Jack Latvala Archives - Page 7 of 32 - SaintPetersBlog

Some Florida Republicans AWOL on talking about Amendment 2

Florida Republican leaders have been conspicuously quiet about where they stand on Amendment 2, the ballot initiative that would legalize medical marijuana.

“I think a lot of people are being quiet about it because they assume it’s going to pass and they don’t want to be on the wrong side,” incoming Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Latvala said last week about the relative scarcity of GOP leaders opposed to the measure.

After speaking with Latvala, FloridaPolitics.com reached out last week to four leading Republicans in Florida to determine where they stand on the issue, but five days later, only incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran responded to our entreaty.

“In 2014, the Florida House passed the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act that eventually became law,” Corcoran emailed Florida Politics. “The law created a strict regime for dispensing non-smoked low-THC cannabis to patients who had run out of traditional pain management options. I believe that Amendment 2 is both unnecessary and is merely a steppingstone in the full legalization playbook. The law in place strikes a balance between compassion and control and poses no danger to our kids and grandkids.”

In addition to Corcoran, this reporter also reached out to incoming Senate President Joe Negron, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.

This is the second consecutive statewide election with the issue of medical marijuana on the ballot.

In 2014, the measure received over 57 percent support at the polls, short of the 60 percent required for a citizen’s led initiative to pass. Nearly every respected poll published this year shows the measure getting over the required threshold, though the polls were also favorable at this time two years ago.

Latvala took a beating on his Facebook page when he announced his opposition in September, but the Clearwater Republican said it actually demonstrated his political courage.

“To get involved in something’s that winning over 70 percent of the vote is not an easy thing to do,” he said. “It takes a little bit of courage to get involved in an issue where it looks like you’re losing.”

Many, if not most, Republicans opposed the measure in 2014, but some have come on board this year, including Tampa Bay area Republicans Jeff Brandes and Dana Young.

While some lawmakers like Corcoran says the law previously passed by the Legislature serves its purpose, critics note it also limits the growing and distribution of marijuana to just six nursery owners in the state.

“The Legislature screwed up the opportunity in the medical marijuana law,” says Brandes. “What you’ve seen them do is create a situation where only a handful of families can get wealthy.”

The measure also is getting more buy-in from the editorial boards of some of the state’s biggest newspapers. In the past two days, three newspapers — the Florida Times-Union, the News Herald of Panama City, and the Ft. Myers News-Press — have all urged their readers to vote “yes” on the proposal. All three papers’ editorial boards had opposed Amendment 2 in 2014.

The Orlando Sentinel came out with an editorial opposing the measure, saying: “It’s the right policy, but the constitution is the wrong place to do it.”

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The Mitch Perry Report for 10.4.16 – And now for something completely different

Since his selection to be Donald Trump’s running mate back in July, it’s been downright amusing at times to watch Mike Pence have to answer for his new boss while being asked about his latest outrageous comment.

“Torturous” might be the best term to explain some of the responses he’s had to come up with to defend or deflect the latest comment by the GOP standard bearer. Sure, Katrina Pierson and Jeffrey Lord have lost their dignity at times on cable news, but Pence is the current governor of Indiana and a former member of Congress who had his own political persona swallowed up because of the unique position he’s in.

Tonight, Pence takes on Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine in the vice-presidential debate from Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. They’ll be questioned by CBS’ digital news anchor Elaine Quijano, the first Asian-American moderator for a presidential or vice-presidential debate, and believe it or not, at 42, the youngest such host since Judy Woodruff in 1988.

One would presumably trust we’ll hear more about policy than we did in either the first presidential debate or on the campaign trail in general. But Quijano is going to have to be compelled to ask Pence to deal with some of Trump’s statements. No doubt we’ll hear talking points from Team Trump — that their man’s ability to use the tax code to (presumably) not pay taxes for years was “brilliant” — which is what Trump surrogates (and the man himself) have been saying for the past two days after the New York Times report on the nearly billion-dollar loss he wrote off in 1995.

And what about Kaine? While he’s been a loyal soldier to Hillary Clinton on the trail (mostly by bashing Trump), there are a few policy positions that distinguish himself from the top of the ticket. For example, Kaine supports the Hyde Amendment, which has banned taxpayer-funded abortions for nearly 40 years, yet he says he will work with Clinton to overturn it as vice president. And he was a fan of the Trans-Pacific Partnership the same week he was selected as Clinton’s running mate, then came out against it (after Clinton herself reversed her stance on the TPP).

Then again, will this matter that much? The VP debate certainly did four years ago, when Joe Biden came on incredibly aggressive (almost rude) against Paul Ryan from the jump, so determined was he to be the aggressor in win the debate after Barack Obama laid an egg against Mitt Romney in their first presidential debate.

An ABC News poll released last week found that more than 40 percent of the American public couldn’t pick Kaine or Pence out of a line-up.

In other news…

Who says Charlie Crist can’t laugh at himself? The CD 13 Democratic candidate is airing a new television ad which includes an admission about his infatuation with devices that keep him cool.

Meanwhile, the David Jolly campaign team is pumped up about a D.C. website’s projection of the race to be tightening. 

Jack Latvala announced last week he opposes the medical marijuana constitutional amendment. The reaction on Facebook was fierce.

Joe Redner has gone up with the first TV of his SD 18 campaign.

Hillary Clinton has new radio ads in English and Spanish airing in South Florida pounding Donald Trump on that whole doing business with Cuba report from last week’s Newsweek.

Tampa Democrats are working hard to get as many people registered as possible before next week’s deadline to vote in the November election.

The Tampa Police Department has received a $1.9 million grant from the Department of Justice to hire 15 community police officers.

Not that it’s a surprise, but Jeff Brandes was “elected” the new state senator of District 24 yesterday, after his write-in opponent dropped out.

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Jack Latvala comes out against medical pot; the internet reacts

Last Friday, Clearwater Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala announced he would be opposing Amendment 2, the imitative calling for legalizing medical marijuana in the Sunshine State.

“Amendment 2 is bad for Florida,” Latvala says in a short video on the Facebook page created for his election campaign. “The constitution is forever,” he says. “Future legislators or judges can’t change it, even if science finds it harmful.”

The reaction has been fierce on social media, with the announcement generating more than 100 comments on his campaign Facebook page, most of them negative.

“How much are you getting from liquor and beer companies to make this PA?” wrote Jose Carlos Buraschi. “Thanks to people like you, my son could not get the medicine he needed back in 2014. Now he is dead!!! Please do research before you say all this nonsense about low THC, and how that is enough. What research have you personally done to say that ‘Charlotte’s Web’ is enough to cure cancer, treat Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, etc.?”

There were plenty of comments suggesting Latvala was heeding the wisdom of “Big Pharma” and that he’s endangered his chances of getting elected. The odds of that happening are virtually nonexistent, however, considering that not one Democrat or Republican even bothered to file to run against him in his bid to win his state Senate District 16 next month. Katherine Perkins is a write-in candidate listed as also running for the seat.

“Apparently you’ve never saw someone who has suffered through chemotherapy and its side effects,” wrote Gail Bender. “If you had, I’ll wager that you would do ANYTHING that would help. It’s so much more important to you that you listen to those drug lobbyists. Well, guess what. Whether you like it or not, it’s coming. Oh, and like I said. Your straight answer was quite telling in whom you’ve sided with. Good luck on winning the next election. Marijuana use will help thousands of registered voters live long enough to vote you out on your next election cycle.”

Some reactions were extremely personal.

“I hope that someday your life is touched by you or a loved one having a chronic and painful illness,” wrote Norie Berndt. “Then you will understand why it’s important to make medical marijuana legal.”

It should also be noted more than 133 people gave a “like” to the video. And the reaction is much more balanced on his personal Facebook page.

The senator responded Saturday by posting a photo of marijuana edibles. “Tell me kids won’t get ahold of this pot candy if it comes to Florida. #VoteNoOn2,” he wrote.

That also generated similar negative feedback.

“Why are you blurring the lines and making up lies?” wrote Tommy Frain. “Amendment 2 gives a ton of power to the Department of Health for implementation and is very restrictive on the illness medical cannabis is allowed to be given for. What’s up with these scare tactics, Jack?”

In an interview Monday, Latvala said he wasn’t surprised by the reaction, but, to him, it’s a moral issue and doesn’t have anything to do with politics.

“I just draw the line,” he said. “It’s what you’ve got to do sometimes if you’re a leader.”

Latvala has received contributions from 10 different pharmaceutical companies in his 2016 election campaign totaling $5,500, including $500 contributions from companies like Pfizer, Merck Sharp & Dohme, and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Latvala notes the total amount of those contributions just above 1 percent of the $508,712 he’s collected in his campaign account as of Sept. 16 (there have been a handful of contributions from pharmaceutical companies to his political action committee).

“I generally take money from all legal sources, and I generally don’t worry about who I irritate to give me money,” he says, adding that he’s been tough on groups like the utility companies in Florida, yet has received contributions from them. “There’s no connection.”

Some fellow Pinellas Republicans disagree with Latvala’s stance.

“Our government has failed its citizens on medical marijuana policy,” St. Petersburg state Sen. Jeff Brandes said Friday, referring to the “Charlotte’s Web law,” which legalized the use of a non-euphoric strain of marijuana to treat conditions such as epilepsy, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and cancer (and which Latvala opposed).

“Today we have a law on the books that enriches a handful of people, and places barriers between doctors and their patients by depriving them access to a treatment that could improve their quality of life,” Brandes added. “The law today must change, and Amendment 2 is a responsible option for sensible medical marijuana regulation.”

Latvala says he believes some people are coming out in support of the measure because the odds of passage look good next month, according to public opinion polls. He says it takes more courage to go against the grain.

“I think a lot of people are being quiet about it because they assume it’s going to pass and they don’t want to be on the wrong side, and I think it’d be interesting,” he says. “To get involved in something’s that winning over 70 percent of the vote is not an easy thing to do. It takes a little bit of courage to get involved in an issue where it looks like you’re losing.”

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Here’s where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay politics — the ‘it’s October’ edition

Hello, October.

This is the final full month of the 2016 campaign cycle. In five weeks, we will know so much more about the future of the country, the state and our communities. But, no matter what, life will go on.

For those in “The Process” — Florida Politics’ term for the unending legislative campaign/legislative session system — it’s just two months before committee meetings begin.

In fact, like many people I talk to who are in “The Process,” we’re planning for the 2017 Legislative Session as they are monitoring the final weeks of the campaign season.

Of course, we all are fascinated by the presidential campaign, while the U.S. Senate race between Republican Marco Rubio and his Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy, seems uninspiring. It’s like one of those Hollywood blockbusters with a big budget and exciting trailer, yet fails to deliver at the box office.

Fortunately for Tampa Bay politicos, there are several races which are not only competitive but are getting more interesting as Election Day approaches.

Here’s where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay politics …

When I left the Palladium Theater after the debate between David Jolly and Charlie Crist, I could have made a case for either candidate having won the showdown. Jolly landed several sharp jabs, while Crist probably delivered the hardest punch with his “invitation to lead” remark.

In retrospect, I think Jolly needed to have won the debate to be the winner, whereas the expectations for Crist were low enough that he just had to not make a gaffe and he won. That’s not only how the debate went, but how the campaign seems to be proceeding. An elected official who is one of Crist’s loudest detractors recently admitted he was surprised how well Crist did at the debate.

The demographics are just not on Jolly’s side. He has to win independents by a large enough margin to overcome the Democratic performance advantage in a presidential year. And I don’t know that he has the resources to make enough of a case. He’s releasing digital ads because he doesn’t have the money to go up on television. He’s hoping the super PAC funded mostly by money committed to him while he was a U.S. Senate candidate can keep him on par with Crist’s fundraising advantage.

I just don’t know if there is enough gas in the tank. Crist’s latest ad — the one in which he says “I’m a fan of fans” — is much improved on previous efforts. And there’s even this proof of how hard Crist is working:

crist

That’s right, that’s Crist himself putting out signs on a Sunday morning. I haven’t seen that since he was running for state Senate.

Two weeks ago, I concurred with St. Pete Polls’ survey that pegged Jolly the slight leader over Crist. I believe the race has shifted to Crist’s advantage.

Crist and Jolly will face off again this Thursday at a forum hosted by Suncoast Tiger Bay. The event is at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club and begins at noon. The deadline to RSVP is Oct. 3.

The Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections will mail more than 264,000 ballots to domestic voters Tuesday. You probably have seen the countless stories about how early voting is changing campaigns, but this point cannot be stressed enough: in one of, if not the, most crucial battleground states in the country, the real Election Day is this week as opposed to the one on the calendar in November.

It’s a story for a larger piece, but in case you haven’t been paying attention, Sen. Jack Latvala has a lot to say. That’s probably nothing new, but as the incoming chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he’s never had the kind of platform he has now. As powerful as he has been, he’s never been this powerful before.

So when Sen. Latvala speaks, it’s more important than ever to listen.

Latvala has opinions on Amendment 2 (he’s against it and spending his own money to oppose it), funding for Enterprise Florida (he’s for it and thinks a compromise between Rick Scott and Richard Corcoran can be reached), raises for state employees (he’s making that his top priority next session) and a host of other issues.

In the run-up to the 2017 Session — and certainly beyond — it is probably more important than ever to listen to what Latvala has to say. After all, he has say on, oh, about $80 billion.

Speaking of the Latvala clan, state Rep. Chris Latvala handled himself very well at last week’s candidate forum sponsored by Suncoast Tiger Bay. Admittedly, he is a friend. And Chris is a partisan (he says he’s voting for Donald Trump), but his answers on a range of issues were not only smart, but they were also well-articulated and compassionate.

More than anything, Latvala demonstrated that he’s not just his father’s son (although there certainly would be nothing wrong with that).

Latvala’s Democratic opponent, David Vogel, told Tiger Bay organizers that he would not participate in the candidate forum because he objected to questions asked at a previous forum by the moderator. That moderator? Yours truly.

Creative Loafing’s Kate Bradshaw summarizes the situation:

Vogel said he didn’t like the questions Schorsch asked at another forum — namely two he posed to Joseph Bensmihen, a Republican running for a state House seat in St. Pete and a recent transplant. They were designed to show how well — or not well, actually — he knew the district, but his responses were memorable gaffes: his favorite restaurant on St. Pete’s 4th Street was a Chick-fil-A franchise, he said, and he couldn’t name the mayor who preceded current St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman.

“[Vogel] said that those questions are not serious,” Schorsch said.

First of all, Tiger Bay forums are not meant to be entirely serious. They promise to “carve up a politican for lunch,” which we all know/hope is an unserious motto.

But the kind of questions I asked Joe Bensmihen — and it should be noted that I asked each of the candidates a range of policy questions — are essential because they illuminate a candidate’s knowledge of the community he wants to represent.

Just like a question about “Aleppo” gives a voter a sense of a presidential aspirant’s grasp of geopolitics.

Vogel — far behind Latvala in polls and money — missed an opportunity to make his case to Tiger Bay members.

Republican state House candidate Jackie Toledo has a major fundraiser planned for this Wednesday. Here’s the invitation:

toledo-jackie-fundraiser

Newspaper endorsements probably matter less than they ever had, but at least one recommendation is worth noting.

Trilingual La Gaceta, which should be written in blue ink instead of black it leans that far to the Democratic left, endorsed Republican Shawn Harrison in House District 63 over Democrat Lisa Montelione.

“(N)ormally, we support Democrats, but lately we’ve noticed some Democrats aren’t acting like Democrats. Lisa Montelione is on that list” writes publisher Patrick Manteiga.

The endorsement notes that Montelione, Tampa’s District 7 City Councilwoman, “approved two consecutive tax increases in the City of Tampa that combined, are the largest in the city’s history.” She “also recently extended the city’s red light ticket program,” it said. “Democrats don’t privatize our policing to private, for-profit corporations. These programs hurt the poor. These tickets are hard to fight, and the system makes mistakes.” On the other hand, Harrison “is a moderate Republican. Democrats can work with him,” the paper said. … “He’s smart, compassionate, focused and does his homework. He can build coalitions.”

Look for Harrison’s campaign to waste little time printing a direct mailer with Manteiga’s words in big, bold letters.

Perhaps the most despised governmental agency in Tampa Bay is the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission. Beholden to the local taxi industry, the PTC has almost pushed ridesharing services Uber and Lyft out of the market. Yes, a deal has been reached that may keep them here, but it’s not a certainty.

Whichever way that deal breaks, the fate of the PTC will likely be decided by the Florida Legislature, of which several Tampa Bay lawmakers have their knives out for the PTC.

This makes this one of the most interesting lobbying battles shaping up in Tallahassee.

On one side, there is the PTC and its registered lobbyists at Corcoran & Johnston. That is the firm headed by Michael Corcoran, brother of incoming House Speaker Richard Corcoran. On the other side, there is Sen. Jeff Brandes and Reps. Larry Ahern, James Grant, and Dana Young, who would like to abolish the PTC.

Oh, also with Brandes, Young and Co. is Speaker Corcoran, who co-signed a pro-Uber letter to the PTC.

The very fact that the PTC is paying $120,000 to lobby the lawmakers who would like to see it abolished only serves to pour gasoline on this flammable situation.

Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez has a grand opening for his campaign headquarters on Tuesday, Oct. 11. Here’s the invite:

henriquez-event

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Jack Latvala says bill may put PSC over local utilities

State Sen. Jack Latvala, his chamber’s next budget chief, Friday said he might file legislation for next year to put municipal utilities under the supervision of the state’s Public Service Commission.

“I think you’re going to see a bill dealing with the municipalities that are currently not supervised by anybody above them, in terms of their (storm) preparedness, their rates,” he told reporters in Tallahassee.

The commission already oversees investor-owned utilities, including rate increase requests.

But the head of the organization representing municipal electric utilities said they already are well regulated by the cities they serve or by separate utility authorities.

Earlier this month, Latvala — a Clearwater Republican — said he was considering legislative action to address the City of Tallahassee’s response to Hurricane Hermine.

Specifically, he said he questions whether community-based power operations — such as City of Tallahassee Utilities — are positioned as well as they could be to recover after major storms.

Hermine, a Category 1 hurricane at landfall, knocked out electric service to hundreds of thousands across North Florida, including nearly 68,000 in Tallahassee alone. About 90 percent of customers had power restored in six days.  

Latvala used Vero Beach as an example, where he said 60 percent of utility customers live outside the city limits and don’t have a say in utility governance.

“There will very likely be some legislation that will … maybe put the municipals under the purview of the Public Service Commission,” he said. “Maybe the bill will just put emergency preparedness under the PSC. I don’t know yet.”

Barry Moline, director of the Florida Municipal Electric Association, said Kissimmee, Orlando, and Lakeland, for example, have put non-resident utility customers on their utility system’s governing boards.

Vero Beach has the same opportunity to do so and has so far declined, he said.

As to further oversight, Moline added that the PSC already regulates municipal utilities on “storm hardening” and when they seek to build new power plants.  

“And our rates are already regulated by local governments all over Florida,” he said.

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Jack Latvala backs business incentives, raises for state workers

State Sen. Jack Latvala told reporters Friday he would again support money in the state budget for business incentives and state worker pay raises.

“If we’re going to have economic development, and jobs are still the No. 1 thing on people’s minds, then we need to fund it,” he said after a medical marijuana press conference in Tallahassee. “I don’t know what the magic number is … we’ve got to see what we’ve got.”

The Clearwater Republican is in line to become Appropriations Committee chairman under Senate President Joe Negron. Last year, Latvala championed Gov. Rick Scott‘s request for a $250 million business incentive fund that ultimately died by session’s end.

This week, Scott said he would ask lawmakers for $85 million in 2016-17 for Enterprise Florida for business incentives. The governor also said he plans to push legislation to restructure the public-private economic development organization.

House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, however, nixed the idea quickly.

“The House’s position on this issue has been clear,” he said in a tweet this week. “The government engaging in social engineering to pick winners and losers that benefit the 1 percent is a bad deal for Florida taxpayers. There will not be any corporate welfare in the House budget.”

When asked about Corcoran’s opposition, Latvala said, “I’m just saying what I support.”

“I think the House’s objection is philosophical,” he added. “I would hate to have to go through the budget and look at everything that we do that benefits a corporation or an individual that might also be considered corporate welfare.”

Latvala also called it his “highest personal priority, as a senator and as chairman of the Senate Appropriations committee, to deliver some sort of pay raise for state employees.” State workers haven’t gotten an increase since 2006. 

“Now, I’m not going to get into how much, or how to do it, but I’ve had that conversation with (Negron, and he’s) well aware of where I’m coming from,” he said.

A stumbling block could be the latest financial outlook for 2017-18: Present income and outgo estimates leave Florida with a relatively scant $7.5 million left over out of about $32.2 billion in available revenue.

Further, chief legislative economist Amy Baker earlier this month told lawmakers the current forecast “could be the good news” and later outlooks “may not be this good.”

“Sen. Latvala has always looked after state employees, including state law enforcement and correctional officers,” said Matt Puckett, executive director of the Florida Police Benevolent Association, in a press release. “We appreciate him raising the awareness for this very important and much needed issue.”

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‘Reefer Madness’ returns to Tallahassee

The forces against this year’s medical marijuana initiative lined up a one-two punch Friday against the proposed state constitutional amendment.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Ken Bell provided the legal jab, saying marijuana doesn’t belong in the state’s chief governing document. He addressed reporters at a press conference in Tallahassee.

“You create a fundamental right that the Legislature is very constrained in its ability to deal with in terms of any unintended consequences,” said Bell, a conservative who sat on the court from 2003-08. 

State Sen. Jack Latvala — the Clearwater Republican set to be Appropriations Committee chair — delivered the moral cross, saying enshrining marijuana in the constitution is just plain wrong.

“I want to be a little more personal,” Latvala said. “I don’t want this to come to Florida … I just see too many opportunities for abuse.”

Backers of the broader use of medical marijuana are trying again in 2016, after a similar amendment failed narrowly at the polls two years ago. The committee behind it is again called United for Care. 

After enjoying broad support, it only got 58 percent of the vote — just shy of the 60 percent required for passage of an amendment — after a negative ad campaign largely financed by Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson.

The latest amendment now is polling between 65-75 percent.

The initiative is again backed by Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan, who has spent millions of dollars on the campaigns. Morgan has spoken publicly about his interest in the cause: His brother’s need for marijuana to ease crippling pain.

But the opposition continues to rally against what former Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford called “the Coloradofication of Florida, where the end game is a pot shop on every street corner.”

Florida already allows by statute the low-THC, or non-euphoric, marijuana, mostly for children with severe seizures and spasms, and the higher-THC strain approved this year for terminally ill patients.

But Latvala and others continue to raise concerns, for instance, that “Amendment 2 will bring kid-friendly pot candy to Florida,” a claim just rated “half true” by PolitiFact.

“I just think it’s wrong,” Latvala said. “I’m concerned that there won’t be the ability for local governments to regulate where these bud shops or pot shops are located … Most of all, we have no scientific evidence that there’s any medicinal value for marijuana.”

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse“the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not recognized or approved the marijuana plant as medicine.”

“However, scientific study of the chemicals in marijuana … has led to two FDA-approved medications that contain (those) chemicals in pill form. Continued research may lead to more medications,” its website adds. 

United for Care campaign manager Ben Pollara said in an email, “If the Legislature had done their job in the first place, Sen. Latvala wouldn’t have an amendment to oppose. They didn’t.

“The current law isn’t even being accessed by many of the families it was narrowly written to help,” Pollara said. “If Sen. Latvala is displeased that this issue is now before voters as a constitutional amendment, perhaps he should reflect on why the Legislature failed to enact the people’s will.”

Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia “now allow for comprehensive public medical marijuana and cannabis programs,” according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but selling marijuana is still a federal crime.

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

The No on 2 campaign’s website is here. The website for the organization behind this year’s amendment is here.

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Florida Farm Bureau-Pinellas endorses four Republicans for State House

The Florida Farm Bureau-Pinellas has endorsed four Republicans running for re-election to the state House of Representatives.

Reps. Chris Latvala, House District 67, and Larry Ahern, HD 66, received contribution checks from Farm Bureau-Pinellas board members Leslie Waters and Fred Petty during the group’s annual dinner earlier this month. Waters is mayor of Seminole and Petty is the former Pinellas County tax collector.

Kathleen Peters, HD 69, and Chris Sprowls, HD 65, also received campaign contributions.

“These state legislators have always been supportive of legislative agriculture issues, and we on the Farm Bureau Board-Pinellas appreciate that,” Waters said.

Latvala, son of state Sen. Jack Latvala, is facing a challenge from Democrat David Vogel. Sprowls is running against Bernard “Bernie” FensterwaldJennifer Webb is challenging Peters. Opposing Ahern is Lorena Grizzle, daughter of Mary Grizzle, who served in both the state House and Senate.

The Florida Farm Bureau says it is the voice of Florida agriculture with a mission “to increase the net income of farmers and ranchers, and to improve the quality of rural life.”

The group says its policy positions reflect the values and opinions of most Floridians: “We support creating opportunities for private enterprise, limited government, and incentive-based regulatory standards. Florida Farm Bureau also upholds a commitment to traditional family life and volunteer community service,” according to the website.

The election is Nov. 8.

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Jack Latvala to FDOT: Don’t turn lanes on Howard Frankland into toll roads

State Sen. Jack Latvala on Monday wrote to the Florida Department of Transportation objecting to any plan to start charging tolls on current lanes of the Howard Frankland bridge.

Latvala was reacting to recent news that state officials plan to take one of the four existing lanes in each direction on the bridge and charge tolls. Until recently, local officials understood the plan, which is part of a wider highway expansion proposal known as the Tampa Bay Express, was to add new lanes to the bridge. Those new lanes would be tolled.

Instead, FDOT planned to reduce the non-toll lanes in each direction from four to three and charge a fluctuating rate for the use of the toll lane. Latvala objects to the idea, saying it will make the commute across Tampa Bay even longer for those who can’t, or won’t, pay the toll.

Latvala’s letter to Paul Steinman, FDOT district secretary:

“I write you today with great concern about any notion or idea to take current lanes of the Howard Frankland Bridge and turn them into toll lanes. This would be an immediate impediment to creating a business environment uniting the entire Tampa Bay region. With the Howard Frankland Bridge reaching its end of serviceable years, now is not the time to take current lanes and collect tolls from my constituents who use the bridge to get to work and do not want to have their commute times increased.

“In discussions with previous secretaries from the Department of Transportation, they assured me that if express lanes with tolls were to be implemented, they would be new lanes, not taking already existing lanes and designating them as express lanes.

“This pay-to-commute-efficiently concept is counterintuitive to creating a friendly business environment for the greater Tampa Bay Region and is a proposal to which I believe my constituents stand firmly opposed. I urge you to reconsider any proposals creating tollways using current lanes and to instead, wait until additional capacity is constructed to consider that idea.”

howard-frankland

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In first video ad, Jennifer Webb slams special interests

Jennifer Webb vows in her first video ad of the campaign season to fight the special interests she says are dominating Tallahassee.

“For too long, big special interests have gotten their way in Tallahassee and we’re paying the price,” Webb says in the 30-second spot.

Examples flash on the screen: “Duke Energy customers will pay $108 million a year for canceled nuclear plants” and “Teco, Duke Energy get electrical rate increases.”

Also flashing on the screen are Webb’s campaign promises: To take on special interests, protect drinking water, oppose fracking and stop Duke’s utility tax.

“Let’s put the people of Pinellas first,” Webb concludes.

Webb, a Democrat, is making her first run for public office against HD 69 incumbent Kathleen Peters.

Thus far, Peters is outdistancing Webb in fundraising. In the period from Sept. 3—16, Peters brought in $26,418.25. Of that, $10,118.25 came from the Republican Party of Florida. Peters has an overall total of $256,543.66.

Peters has another fundraiser scheduled from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. hosted by fellow Republican Sen. Jack Latvala and Frank Chivas. The event is at Marina Cantina, 25 Causeway Road.

During that same period, Webb received $18,775 in donations for a grand total of $107,755.46.

Webb and Peters are facing off in two debates this week.

The first is at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at a Tiger Bay luncheon. They’ll be featured with other candidates for the state House — Republican incumbents Chris Latvala (HD 67) and Larry Ahern. Democrat Lorena Grizzle, who is opposing Ahern for the HD 66 seat, will also be speaking. Latvala’s opponent David Vogel has said he will not be there.

The second faceoff between Webb and Peters is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Operation PAR, 13800 66th St. N on the 3rd floor. Topics include policies and funding for mental health, substance abuse, and homelessness.

 

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