July 09, 2015

Pamela Goodman

League of Women Voters of Florida



"It has been a long hard, battle against devious, political scheming, but today the Florida Supreme Court handed the people of Florida a total victory, forcing the redrawing of every one of the eight districts that we contested in the lawsuit," said Pamela Goodman, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, part of the coalition that filed suit to have the districts redrawn because of gerrymandering.

"Not only must the legislature act speedily and hold a special session to redraw, what could prove to be nearly every congressional district in the state, but the Florida Supreme Court is leaving nothing to chance -- the court will have final approval on the redrawn districts."

"The League will be watching this process closely to make sure our lawmakers operate in complete sunshine with one hundred percent transparency. Today, the Florida Supreme Court took the Florida Legislature to the woodshed. Their egregious behavior using partisan political operatives in the redistricting process was appropriately reprimanded. We commend our court system, our legal system and the hard work of citizens of Florida for making today a victory for the voice of the people," Goodman concluded. 
Read the opinion and the order.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, 

a nonpartisan political organization, 

encourages informed and active participation in government,

works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, 

and influences public policy through education and advocacy.

by John B. Morgan
Special to the Tampa Bay Times
Something unprecedented happened in Tallahassee this week. The Florida House of Representatives quit three days early. They just threw up their hands and stopped working. I'm incredulous, but maybe I shouldn't be.

These are the same people who, for years, refused to even give a hearing to medical marijuana legislation in Florida. These are the same people who then, once medical marijuana was on the ballot, had the gall to say it should be passed legislatively, rather than by constitutional amendment. These are the same people who, staring down a ballot measure, finally passed what they call a "medical marijuana law" but wrote it so hastily that a year later it still hasn't been implemented.

Anyone who knows me knows two things about me: I keep my word and I never quit. It is simply not who I am. It is not who I raised my kids to be. I've recently become a grandfather, and it is not who I want my grandson to be.

I am going to keep my word and push to pass a medical marijuana law that helps sick and suffering Floridians. And I am not going to quit until that happens.

I took up this cause for my brother, who has spent his entire adult life in a wheelchair, in severe pain, and who only has a normal life because of medical marijuana. But medical marijuana quickly became an issue that is larger than my family. It's about all of our families.

When I first became a public advocate for medical marijuana, people immediately started telling me their stories. A father whose 8-year-old daughter has hundreds of seizures a day and none of the drugs work. A mother who is stricken with cancer but doesn't want to try marijuana to relieve her suffering because she's afraid she might get arrested and lose her children. A wife, given a death sentence by an ALS diagnosis, who is still alive nearly three decades later because her husband grows and administers marijuana for her illegally.

Those are the stories of the present, of people who need this law right now. But this is just as much for me about the future. Like me, everyone deserves an opportunity to give their children and grandchildren a better life than we had. Our children and grandchildren deserve the ability to live in a state where they can have safe, reliable access to medical marijuana should their doctors recommend its use.

I have to believe the politicians in Tallahassee were not thinking about this like I do, through the lens of family, because if they were, passing a sensible medical marijuana law would have been a no-brainer.

I cannot believe they call this working. If my kids showed this kind of work ethic in school, they would have been grounded. And guess what? I would have drug-tested them too. I run a big law firm, with hundreds of employees. If someone who worked for me said to me on Tuesday that they weren't showing up for work Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, I'd tell them not to come back Monday.

There are a few courageous Republican and Democratic legislators who tried valiantly to bring compassion to Florida. Unfortunately, in Tallahassee, the power of the pharmaceutical industry and the special interests are proving more powerful than the people.

The people don't have a vote in Tallahassee, but they do have a vote in November 2016. Medical marijuana will be back on the ballot, and we will get the law we deserve.

Compassion is coming to the great state of Florida, as it has in 23 other states plus Washington, D.C. I plan to lead this march to victory as long as it takes.

Last fall we almost won. Nearly 3.4 million Floridians voted "yes" for medical marijuana, totaling 58 percent of the vote in favor. That's usually a win. Medical marijuana received a half-million more votes than Rick Scott and more than any other elected official on the ballot. This time around, we will not only win a broad majority, we will win a majority larger than 60 percent, and medical marijuana will become the law of the land.

Politicians in Tallahassee may not want to work. So be it. We will do their work for them. We will do their work, for the people, for the patients, for our families.

John B. Morgan is the managing partner of the Morgan & Morgan law firm and the Chairman of the medical marijuana advocacy group, United for Care. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

Editorial Board,

Published: Tuesday, April 28, 2015
What is going on in the Florida Legislature right now is morally and fiscally indefensible and threatens the well-being of Florida and its people.

It isn't complicated but has been made so by ideologues with power. The state has more than 800,000 people who are uninsured because they do not qualify for Medicaid or cannot afford insurance. The federal government has a contract with Florida, as with other states, to provide what is known as Low Income Pool funds to pay for hospital charity care when the poor go to an emergency room.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the Obama administration told states the LIP money would be going away and urged them to replace it with a Medicaid expansion plan. So far 28 states have done so. The idea is it is more efficient medically and economically to provide regular health care to the poor somewhere besides a hospital emergency room.

The Florida Senate understood. So did Florida's major business groups, hospitals organizations and voters. A Senate Medicaid expansion plan calls for recipients to be working or in school and pay a small monthly premium. The plan, approved by Washington, would provide more care at less cost - saving an estimated $1.7 billion over five years - and create tens of thousands of jobs and pump tens of billions of dollars into Florida's economy over the next decade.

The Florida House leadership, however, has opted to play politics. Anything tied to Obamacare is anathema. From the start, Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt island, and his lieutenants have stubbornly refused to even discuss Medicaid expansion. At all. Meanwhile, Gov. Rick Scott, who should be providing leadership toward compromise, is only exacerbating an already horrible situation. Not only is he opposing Medicaid expansion - after he was for it - he is suing the federal government for the LIP money, a case he is almost sure to lose on our dime. Scott says he does not trust the feds to provide the Medicaid expansion money - even though it is codified in the ACA law - but instead is demanding the feds keep the LIP money flowing. His stance is weak and hurts Florida and its residents.

But the damage does not stop there. Now the House and the Senate cannot complete a state budget - their singular constitutionally required task - by the end of the legislative session Friday. Their budgets are $4 billion apart, largely because of the health care impasse, and new funding for education, mental health care and new prison guards as well as some modest tax cuts are all at serious risk.

All so Scott, Crisafulli and Co. can make some ideologically driven political point that ultimately hurts real people.

Thank goodness for the adults in the Florida Senate. What Scott and the House membership are doing is endangering the health and well-being of Florida, which, contrary to the governor's economic hosannas, is still limping out of the recession.

Giving poor people access to health care while at the same time saving the state money and boosting its economy is good public policy.

Refusing to even discuss it is simply morally and fiscally indefensible.
By Bill Day
Saint Petersblog
Related commentary: Bill Day’s latest: Old Corruptible
Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau 
Published: January 20, 2015

TALLAHASSEE — In the wake of a November shooting at Florida State University, a bill that would allow guns on college campuses in Florida cleared its first legislative committee Tuesday.

The House Criminal Justice subcommittee approved the bill (HB 4005) by an 8-4 party-line vote. It would repeal the current prohibition on concealed-weapon license holders from bringing a firearm onto the grounds of a public college or university.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Greg Steube of Sarasota, said he drew up the bill before the FSU shooting, in which 31-year-old Myron May shot three people in and around the campus library.

No one was killed but one person was paralyzed; May was shot and killed by police shortly after.

“God forbid that we have to deal with this in the state again,” said Steube, an Iraq War veteran and concealed-weapon license holder.

“What I’m trying to do is prevent loss of life by giving God-fearing, law-abiding citizens … the ability to defend themselves,” he added.

Seven states now allow “concealed carry” on college campuses, according to a staff analysis: Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Mississippi, Oregon, Utah, and Wisconsin.

Last session, a bill failed that would have let K-12 school principals or district superintendents designate specific employees who could carry concealed weapons on school grounds.

Stuebe’s bill is supported by the National Rifle Association and Florida Carry, a nonprofit group that opposes “ill-conceived gun control laws,” according to its website.

It’s opposed by Florida State president John Thrasher, known for his conservative stands when he was a legislator.

“I’m a Second Amendment person; I believe in the Second Amendment; I’ve supported gun rights,” Thrasher told the Tallahassee Democrat. “But just like in the First Amendment, there are exceptions. When it comes to guns on campus, the consequences far outweigh the positives.”

In public comment, Marjorie Sanfilippo, an associate dean and psychology professor at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, told lawmakers that “allowing upset students to carry concealed weapons would, without a doubt, increase the risk of violence toward me and colleagues.”

Brent Hargrove, whose son and daughter-in-law are students, said allowing licensed gun-owners to bring their weapons on campus would “eliminate a pool of possible victims … The ‘good guy’ is the kind of person that has a concealed weapon permit.”

But Steve Downey, another parent of a college parent, said he didn’t want to “relinquish the job of campus safety to … unaccountable and unknown ‘good guys.’”

In debate, Rep. Gayle Harrell, a Stuart Republican, pointed out that concealed weapon license holders in Florida must be at least 21 and undergo background checks and firearm safety training.

“These are adults,” she said. “They know what they’re doing. I want my daughter to be on a campus where she has the protection of someone who taken those steps.”

Rep. Clovis Watson Jr., an Alachua County Democrat and 20-year law enforcement veteran, had concerns about students having guns where police are responding to reports of a shooter.

When police first show up on a scene, “we don’t know who’s the good and the bad guy; that is the problem,” he said. “It puts (law enforcement) in a grave situation.”

Rep. Dennis Baxley, the Ocala Republican who sponsored what is now Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in 2005, argued that gun-free school zones have only contributed to putting college students in danger.

“The only thing that will stop an out of control person with a firearm who is killing people is a good guy with a firearm,” he said.

The bill will next be considered by the House’s Higher Education & Workforce subcommittee. A companion measure is in the Senate.