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16 posts from February 5, 2014

February 05, 2014

Police identify killer of UF student Tiffany Sessions, 25-years after her murder

Tiffany SessionsGAINESVILLE -- After 25 years, detectives investigating the disappearance of Tiffany Sessions, a University of Florida student who vanished while out for a run, now have a promising lead.

Alachua County Sheriff's Office Detective Kevin Allen has named serial killer Paul Rowles as the primary suspect in the case, according to CBS News. Allen has been working on the case for the past year during which a timeline was established, and other evidence collected, that pointed to Rowles.

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office will officially confirm that Rowles is their prime suspect at a news conference on Thursday. Story here. 

Gaetz's marijuana bill gets puff of new life

MarijuanaAfter weeks of delay, Florida House leaders have cleared the way for the sponsor of a bill to advance legislation that would allow for the cultivation, distribution and sale of a strain of marijuana in Florida that could be used to treat children with seizures. 

“I think enough people have opened their hearts and minds and we now have some downhill momentum,’’ said Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, the House Criminal Justice subcommittee chairman. He said he is drafting a bill that would decriminalize the strain of non-psychoactive marijuana known as “Charlotte’s Web” and he expects it to pass. 

“I am confident the Legislature will deliver to the governor a medical marijuana bill,” Gaetz told the Herald/Times.

Gaetz had faced an uphill climb since he first conducted a workshop in January to hear from the families of children who suffer from frequent life-threatening epileptic seizures. 

Continue reading "Gaetz's marijuana bill gets puff of new life" »

Glossy Fortune magazine ad showcases Scott

Select readers of Fortune magazine will soon see something unusual wrapped around the cover of the next issue: the face of Gov. Rick Scott and the slogan: "Florida is working."

Enterprise Florida, through its Team Florida marketing campaign, bought the four-page advertisement. Known as a "cover wrap," it's part of a much larger advertising campaign to market Florida as a business destination. EFI spokeswoman Nancy Blum-Heintz said the cover wrap will be sent to 1,000 out-of-state corporate executives of Fortune 500 companies (none or very few of whom presumably are registered to vote in Florida).

Other Florida executives will be featured in future ads, in nine Fortune issues over six months. The full-color cover photo of Scott carries a disclaimer: "It does not constitute an endorsement by Fortune and no endorsement is implied."

Nan Rich wins Buddy MacKay's support in Democratic race for governor

From a press release:

Calling her the “…one true Democrat in the race,” former Democratic Governor Buddy MacKay today announced his support and endorsement of Nan Rich for governor. 

“For the past 16 years, under 3 Republican governors, our state has been led down a right-wing, ideological path that has worked against teachers and public education, dismantled growth management and put our environmental resources in jeopardy, ignored the needs of our elderly and at risk children, and abandoned the middle class in favor of tax breaks for the rich and major corporations,” MacKay stated in a prepared release. 

Continue reading "Nan Rich wins Buddy MacKay's support in Democratic race for governor" »

UPDATED It's official: MLS awards franchise to David Beckham, who hopes to bring the team to Miami



David Beckham dreams of an iconic stadium on the shores of Biscayne Bay. Tens of thousands of ardent fans walk over from the mainland to watch some of the world’s best players compete for Miami’s own Major League Soccer team.

That vision is still far from becoming a reality. But on Wednesday, Beckham took a significant step toward his goal.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced that Beckham, a retired English footballer, will get an expansion franchise, and its home will be Miami — if Beckham and his investors score a new stadium.

Nothing will be finalized until that takes place, likely not for months, if at all. The team wouldn’t start playing probably until 2017.

Yet, in starstruck Miami, those caveats did little to dampen the frenzy that surrounded Beckham’s visit.

“This is an exciting time,” Beckham said at a crowded news conference. “It’s something that we’re really looking forward to bringing to Miami.”

He was welcomed by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who pointed to five county commissioners in attendance as evidence that there is some political support for a new stadium.

“The world’s most popular sport is coming to the world’s hottest city,” Gimenez said. 

More here.

ACLU to Miami-Dade County: Begin drawing new precincts right away


The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida doesn't want any further delays to new voting precincts being drawn in Miami-Dade County.

The organization sent Mayor Carlos Gimenez a letter Wednesday urging him to direct appointed Elections Supervisor Penelope Townsley to start so-called re-precincting immediately, "to avoid a repeat of the nationwide embarrassment that occurred in our county during the 2012 election."

Though some voters waited up to seven hours to cast their presidential ballots two years ago, Gimenez said last week that the county plans to postpone the once-a-decade drawing of new precincts until next year to ensure a smooth transition this year to new voter sign-in technology.

The decision prompted enough political backlash that the mayor said late last Friday he would take the issue to county commissioners on Feb. 19 for a discussion.

That's too long to wait, wrote Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida and Jeff Borg, president of the organization's Miami chapter. New precincts were supposed to evenly divide voters in 2012, and the letter cites several occasions in which the county itself acknowledged old precincts had contributed to delays at the polls.

The county could make itself vulnerable to a lawsuit by keeping precincts unbalanced, the ACLU leaders wrote.

"Indeed, given the volume of evidence that re-precincting would make our elections fairer and make it easier for people to cast their ballots, inaction on this matter could result in voters in some precincts being trated unequally as compared to voters in less-populous precincts, potentially leaving the county open to civil rights litigation," the letter says.

Gravis poll shows roadmap to kill medical marijuana plan: talk about kids and felons


Medical marijuana has consistently drawn super-majority support in Florida polls, but a new survey shows a way to beat the issue at the ballot box: Talk about kids and felons.

The survey by Winter Springs-based Gravis Marketing shows medical marijuana garners 57 percent support at the start -- low compared to other polls finding support of 62 percent to 82 percent. But support plummets in the face of a negative campaign.

The poll also found Democrat Charlie Crist leading Gov. Rick Scott 47-44 percent, with Libertarian Adrian Wyllie drawing 3 percent support.

The top lines of its poll aside, what makes Gravis’ survey stand out is that it decided to ask about the medical marijuana language as it will appear on the November 2014 ballot. And the firm decided to test negative messages against the proposed constitutional amendment to see what moves the needle of public opinion.

Continue reading "Gravis poll shows roadmap to kill medical marijuana plan: talk about kids and felons" »

Scott will 'consider' in-state tuition for undocumented students

Pressed three times by Hispanic lawmakers, Gov. Rick Scott stopped short of supporting their No. 1 priority Wednesday: in-state tuition for undocumented children who attend Florida colleges and universities.

"I'll certainly consider it," Scott told the Florida Hispanic Legislative Caucus. "I think tuition is too high."

Hispanic lawmakers, with the strong support of House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, view the issue in terms of fairness, that kids who are here through no fault of their own should not be punished. Weatherford called it an "injustice" in a Times/Herald interview Tuesday, but Scott framed the issue in terms of money, saying he wants to keep the cost of tuition low for everybody.

Scott said he supports the elimination of a 15 percent tuition differential and indexing tuition to the consumer price index, both enacted by what he called "the previous administration" of former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist.

Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, noted that the issue has been around for 11 years in Tallahassee, and he asked Scott if he needed any more information to make up his mind. "I'll certainly consider it," Scott said. "I want all tuition to stop growing."

The third lawmaker who raised the issue was Rep. Victor Torres, D-Orlando. "These are children who are suffering through no fault of their own," Torres said.

An in-state tuition break for children of undocumented immigrants passed the House last year, 111-4, but the Senate never brought it up for a vote. The proposal discussed Wednesday would be much broader by giving in-state tuition to children, brought here by their immigrant parents, who are not here legally.

"It's important to distinguish between children and people who are just breaking the law by coming to this country illegally," Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, told Scott.

Scott's willingness to consider supporting it could antagonize conservatives, but he needs to rebuild support from Hispanic voters to secure re-election. He antagonized some of them last year by vetoing an immigrant driver's license bill. Scott recently appointed the state's first Hispanic lieutenant governor, former Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami.

Lopez-Cantera was asked to state what his position was on in-state tuition when he was in the House, including majority leader his final two years. His reply: "I haven't reviewed my voting record recently." During the 2012 session, he declined to meet with a delegation of immigrant families who camped outside his office, seeking his support to have the bill heard in the House; it wasn't.


UF Poll: Charlie Crist 47 percent, Rick Scott 40 percent

From a press release:

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A poll of registered voters in Florida by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida in collaboration with UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research revealed high interest in Florida’s governor’s race, with 95 percent of likely voters reporting either “a great deal of interest” (66 percent) or “a fair amount of interest” (29 percent).

“For months now, political analysts have been describing Florida’s 2014 governor’s race as the top race in the nation. The only question has been whether Floridians are as interested in the race as national election forecasters are,” Susan MacManus, political science professor at the University of South Florida, said. “Now we know they are, and it’s only February.”

The poll also found that 47 percent of likely voters would vote for Democratic candidate Charlie Crist if the election were held today, while 40 percent would vote for Republican incumbent Rick Scott. In a matchup with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, 46 percent would vote for Nelson, a Democrat, and 42 percent would vote for Scott.

Continue reading "UF Poll: Charlie Crist 47 percent, Rick Scott 40 percent" »

FMA considers backing Medicaid expansion

From Health News Florida:

The Florida Medical Association, one of Tallahassee’s most influential lobby groups, sat out last year’s legislative nail-biter over Medicaid expansion, saving its firepower for pocketbook issues, such as making it harder for patients to sue and keeping non-physicians off their turf.

But now an FMA advisory committee that studied the issue is backing Medicaid expansion, which would bring in federal funds to cover the low-income uninsured, according to two doctors who have seen the documents. A resolution from that committee goes to the FMA Board of Governors later this week.

“I think the chances (of passage) are very good,” said obstetrician-gynecologist Aaron Elkin, author of the resolution and chairman of the Broward County Medical Association. “I don’t see any reason it would not be adopted.”

Elkin's resolution goes beyond a simple plea that Florida take the money, estimated at $51 billion over 10 years. It predicates the FMA support for the Medicaid expansion on a pocketbook issue: That the pay for doctors treating Medicaid patients be raised to equal that for Medicare, the federal program for seniors and the disabled.

Read more here.