Dana Young Archives - Page 4 of 26 - SaintPetersBlog

Report says 24,000 citizens in Florida have suspended drivers license because of drug offenses

Federal law requires drivers license suspensions for non-payment of child support and drug offenses. However, according to a new report, the majority of states have used a provision in that law that allows them to “opt-out” of these automatic license suspensions while still keeping their highway funding.

Twelve states – including Florida – have not.

A report released this week by the Prison Policy Initiative finds more than 190,000 drivers’ licenses are suspended nationally, including more than 24,000 in Florida alone, because of non-driving drug offenses.

The report finds that low-income communities and communities of color bear the brunt of these suspension laws, with many of those impacted living in areas with poor public transit. The report specifically mentions Palm Bay, where it claims that 93 percent of jobs are not reasonably accessible via public transit for people living in low-income areas.

In the Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater area, only 16 percent of low-income people can “reasonably access” a job with the area’s public transit, the report says, and only 18 percent of middle-income can.

In order to get back on the road, there are reinstatement costs layered on top of other court fines and fees. In Florida, that amounts to $45.

In the past year, Florida legislators have worked to help out those who have lost their license for a variety of transgressions – but not related to drug offenses.

In the 2016 Legislative Session in Tallahassee, St. Petersburg Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes filed legislation (SB 706) that would remove the suspension of drivers licenses for a series of crimes unrelated to driving – such as graffiti by a minor, truancy and failure to pay court fees. However, it died in the Senate Appropriations Committee on the last day of the session.

In January, Tampa Bay area lawmakers Darryl Rouson and Dana Young hosted a “Driver’s License Reinstatement Day,” where applicants who had were guilty of the following violations could be eligible to get their license reinstated: for not driving with a valid driver’s license, collections, failure to appear and outstanding civil traffic citations.

In neither of those cases could a motorist who had his license suspended because of a drug offense get it reinstated.

In fiscal year 2013, there were 1.3 million driver’s license suspensions in Florida. Just over 1 million were for non-payment of fines or process violations related to driving, according to a report by the Legislature’s Office of Program Policy Analysis & Governmental Accountability.

Earlier this year, both Ohio and Massachusetts passed bipartisan legislation repealing their laws. In Ohio, license suspensions for drug offenses are now discretionary rather than mandatory. And in Massachusetts, the Legislature eliminated automatic driver’s license suspensions for all drug offenses with the exception of the trafficking of specified substances. They also repealed the $500 reinstatement fee. Judges now have discretion when adjudicating driving-related drug offenses.

Treat medical marijuana “like medicine,” advocates say

The right way to put the new constitutional amendment on medical marijuana into effect is to “treat (it) like medicine,” supporters said Tuesday. 

The Senate Health Policy committee held its first workshop for the 2017 Legislative Session on medical cannabis implementation.

“The states that have done it poorly, with a lack of regulation, allowed folks to market and advertise the notion of getting high,” said Ben Pollara, who leads Florida for Care, the organization advocating for “a strong, well-regulated medical marijuana system.”

“The average recreational marijuana user is not what this is about,” he told lawmakers. “It has to be treated, at every step of the way, with the seriousness that we treat medicine and other health care decisions. There needs to be clear restrictions put in place.”

Pollara is in favor of childproof packaging for medicinal marijuana, for instance.

Lawmakers now are faced with creating a regulatory system for the dispensing of marijuana to thousands of patients who now qualify for it in Florida. The amendment technically goes into effect on Jan. 3 but the Legislature first must create that structure.

“We’ll continue having conversations with the stakeholders,” said committee chair Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, after the workshop. “No decisions have been made yet regarding specific legislation … but this is a topic we’re taking very seriously.”

Voters approved the initiative by 71 percent, well over the required 60 percent needed. That was two years after it missed passage by roughly 2 ½ percent.

In Florida, the “non-euphoric” version already has been approved for children with severe seizures and muscle spasms and is regulated by the Department of Health.

The state later passed a law allowing terminally ill patients to use a stronger form of marijuana during their final days.

The amendment now grants a state constitutional right to marijuana to people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician. It defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among others.

Those in law enforcement and addiction treatment, while saying they respected the “will of the voters,” warned lawmakers to allow for a good amount of local control.

“We are not here to be obstructionist; we want to be honest brokers,” said Walton County Sheriff Michael A. Adkinson Jr. “But we want to address the concerns that will come up … This is a herculean task.”

He suggested prohibiting selling marijuana as candy or cookies, likely to entice children, and to require tamper-proof ID cards for marijuana users. Adkinson also said the state should give leeway to towns and cities to zone for marijuana dispensaries.

But state Sen. Bobby Powell, a Riviera Beach Democrat, said he was concerned some areas would “zone out” medical marijuana entirely from their communities.

Ellen Snelling, chairwoman of the Tampa Alcohol Coalition and member of the Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance, added that marijuana isn’t harmless, telling the panel of her teenage daughter’s decline into drug use after trying pot.

Snelling argued for strict rules and regulations: “Don’t let Florida become California, where anyone can get a medical pot card.”

But Kim Rivers, CEO of Trulieve, one of the state’s first medical marijuana dispensing organizations, said she and others in the business in Florida are “all about product quality and patient safety.” Trulieve operates a retail marijuana store in northeast Tallahassee.

And Rivers said she expects business to only grow.

Her company now can serve 72,500 patients, she said. After an upcoming expansion, Trulieve will be able to accommodate up to 650,000 patients with 20 milligrams of cannabis a day.

Dr. Mark Hashim, a pain specialist in Hudson, disagreed with the Health Department’s proposed rule banning telemedicine to prescribe marijuana. It’s been described as “allowing doctors and patients to connect virtually, rather than face-to-face.”

He said it would help those in rural areas or simply too sick to get to a doctor: “I don’t see a reason why we are disallowing this.”

Implementation of medical marijuana amendment brings together unlikely allies

With establishment lobbyists now representing it, the medical marijuana cause appears to have become—grab your pearls—respectable.

Florida for Care, the nonprofit organization that is advocating for “well-regulated” medicinal pot in the state, has hired Brecht Heuchan and The Mayernick Group to advocate for its interests.

Heuchan, who says he voted against the medical marijuana constitutional amendment this November, has worked for Gov. Rick Scott’s Let’s Get to Work PAC. He’ll lobby the executive agencies.

“I didn’t want Florida to be like California but my vote was an ignorant one, as it turns out,” he said. “The amendment … will change thousands and thousands of Floridians’ lives and this can be done in a responsible way.”

The Mayernicks, GOP loyalists and experts in appropriations, have the legislative end.

Florida voters approved the initiative by 71 percent, well over the required 60 percent needed. That was two years after it missed passage by roughly 2 ½ percent.

“It’s rare you get to work on an issue that helps people cope with their medical condition and is supported by an overwhelming mandate of the voters,” Frank Mayernick said.

Now the work lies in how the amendment will work in practice.

State Sen. Dana Young, a Tampa Republican, will hold a workshop next Tuesday in her Senate Health Policy committee on “Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions,” a Senate schedule shows.

“There are many competing interests on the implementation (of medical marijuana),” lobbyist Tracy Mayernick said.

“We will be advocating for reasonable implementation that allows for adequate access, patient safety and affordability to the expanded patient population as well as a strong regulatory structure that meets the needs of law enforcement and communities across Florida.”

Just as important, cannabis as medicine is about to become big, even huge, business. 

A recent report says Florida will rack up over $1 billion in medical marijuana sales in the next three years. Soon, the Sunshine State could be behind only California in the size of its medical pot revenues.

It’s used as a “critical therapy by millions of patients to alleviate symptoms of epilepsy, chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, chronic pain, and more,” according to Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access.

Here, the amendment grants a right to people with debilitating medical conditions, as determined by a licensed Florida physician, to use medical marijuana. The amendment defines a debilitating condition as cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, and post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things.

In Florida, the “non-euphoric” version is already approved for children with severe seizures and muscle spasms. The state later passed a law allowing terminally ill patients to use a stronger form of marijuana during their final days.

Florida and other states have operated under a kind of salutary neglect when it comes to marijuana, the sale of which is still a federal crime.

The Obama administration has directed federal prosecutors not to charge those, particularly “the seriously ill and their caregivers,” who distribute and use medical marijuana under a state law.

President-elect Donald Trump “has said he supports medical marijuana and that states should handle the question of whether to legalize,” according to TIME magazine.

“I think there’s an axis between the message the voters sent, the desire of the legislature to regulate this law in a lowercase ‘c’-conservative way, and the wants of the nascent medical marijuana industry,” Heuchan said.

“I agreed to join Florida for Care because they’re taking an approach to implementation that acknowledges this balancing act, and are seeking to be productive and reasonable in the process.”


Ed. Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that John Morgan chairs Florida for Care. Morgan chairs United for Care, a separate entity.

Dana Young, Amber Mariano, others file to run for re-election in 2018

Count them in for 2018.

Dozens of state lawmakers have already filed to run for the state House and Senate in 2018. For some, their decision comes before their first bills get a hearing. Others have their eye on the higher office as they embark on their final term in the House.

State elections records show more than 50 members of the House and Senate have filed to run in two years. While many of those are incumbents who faced little-to-no opposition in 2016, many just came off hard-fought battles to secure their spot in the Florida Legislature.

Sen. Dana Young is one of those. Young, a Tampa Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 18 on Dec. 2. While the former House Majority Leader easily won her seat over Democrat Bob Buesing, it was far from an easy campaign. Buesing and Joe Redner, an independent candidate, attacked Young over her voting record.

Senate President Joe Negron announced last week that Young will serve as the chairwoman of the Senate’s Health Care Policy committee during the 2016-18 Legislative Session. She’ll also serve as the vice chairwoman of the Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee.

Records show Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Vero Beach Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 17 on Dec. 1. Mayfield defeated former Rep. Ritch Workman, a Melbourne Republican and the former chairman of the House Rules committee, in one of the nastiest primary elections of the cycle.

Mayfield will serve as the vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee during the 2016-18 Legislative Session. She’s also scored a spot on the general government appropriations subcommittee, and the environmental and natural resources appropriations subcommittee.

Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, also filed to run for re-election in Senate District 8 on Dec. 1. Perry defeated Democrat Rod Smith in the November general election. He’ll serve as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

And while Rep. Manny Diaz still has two years left in his House career, he’s already eyeing his next step. The Hialeah Republican filed to run in Senate District 36 on Nov. 21. He’s hoping to replace Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, who can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits.

In the Florida House, Reps. Randy Fine, Emily Slosberg, Tom Leek, Amber Mariano, Carlos Guillermo Smith, Chris Latvala, and Kathleen Peters are among those who have filed for re-election.

Fine, a Brevard County Republican, is one of at least three House members believed to be in the running for House Speaker in 2022-24, after winning his House District 53 seat earlier in November.

Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat and daughter of former Rep. Irv Slosberg, filed to run for re-election in House District 91; while Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican, filed to run again in House District 25. Both are freshmen lawmakers, as are Mariano, a Hudson Republican and the youngest member of the Florida House, and Smith, an Orlando Democrat.

Mariano will run for re-election in House District 36, while Smith will run for re-election in House District 49.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and son of Sen. Jack Latvala, will seek a third term representing House District 67. First elected in 2012, Peters, a Treasure Island Republican, has filed to run for her final term representing House District 69.

Personnel note: Sydney Ridley joins Southern Strategy Group

Sydney Ridley, former right-hand woman to lawmaker Dana Young, is joining Southern Strategy Group‘s Tampa office. 

The top-tier lobbying firm announced the move Monday.

“Sydney represents the future of the lobbying business,” said Seth McKeel, managing partner of SSG’s Tampa Bay office and a former House member. “She’s sharp, respected, energetic, and she’s very excited about delivering for our clients – a perfect fit for our team.”

The two had been talking about Ridley joining the firm “for a little while and the timing prior to session seemed right so we pulled the trigger and couldn’t be more excited,” McKeel said.

Ridley, 28, will be part of the team traveling back and forth between Tampa Bay and Tallahassee working on behalf of clients as the 2017 legislative session cranks up, he added.

“She understands Tampa Bay, the players in the market, and, importantly, the politics of the region,” McKeel said. “Political leaders in our region have grown to know, love and trust Sydney so we felt it was really a perfect fit.”

Ridley had been a legislative aide to Young, now a state senator, when she served in the House, rising to Republican leader there. She also worked on Young’s Senate campaign.

“She is a very talented, hard-working individual and I am confident she will be successful in this new endeavor,” Young told FloridaPolitics.com.

Ridley, a graduate of the University of Virginia, also has worked on the campaigns of Mike Prendergast for Congress, Jeff Brandes for Florida Senate, and Dorothy Hukill for Florida Senate.

Ridley most recently had been heading government and regulatory affairs for Frontier Communications’ Florida operations.

Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation meeting set for December 16

With Tallahassee a four-hour drive away, the annual meeting of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation to be held in two weeks in Tampa could very possibly be the only time local residents can address their state representative(s).

That meeting will take place on Friday, December 16 at the Tampa Bay History Center, 801 Old Water Street, from 9 a.m. to 3.p.m.

The Delegation consists of 13 members of the Florida Senate and Florida House of Representatives that represent all or parts of Hillsborough County. Senators Dana Young, Bill Galvano, Darryl Rouson will join Brandon area state Senator Tom Lee , who serves this year as the current Chair of the Delegation.

House members include Jake Raburn, Dan Raulerson, Sean Shaw, Shawn Harrison, Ross Spano, Jackie Toledo, Janet Cruz, Jamie Grant and Wengay Newton.

The annual meeting is an opportunity for the general public to interact with and voice any concerns or opinions to their elected officials prior to the start of the 2017 Legislative Session. It’s also when lawmakers will propose so-called “local bills”

Public testimony will be limited to three minutes per speaker. The deadline to submit a request to speak is 5 p.m. on Friday, December 9, which you can access from this page. Additional speaker request forms will be available at the meeting.

Dana Young named to chair Health Care policy committee in Florida Senate

Dana Young has been named as chair of Health Care policy in the Florida state Senate. The South Tampa Republican, who was elected to the Legislature’s upper chamber earlier this month in SD 18, will also serve as Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education

Senate President Joe Negron handed out such assignments to his charges in the Senate on Tuesday for the 2017 and 2018 sessions.

Other Hillsborough County area senators who learned that they would chair committees include Bill Galvano, who will chair the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education

Senator Galvano previously served as Majority Leader to the Florida Senate during the 2014-2016 legislative term, and has also served as the Chair of Education Appropriations in the past. He represents District 21, which encompasses all of Manatee County, as well as a portion of Hillsborough County.

“I appreciate the confidence President Negron has placed in me by appointing me Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Higher Education,” said Galvano.  “I look forward to delivering a higher education budget that truly meets the needs of the people of Florida; a budget that will elevate our university system to the highest level of excellence.”

Darryl Rouson, who narrowly defeated fellow Democrat Ed Narain in the Tampa/St. Pete District SD 19 race, will serve as Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee.

And Brandon’s Tom Lee heads Community Affairs.

Dana Young and Darryl Rouson set to start new careers in Florida Senate

At Tuesday’s Organization Session in Tallahassee, all 40 state senators elected earlier this month will take their oath in office.

Both senators representing Hillsborough County, Darryl Rouson and Dana Young, are new to the job, though not to the Legislature.

Young returns to Tallahassee having fulfilled her goal of advancing into the Senate after six years in the Florida House.

The newly created state Senate District 18 she now represents includes more than half of the same boundaries of her House District 60 seat, and she was more than ready to began campaigning for it once she declared she was in the running back in January, staving off any other GOP hopefuls (such as Sandy Murman, who flirted with the notion of challenging her in primary before opting to run for re-election to her County Commission seat).

Although Young won the seat earlier this month with relative ease over Democrat Bob Buesing, it was anything but an easy campaign. Buesing and independent Joe Redner tore into Young’s voting record, with the liberal activist group Florida Strong and other environmental groups slamming Young’s vote on fracking during the 2016 legislative session.

Young had insisted that her vote for a fracking bill in the House last session was actually a vote against fracking, but her opponents disagreed and went after her hard on the subject.

To clear up any ambiguity, Young announced last week in Orlando she will soon draw up a bill that will ban fracking outright in the Sunshine State.

The statement earned her plaudits from Florida Conservation Voters, a group that strongly backed Buesing in the election.

“Florida Conservation Voters applauds Sen. Dana Young for her commitment to sponsor a true statewide fracking ban,” said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of the group. “Our quality of life and economy depend on a healthy environment —especially in the Tampa Bay area. I’m glad that Sen. Young recognizes that there is no place for fracking anywhere in Florida — our drinking water and Florida’s remarkable rivers, springs, and natural areas are too precious to risk.”

The other state senator representing Hillsborough County is Democrat Darryl Rouson from District 18, which encompasses parts of downtown Tampa, with the majority of the district located in Pinellas County. Rouson defeated Tampa representative Ed Narain by less than 100 votes back in the August primary, essentially winning the race then in the overwhelmingly Democratic district.

On Nov. 8, Rouson defeated Republican John Houman by a 67 percent-33 percent margin. He now moves to the Senate after serving eight years representing Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee, and Sarasota counties in House District 70.

Jonny Torres to challenge Deb Tamargo for chair of Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee

Jonny Torres, currently vice chair of the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee, has announced he will challenge incumbent chair Deborah Tamargo when the party holds elections next month.

Although the GOP had a big night nationally and in Florida last week, Torres said the results out of Hillsborough were disappointing, and he believes it’s time for a change in leadership.

“Today, we bear little resemblance to the organization we once were,” Torres wrote to party members on Wednesday. “Those of you who don’t miss a meeting know that we’ve been struggling month-to-month to make quorum. We are losing more members than we are adding every month. And we have lost the influence and relevance in the community and among our elected officials that we once had. While we can certainly celebrate our national and statewide victories, locally we did not gain a seat we didn’t already hold, and we have lost an incredibly important seat in State Attorney Mark Ober. As an organization, what do we have to show for the last two years? We have no gains in membership or elected offices, and Hillsborough County was delivered to Hillary Clinton by 31,000 votes.”

“Jonny’s opinions are just — opinions,” Tamargo responded. “They aren’t based in fact. Analytically, we gained votes in the presidential race even though we still lost Hillsborough to Hillary.”

Hillsborough did go big for Clinton last week, but unlike most recent presidential elections, it was not a bellwether for the state, as Donald Trump edged out Clinton by 1.2 percentage points in Florida. Trump received 266,281 votes in Hillsborough County, 18,259 more votes than Mitt Romney received  in the county in  2012.

And while upstart Andrew Warren did defeat Ober in the biggest surprise of the night as Torres noted, the Democrats failed in two big House races they thought they had a legitimate shot at winning in the county — with Shawn Harrison defeating Lisa Montelione in House District 63 by 2 percentage points, and Dover’s Ross Spano easily vanquishing Rena Frazier in the House District 59 race.

In the biggest state Senate race in Hillsborough, Republican Dana Young defeated Democrat Bob Buesing by nearly 7 percentage points in the SD 18 seat.

In the only open County Commission seat, Democrat Pat Kemp beat Republican Tim Schock. Schock had easily defeated former longtime commissioner Jim Norman in the August primary. GOP District 1 Incumbent Sandy Murman won another four years by beating Democrat Jeff Zampitella.

Tamargo has led the Hillsborough Republicans since December 2014, when she defeated former chair Deborah Cox-Roush. She said she welcomes all challengers.

“Two years ago, when I decided  to run, I and the other board candidates were denied meeting time to declare our intention to  run, and denied time to speak about our platforms,” she said. “We were only allotted five minutes at the December election meeting to speak, which included a nomination and second. That was one thing I wanted to change, and did change, to offer new candidates time for their background and platform to be known and understood by the membership.”

Torres works in marketing and advertising. He served as digital director of the Republican National Convention in 2012, was the the regional field director for the Republican Party of Florida, and worked on Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s successful campaign victory over Alvin Brown in 2015.

He said he intends to soon unveil his plan to recruit and develop candidates with a nine-course candidate training, “featuring local, state, and national experts.”

The election will take place Dec. 20.

Mitch Perry Report for 11.9.16 — GOP dominance

Where do you begin? One of the biggest political upsets in U.S. history, to start with, in Donald J. Trump beating Hillary Clinton to become the 45th President of the United States of America.

Lots of analysis there, including about the Democratic nominee, who for the second time in eight years, thought she had the presidency in her grasp, only to lose out — forever.

What about closer to home? Although Florida Democrats have had huge disappointments in 2010 and 2014 across the board, at least they had 2006, 2008, and 2012. But not 2016.

Down went Patrick Murphy, early into the evening. Down went Clinton, officially losing the state before 10 p.m.

In Hillsborough County, a House District 63 seat that has gone back and forth between Shawn Harrison and a Democrat and Shawn Harrison went this time to … Shawn Harrison, and not Lisa Monteliione.

Ross Spano won over Rena Frazier in HD 59. And Jackie Toledo easily defeated David Singer in the battle for House District 60 in Hillsborough County.

Wipe out city.

Congratulations to Blaise Ingoglia, who from the time he became the RPOF Chairman in early 2015 vowed to turn Florida red, and did so last night.

The Florida Democrats led by Allison Tant and Scott Arceneaux? I really don’t know.

What about Washington? It’s now got the presidency, the House and the Senate. Oh, and the Supreme Court as well, now that Mitch McConnell‘s move to not make a move on replacing Antonin Scalia will pay off big time next year.

In other news …

It was not a good night for Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. In addition to his girl, Hillary, losing in Florida, the mayor’s appeal for city voters to reject the charter amendment on allowing the city council to order internal audits won a smashing victory, 64-36 percent.

The upset of the night in Hillsborough County was Andrew Warren’s narrow victory over Mark Ober for state attorney.

It will be Jim Davison vs. Luis Viera in the special election in Tampa City Council District 7 race.

Charlie Crist defeated David Jolly in their CD 13 battle.

Donald Trump told Jack & Tedd on WFLA 970 yesterday morning he’d go quietly if he lost the election.

Now that he’s in the Senate for another six years, Marco Rubio waxes on how he can help make the political discourse a little more palatable in Washington.

Americans for Prosperity – Florida was one of over 50 groups who spent money in the Florida Senate race. In AFP’s case, they spent more than $2.5 million trying to bring down Patrick Murphy.

Bob Buckhorn was campaigning early yesterday against that charter amendment regarding the city council calling for their own internal audits of city departments.

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