Medical, a Sarasota-based medical device company run by Miller, who is CEO, was awarded an economic development grant of up to $111,000 by neighboring Manatee County. Her company is eligible to get the full funding if it achieves certain performance metrics, including the creation of 47 jobs. The company is currently in the middle of that deal, which was finalized in February 2014. “Let me just say, I have no problem with incentives,” she [said]. “I put my business owner hat on and I do what is right for my employees and shareholders, and I will take incentives because it helps my company … When I put my state representative hat on, I have to do what is in the best interest of the state.”

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more here.***

SENATE: HIGHER WORKERS’ COMP RATES HERE TO STAY via Jim Ash of WUSF – Republican Rob Bradley of Fleming Island says his goal is rate stabilization. Employer groups like the Florida Chamber of Commerce are demanding action after rates soared 14.5 percent in December in the wake of recent Florida Supreme Court decisions. But Bradley says the Senate is unwilling to cut health benefits, and rate reductions are too much to expect. “Our workers’ comp system is kind of middle of the pack when it comes to the rate levels and they’ve been reduced significantly over the years.”

JEFF BRANDES PUSHES FOR SWEEPING BUSINESS DEREGULATION via Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal – Jeff Brandes is trying for the second year in a row to remove or reduce a series of regulations on industries like architecture, interior design and landscape architecture. Under a bill Brandes plans to file this week, interior design and architecture firms would no longer have to re-certify businesses on a biennial basis. Instead, the businesses would be required to report any changes as they occur and remain in compliance with other applicable state laws following staffing changes. Branch offices for yacht and shipbrokers would no longer require separate licensing under Brandes’ bill. Instead, those offices would operate under the company’s license. Another provision deregulates athlete agents and removes penalties for acting as a business agent without a license or permit. The bill would also remove licensing requirements for certain cosmetic services including polishing fingernails and hair or body wrapping.

GEORGE GAINER WARY OF HOUSE TRIUMPH BILL via Tom McLaughlin of the Panama City News-Herald – An amendment to a proposed Florida House bill would eliminate one aspect of oversight for the Triumph Gulf Coast board selected to allocate Northwest Florida’s share of BP funds. But the same amendment, put forth by Rep. Jay Trumbull … would allow the board “to provide grants to Visit Florida to promote tourism.” State Sen. Gainer said he’s been left in the dark by Northwest Florida House members about why a provision added to the proposed bill included any mention of Visit Florida. “Why would Visit Florida not be good enough to receive funding from the state of Florida, but putting BP money into it would be more acceptable?” Gainer asked last week after Trumbull introduced the concept of Visit Florida grants at a Select Committee meeting.

DOROTY HUKILL WANTS STUDY OF SCHOOL FUNDING via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools  – Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who heads the Senate Education Committee, filed legislation that would instruct the Office of Program Analysis and Government Accountability to conduct a study of a component of the state’s K-12 education funding formula. The proposal (SB 1394) would require a study of what is known as the “district cost differential” — long an issue in the state’s formula for distributing money to school districts … The district cost differential is designed to consider variances in costs of living across the state, but critics have questioned its fairness.

GREG STEUBE FILES ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION CRIMINALIZATION MEASURE via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The bill … would create a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison. The proposal would apply to anyone who “is denied admission to, is excluded, deported or removed from, or who departs the United States while an order of exclusion, deportation, or removal is outstanding and thereafter enters or is at any time found in the state.” It creates an exception for those who can show that the federal government “consents to his or her admission or the person can establish that federal law does not require advance consent,” the bill says.

NURSING EDUCATION BILL STARTS MOVING IN HOUSE via Legislative IQ powered by Lobby Tools  – Republican Rep. Cary Pigman and Sen. Denise Grimsley are again carrying legislation (HB 543 and SB 328) to address “problem” nursing programs. When Grimsley was still in the House in 2009, she successfully started a process to increase the number of nursing schools and slots in nursing schools in response to a growing looming nursing shortage with HB 1209. The committee agreed to pass Pigman’s new bill which, among several provisions, prevents nursing programs terminated by the Board of Nursing from reapplying for approval for three years and requires programs put on probation to notify its students and applicants of its status in writing. Grimsley’s similar bill has yet to get a committee hearing.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS:Rep. Bob Cortes; Sen. Victor TorresAnthony Suarez, President of the Puerto Rican Bar Association of Florida and others will convene at Acacia-Centro Borinqueño to announce a joint resolution acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the Jones Act, which granted Puerto Ricans U.S. citizenship in 1917. Event begins 1 p.m. at 1865 N. Econlockhatchee Trail in Orlando.

***Capital City Consulting, LLC is a full-service government and public affairs firm located in Tallahassee, Florida. At Capital City Consulting, our team of professionals specialize in developing unique government relations and public affairs strategies and delivering unrivaled results for our clients before the Florida Legislature and Executive Branch Agencies. Capital City Consulting has the experience, contacts and winning strategies to help our clients stand out in the capital city. Learn more at***

FEDS MAY NOT HAVE APPROVED NEW SEMINOLE COMPACT via Jim Rosica of Florida Politics – The nation’s top Indian gambling regulator last year told the Seminole Tribe of Florida that the federal government would be “hard-pressed” to approve its new blackjack agreement with the state. The Tribe disclosed the June 2016 letter from Paula L. Hart, director of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Office of Indian Gaming, as an attachment to its own letter this week to Gov. Scott and legislative leaders. The Hart letter also confirmed a warning that Barry Richard, the tribe’s outside counsel, gave three years ago. The Interior Department later interpreted the law to mean that a tribe may give a cut to a state in return for exclusive rights to a game, but the amount a tribe pays has to be a “fair value” for the exclusivity it’s getting, he said.

SEMINOLE TRIBE LETTER: BOTH GAMING BILLS STINK via Brian Burgess of The Capitolist – In a letter addressed to Gov. Scott, Senate President Negron, and House Speaker Corcoran, the Seminole Tribe of Florida says that neither the House nor Senate gaming bills are acceptable. “While the Tribe appreciates the efforts that have been devoted to developing these proposals, neither would satisfy the requirements of federal law, nor satisfy fundamental tribal concerns,” wrote Marcellus Osceola, Jr., Chairman of the Seminole Tribe … both the House and Senate bills would require “dramatic increases in the Tribes payments” to the state “without providing increases in the Tribe’s exclusivity” that would justify the higher revenue payments. Under the current Compact, negotiated by Governor Rick Scott in 2015, the Tribe agreed to pay the State of Florida up to $3 billion over seven years. But the Florida Legislature declined to ratify that agreement. The letter also asserts that the House bill is “less objectionable” than the Senate bill in that it does not propose any new exceptions to the Tribe’s exclusivity agreements, and the Tribe claims that the Senate bill represents an expansion of gaming.

TRIBE BUYS FORMER TRUMP TAJ MAHAL CASINO IN NJ via Florida Politics – The Seminole Tribe of Florida is expanding its gambling holdings to the Garden State. Hard Rock International, which the Tribe controls, Wednesday announced it had bought the shuttered Trump Taj Mahal casino on Atlantic City’s famed boardwalk from billionaire Carl Icahn. The deal includes two New Jersey investors. The sale comes four months after Icahn closed it amid a crippling strike. A sale price was not disclosed. President Donald Trump opened the casino in 1990 but lost control of it in a bankruptcy filing.

ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: The Sadowski Housing Coalition will hold a press conference to call on the Florida Legislature to appropriate all housing trust fund dollars for housing in fiscal 2017-18 at 10:30 a.m. at the Florida Realtors Office, 200 S. Monroe Street in Tallahassee.

FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT BUILDING EIGHT NEW SOLAR PLANTS via Florida Politics – FPL expects plants in Alachua, Putnam, Indian River and DeSoto counties to be completed by the end of 2017, with plants in Brevard, Hendry, St. Lucie counties and a second plant in Indian River County scheduled to come online by March 1, 2018. The company said the new plants will cost $900 million to build and will use 2.5 million solar panels. Once completed, FPL said the plants will generate enough energy to power about 120,000 homes, saving customers an estimated $39 million over their lifetime. The plan was lauded by environmental groups The Nature Conservatory and Audubon Florida as well as from economic development agencies and local politicians from the areas where the plants are being built.

STATE AGENTS ARREST INSURANCE COMPANY MANAGER FOR ALLEGED $1M FRAUD via Florida Politics – An investigation by the state Division of Investigative and Forensic Services has resulted in the arrest of an insurance company manager for allegedly defrauding her employer of more than $1 million. Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater identified the accused as Jennifer Summerlott, an accounts-payable and commercial lines manager for Fairway Insurance Group LLC of Fort Lauderdale. … Summerlott used fake invoices to generate checks tied to Fairway’s company account, which she diverted to her private account, Atwater said.

EMAIL I DIDN’T OPEN: “Thur., 3/2/17 Gainesville Infant Circumcision Protesters”

***Today’s SUNBURN is brought to you by The Personal Insurance Federation of Florida (PIFF). PIFF was formed in late 2010 with three charter members: Allstate and Castle Key Insurance Companies, The Progressive Group of Insurance Companies, and State Farm Insurance Companies, to create a dynamic, efficient, and competitive marketplace for personal insurance products for the benefit of all Floridians.  PIFF charter members serve forty-five percent (45%) of the automobile insurance market and more than twenty percent (20%) of the homeowners’ property insurance market. The association is the leading voice for personal lines property and casualty insurers in Florida. Learn more.***

FIRST IN SUNBURN – UBER TO OFFER FREE RIDES TO, FROM AIF PRE-SESSION PARTY — Uber is once again partnering with Associated Industries of Florida to offer free rides (up to $10) to and from the AIF pre-session reception on Monday, March 6. The promotion isn’t open to public officials and employees Uber riders just have to enter the promo code AIF2017 to redeem the offer. The promotion expires on March 7.

APPOINTEDJose “Ernie” MartinezThomas DeLillaAndree AubreyFrank CherryRobert CoxSara GaverTasha TurnerNicole Attong and Whitney Harris to the Florida Independent Living Council.


Anita BerryMatt BlairMichael CorcoranJeffrey JohnstonAmanda Stewart, Corcoran & Johnston: Southeast QSR, LLC

Taylor Patrick Biehl, Capitol Alliance Group: Codio Ltd.; Medishine Resources LLC, Made in Space Inc.

Amy Bisceglia, The Rubin Group: Florida International University Foundation

Ellyn Bogdanoff, Becker & Poliakoff: Galt View Apartments, Inc; Regency Tower Association, Inc.; Shore Drive Apartments Inc.

Dean Cannon, Jason Unger, GrayRobinson: The Florida Bar, Tax Section

James Card, Larry J. Overton & Associates: DentaQuest

David Childs, Hopping Green & Sams: Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida

Jon Costello, Diana Ferguson, Rutledge Ecenia: The Humane Society of the United States

Carlos Cruz, Cruz & Company: Association for Accessible Medicines

Angela Drzewiecki, Peebles & Smith, Inc: City of Mount Dora; The Trust for Public Land

David Ericks, Ericks Consultants: Quidel Corporation

Christopher Finkbeiner, The Rubin Group: Arcadia Healthcare Company; Florida Harbor Pilots Association, Inc.; Veyo

John Forehand, Kurkin Brandes: Pompano Imports, Inc; South Motor Company of Dade County

Thomas Griffin, Smith BryAn & Myers: Health Network One/HN1

James Hamilton, HBEC Group: Florida Association of School Administrators; Santa Rosa County School District; School Board of Escambia County

BILL Helmich, Helmich Consulting: OUR MicroLending

Doug Holder, The Legis Group: Duke Energy Florida, Inc.

Jessica JanasiewiczGary Rutledge, Rutledge Ecenia: Florida Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects

Frank MayernickTracy MayernickRob Johnson, The Mayernick Group: Columbia Care, LLC

Seth McKeel, Southern Strategy Group: City of Lakeland; Dex Imaging Inc.

Georgia McKeown, GA McKeown & Associates: Global Automakers

Chris Moya, Jones Walker: Florida House Experience

Jack Eugene Nicholson, Catastrophe Risk Consultings: Florida Chamber of Commerce

Peter Murray, Colodny Fass: Property Casualty Insurers Association of America

Ron PierceEdward BriggsNatalie King, RSA Consulting Group: Mobilitie Services, LLC

Richard Pinsky, Akerman: Renovate America, Inc.

Sydney Ridley, Southern Strategy Group: Dex Imaging Inc.

William Rubin, The Rubin Group: Acadia Healthcare Company, Inc.; Argus Dental & Vision, Inc.;

Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: City of Hollywood

Robert Schenck, The Legis Group: DeLucca Enterprises

Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: Made in Space; Medishine Resources LLC

Chris Snow, Snow Strategies: All American Kids PPEC, LLC

James Randolph Spratt: CAS Governmental Services: Florida Federation of Fairs

Craig Deron Varn, Manson Bolves Donaldson: Plants of Ruskin

Cameron Yarbrough, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Collective medical technologies

SPOTTED: #SuitsForSession collection boxes starting to pop up at agencies and associations downtown to collect clothing in preparation for the big day on March 15. Learn more here and don’t forget to donate on March 15.

***The Florida Health Care Association knows how legislators can save taxpayers $68.2 million per year in unnecessary spending, while safeguarding the highest level of care for Florida’s frailest residents. Learn more at***

SPEAKING IN TALLAHASSEETIMOTHY GEITHNER SEES POLITICAL GRIDLOCK AS A THREAT TO THE UNITED STATES via Florida Politics – The biggest danger to the United States and its economy is the breakdown of the political system in Washington, former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in Tallahassee Wednesday. “Nothing is more important than improving the quality of the decisions you get in Washington,” Geithner told members of the Economic Club of Florida during a luncheon. … “We have no capacity to think about those other threats from outside without taking care first of that fundamental part of the American system,” he said.

BLINK AND YOU’LL MISS THE OLD ATTRACTIONS OF FLORIDA, DISAPPEARING FAST via Craig Pittman of the Tampa Bay Times – Florida’s version of Stonehenge, the Airstream Ranch, was being torn down. The Airstream Ranch, a line of shiny silver travel trailers buried nose down in the dirt like the famed Cadillac Ranch out west, was one of those classically kitschy Florida attractions. Now, Matt Strollo of RV Superstores, which owns the property, says it’s time to replace the Airstream Ranch with a 17,000-square-foot Airstream dealership. The dealership’s footprint, says Strollo, made saving the display impossible. A few of the old classics are still around, like the Monkey Jungle in Miami and Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs. Some became state parks, such as Weeki Wachee Springs, which makes Florida the only state where the list of government jobs includes “mermaid.” With the price of Disney tickets skyrocketing, maybe we’ll get some of the old ones back soon.

SEAWORLD POSTS $12 MILLION LOSS AMID ATTENDANCE DROP via the Tampa Bay Times – The Orlando-based company lost $11.9 million in the last quarter of 2016, up from $11 million lost in the fourth quarter of 2015. Overall, fourth quarter attendance was down by about 30,000 visitors, or just under 1 percent, with the company attributing the decline to the impact of Hurricane Matthew in October and a drop in international attendance.

STRAWBERRY FESTIVAL KICKS OFF via Jon Wilson of the Tampa Bay Reporter – Running through March 12, the festival will once again be held on the event’s property at  2209 Oak Ave. in Plant City and feature 24 headline entertainment artists, a midway, youth livestock shows and plenty of strawberry shortcake. Gates will open daily at 10 a.m. and close at 10 p.m. with admission costing $10 for ages 13 and over and $5 for children ages 6-12. Children under five get in for free with a paid adult admission. Festival-goers can purchase discounted admission tickets in advance at select Publix grocery stores. The theme for this year’s festival is “We’re Playing Your Song” and Drew Knottswill serve as the 2017 Florida Strawberry Festival Queen.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, Florida Hospital’s David Christian, smart guy Ralph Lair, Adrianna Sekula, Sally West, and our contributors Roseanne Dunkelberger and Steve Kurlander. Celebrating today are Rep. Manny Diaz and our courageous friend and fraternity brother James Miller.

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Rick Scott picks Carlos Beruff as CRC chairman; Jeff Woodburn named executive director

Rick Scott has selected Carlos Beruff, the Manatee County Republican who ran for U.S. Senate in 2016, to serve as chairman of the powerful Constitution Revision Commission.

“My goal for the CRC is to fight for policies that will ensure a strong future for Florida and I know Carlos also shares this vision,” said Scott in a statement Wednesday. “As we undertake this historic review, I am hopeful that this Commission will propose policies that build a legacy upon which the families and businesses in our great state will thrive for generations to come.” first reported Scott was strongly considering naming Beruff as the chairman Wednesday morning. According to sources briefed on the governor’s plans, Beruff would agree not to run for governor in 2018 if selected.

The Governor’s Office also announced Wednesday that Jeff Woodburn would serve as the executive director of the Constitution Revision Commission. Woodburn currently serves as the governor’s policy director and will take over his new role beginning March 2.

“Jeff’s legal and policy expertise will be of tremendous value to us as we embark on the historic work of the Constitution Revision Commission,” said Beruff in a statement. “He has served Governor Scott in various leadership capacities since 2011, and he has one of the sharpest policy minds of any person in this state.”

The decision to bring Woodburn onboard was first reported by on Wednesday morning.

As executive director, Woodburn will be responsible for organizing the work of the commission, including the coordination of public meetings and the facilitation of the agenda among its 37 members.

See our full report from this earlier today below:

Rick Scott will announce his appointments to the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) as early as today and will tap Jeff Woodburn, currently the Policy Director in the Executive Office of the Governor, as the executive director, according to sources briefed on the Governor’s plans.

The CRC is the panel that meets every 20 years to suggest rewrites and additions to the state’s governing document.

Previous to his post in Scott’s administration, Woodburn served as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Executive Director of the Government Efficiency Task Force.

The Governor is also strongly considering naming Carlos Beruff, the Manatee Republican homebuilder who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, as chairman of the Commission. If he is to serve as chair, Beruff would agree not to run for governor in 2018.

Scott will choose 15 of the 37 commissioners to the CRC.

Among the names expected to be named to the panel: lobbyist and Scott adviser Brecht Heuchan and former state Rep. Jimmy Patronis.

The state constitution says the commission must be “established … within (30) days before the convening of the 2017 regular session of the legislature.”

Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and Senate President Joe Negron have already announced their combined 12 picks. (Those appointments are here and here.)

Corcoran last week said he planned to disclose his nine picks next Monday, the day before Session begins.

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Newsprint vendor sues Tampa Bay Times over defaulted $340K debt

A newsprint vendor is suing the Tampa Bay Times, claiming the paper owes more than $340,000 in debt from the acquisition of the Tampa Tribune last year.

Emails submitted in the suit show a story of increasing disarray with vendors at the 121-year-old Trib leading up to the May 2016 purchase.

In April 2015, the Tribune issued a promissory note to Boise Packaging acknowledging an unpaid debt of nearly $600,000 for newsprint. Boise Packaging is a subsidiary of Packaging Corporation of America, an Illinois-based manufacturer of corrugated boxes and paper products.

The note came about three years after Revolution Capital Group, led by Robert David Loring Jr., purchased the struggling paper for $9.5 million.

Court records show the Tribune agreeing to weekly payments until the debt was clear. Boise’s credit manager Steve Grant, in a series of emails in 2015, communicated with Revolution Capital chief financial officer Stanley Huang about the Tribune’s unpaid debt.

On June 8, 2015, Grant wrote to Huang: “My patience has run out. Last chance to begin paying $10,000 a week without fail. Failure to do so will result in legal action. The ball is in your court.”

Huang responded with several excuses — including the postponed sale of the Tribune’s headquarters and unexpected employee health-insurance claims — for the paper’s failure to make payments.

“I can definitely appreciate and understand your frustration,” Huang responded. “To be honest, you weren’t at the bottom of the list. There were other current vendors that didn’t get paid this week. The medical claims typically come in around $50K a week, but this week it skyrocketed to $110K and ate up all the availability we had on paying vendors.”

“I wish people didn’t get sick and we didn’t have to pay these medical costs that just automatically get drawn,” said Huang’s email of June 26. “I don’t ever call in sick and rarely do I go to the doctor so I wonder where do all of these medical claims come from.”

“Hopefully you won’t find a lawsuit necessary,” Huang said.

Nevertheless, when the Tampa Bay Times took over the Tribune, it was with a stock deal in which the Times assumed the Trib’s liabilities.

By then, the Tribune owed Boise $403,773, plus interest.

Soon after, Times chief financial officer Jana Jones promised Grant the paper would set up a repayment plan, saying the previously agreed upon arrangement “is likely to work for us as well.”

A May 26 email from Jones acknowledges the Times acquired the debt to Boise Packaging, asking for a few weeks to set up a new plan.

“Things haven’t really settled down … it is very busy,” she wrote. “In addition to the systems/operations integration, we are still untangling all of the past due invoices from various vendors. Candidly, it’s taking longer than anticipated.”

However, Jones noted, the debt remained obligations of the Tampa Media Group.

“That company remains active,” she said. “We are not transferring obligations to Times Publishing Company.”

In July 2016, the Times promised Boise monthly payments ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 until December 2017, when the debt would be fully retired.

In the suit, filed Feb. 22 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court, Boise claims the Times defaulted on the revised repayment plan, making only two such monthly payments.

A legal notice sent to Jones from Boise Packaging attorney Monica Cockerille points out that while the vendor did receive payments for July and August, they did receive one for September, and — at the time of the letter, Oct. 25 – no payment for October.

The suit, which names the Tampa Bay Times, Revolution Capital, and Tampa Media Group, is asking for $340,983 in unpaid principal, plus interest.

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A brief, personal message on Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday gets its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of the faithful as a sign of repentance.

The ashes used are gathered after the Palm Crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned. In the liturgical practice of some churches, the ashes are mixed with the Oil of the Catechumens (one of the sacred oils used to anoint those about to be baptized), though some churches use ordinary oil.

This paste is used by the priest who presides at the service to make the sign of the cross, first upon his own forehead and then on each of those present who kneel before him at the altar rail. As he does so, he recites the words: “Remember (O man) that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

This period is still important to me, despite my lingering issues with the Church.

In past years, I focused on being the best man I could be for my wife and daughter. There’s no reason not to double-down on that and, while doing so, being grateful for God for placing these two wonderful women in my life.

As for actual sacrifices, I am giving up Twitter.

Just kidding! I joke each year about giving up social media for Lent, but writing on Facebook and Twitter are part of my job.

Instead, I’ll be giving up table salt, cheese, Bloody Marys (my favorite drink), and soda. That way, several times during the day, when I pass on a sprinkle of salt, I will be reminded of my faith and the need to be a better man, husband and father.

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With push to legalize marijuana, teens get false impression on pot safety

A push to decriminalize marijuana could prove a slippery slope, by giving kids the false impression on the safety of a drug increasingly legal nationwide.

Some believe a similar problem could happen in Florida, especially after voters passed Amendment 2, which began the process of legalizing medical marijuana throughout the Sunshine State.

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics found as more states legalize the drug for adult use, a greater number of teenagers think it is safe. This is leading to concerns by doctors and other medical professionals that teens are underestimating the risks of marijuana use.

“Marijuana is not a benign drug for teenagers because it affects their developing mind. Teenagers are at a critical time of brain development and they have lifelong impacts from marijuana during adolescence,” Dr. Stephen Patrick of Vanderbilt University Medical Center told Chris Martinez of CBS New York.

In “Counseling Parents and Teens About Marijuana Use in the Era of Legalization of Marijuana” the report outlines dangers of portraying pot as acceptable, safe and therapeutic.

For example, in California and the 28 other states (including Florida) allowing either medical or recreational marijuana use for adults over 21, pediatricians are worrying that parents using the drug think it’s OK for kids.

However, research shows that is not the case. Teenagers who use marijuana face higher risks of changes in the brain regions that affect both memory and IQ.

These concerns have now reached Washington D.C., as newly appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions restated his opposition to marijuana use after a meeting with the Nebraska attorney general, who expressed concerns about marijuana flowing in from Colorado, which legalized weed in 2012.

Huffington Post reports that Sessions offered an ominous warning about state-level marijuana legalization efforts, suggesting such policies would open states to “more violence around marijuana than one would think and there’s big money involved.”

For years, Nebraska has pushed back against its neighboring state’s marijuana laws.

In 2014, Nebraska joined Oklahoma in a federal lawsuit against Colorado to invalidate its emerging laws permitting the sale of recreational marijuana; both states claim those laws have increased trafficking of the drug in their states.

“I don’t think America is going to be a better place when people of all ages, and particularly young people, are smoking pot,” Sessions told reporters at the Justice Department. “I believe it’s an unhealthy practice, and current levels of THC in marijuana are very high compared to what they were a few years ago, and we’re seeing real violence around that.”

Last week, Sessions’ comments were echoed by White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who hinted there would be a federal crackdown on recreational marijuana in the Trump administration.

Spicer noted concerns by marijuana policy reform advocates, saying there would be a possibility of “greater enforcement” of federal laws.

Health advocacy group Smart Medicine for Florida sees a similar problem emerging in the Sunshine State, after the passage of Amendment 2.

“There’s been significant national focus and reports all over the country this week about the danger of unrestrained marijuana expansion,” says Smart Medicine for Florida spokesman Brian Hughes. “This includes serious warnings from doctors to parents about the effects of marijuana on their teenagers, and the perception that teens now have that marijuana is safe due to broad legalization efforts across the country.”

Smart Medicine for Florida is urging state lawmakers to “proceed cautiously” when implementing Amendment 2 statewide.

“Some voices are pushing for rapid expansion at the risk of Floridians — especially young people,” Hughes says in a statement. “It’s nothing more than a bait and switch — Floridians voted for medical marijuana with proper safeguards, but proponents are pursuing a goal to see Florida become a ‘recreational use’ state. “

Smart Medicine warns of those who have a dream to turn Florida into California or Colorado — places with legal recreational marijuana — with a pot shop on every corner.

That would be “dangerous,” Hughes says, “and not what voters supported.”

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