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The week in Florida politics: Gerald Bailey fallout, medical marijuana and more

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This week at the state Capitol, we learned that Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam was a bit more concerned about how Gerald Bailey left the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and in preparation for the 2015 legislative session, we had some fun with numbers.

The Tampa Bay Times secured Thursday a draft of an opinion piece Putnam considered submitting to state newspapers that echoed some of the concerns media members expressed in a Sunshine violation suit.

The aftermath of the Bailey affair is an indication of how the next three years will play out. All four members of the Florida Cabinet are term limited and will be jockeying to secure a position for the next stage of their career.

The Office of Compassionate Use this week released a state of estimated regulatory costs for a proposed rule for a medicinal marijuana law. The Joint Administrative Procedures Committee responded with a letter asking it to reconsider its calculations.

The letter is here.

Regulators are attempting to avoid triggering legislative ratification of the rule by keeping regulatory costs below a threshold. They managed to bring the rule in just under the limit by recommending and not mandating certain procedures.

However, JAPC noted the department did not calculate a biennial renewal fee or if an applicant applied for a license in more than one region. Both factors could trigger a need for ratification.

A hearing on the proposed rule is scheduled for Monday.

While DOH continues to struggle with creating a regulatory structure for a medicinal marijuana industry, the FEA continues to fight the state’s school accountability program on standardized tests and teacher evaluations.

The teacher’s union released this week a report card on the program where 57 percent of respondents gave an “F” grade to the state’s emphasis on standardized testing.

“The tests are making life decisions for human beings, whether they are 10 years old or they are 59 years old,” FEA President Andy Ford said in calling for a moratorium. “We don’t know if the tests we are using are accurate. Are they fair?”

Want to see what it sounds like when $100 million is left on the table? Thursday the Sadowski Coalition called a news conference about doc stamp revenue and Amendment 1.

The voter-approved referendum directs 33 percent of the tax applied to leases and mortgages and such documents to be spent on the environment. A proposal implementing the initiative would take the environment’s share off the top then split the remaining money among affordable housing (16 percent) and transportation (20 percent) with the remaining diverted to general revenue.

The Coalition, including the Chamber, United Way and faith-based groups, want housing to get its 16 percent from 100 percent of the revenue the documentary stamp generates and not from the 67 percent left after Amendment 1 gets it share – the difference is about $100 million.

Lawmakers considering SB 586 are planning apparently to use the money the accounting maneuver frees up for other things.

The AP’s Gary Fineout asked the president of the Affordable Housing Coalition and a director with the Florida Chamber about the relationship between taxing and spending.

“Is the Chamber willing to go along with having the governor scale back their demands for tax cuts in exchange for keeping intact the money that goes into affordable housing,” Fineout asked after the Coalition presentation on how building affordable housing is good for the economy, good for people and builds strong communities.

“I know you are directing your question to the Chamber and of course I’ll give the microphone to Katie (Kelly),” began the AHC’s Jamie Ross. “One of the things we at the Sadowski Coalition do not get involved in is figuring out for the governor or the Legislature where they can find money for their other priorities.“

“What we feel is that we know that the work that raise the tax specifically for affordable housing and that money should be used for affordable housing,” said Ross, offering the microphone to Kelly, who declined to speak.

“Any other questions,” asked Ross.

The Tallahassee Democrat had a story this week that offers some insight into the people who inhabit the Capitol Politico/Media bubble. Many Floridians’ attention will turn to the state Capitol this week and reaction to a study pegging Tallahassee as the economically segregated city in Florida may be an illustration of how some of us are unable to see beyond our bubble.

The report from Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto ranked 350 metro areas on three segregation factors: economics, education and occupation and found households with incomes above $200,000 separate themselves from the less affluent more so in the Capital City than any other metro in the state. The study is here.

Keep in mind the median income of the state is a little over $40,000 and the United Way found that more than 40 percent of Florida households have trouble meeting basic necessities on a monthly basis. And there are two other things to take into consideration before I tell you how Tallahassee’s establishment has responded.

One, many of the inhabitants of the Capitol Politico/Media bubble live five miles north of town in a subdivision the local paper refers to as “the affluent northeast.” Not all politicians, reporters, lobbyists and consultants live there but a lot do.

I vote at the same precinct as a state senator and county commissioner, regularly bump into Capitol reporters at Publix and my dog waters a certain political consultant’s yard daily.

Last month the homeowners association was alarmed when 41 residents complained their cars were broken into. Police report 38 of the cars were unlocked and have put up signs at the neighborhood entrance reminding people to lock their cars; prompting a neighbor to say, “Ah Killearn; where we lock our cars but leave our front doors unlocked.”

That’s one Tallahassee. While some of us don’t bother to lock doors others live in a city that is second to Miami in the state for the number of reported shooting incidents.

The Martin report is in line with studies dating to the 1950s warning about income disparity creating two Americas. But that’s not a story local poohbahs want to tell.

Both the local Chamber and Economic Development Council quickly faulted the report, focusing in on what they considered the politically charged term “economically segregated.”

“This study, however, fails to capture the true issues we face today,” the Chambers Karen Cyphers told the Tallahassee Democrat,” just as it fails to define our community with a poorly measured and inappropriate term.”

In other words, that’s no spade. It’s the thingamajig used in a garden to, you know, do things.

The Capitol quote of the week:

“Investment in affordable housing has a very real return on an investment in a community; children need a bedroom to go to bed at night. Children need a dining room table to do their homework on. These families need help and housing is the answer.”

— Susan Pourciau, executive director for the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, speaking as a member of the Sadowski Coalition in support of spending money on affordable housing programs.

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