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Thursday, Jan 29, 2015

Fresh Squeezed

A Florida Politics Blog

Made fresh, never frozen, here's the juice on local and state politics from the staff of The Tampa Tribune, The St. Petersburg Tribune and the Tribune/Scripps Capital Bureau.

Gov. Scott getting ready for trip to Philly

Published:   |   Updated: January 28, 2015 at 03:47 PM
James L. Rosica in Tallahassee

Gov. Rick Scott Wednesday said his scheduled trip to Pennsylvania next month “is all about jobs.”

Scott spoke at the Associated Press legislative planning meeting held in the Capitol before the state Legislature’s annual 60-day session.

Scott’s office has said the newly re-elected Republican governor will follow up on his Jan. 6 inaugural speech call for companies in northern, high-tax states to relocate to Florida.

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Retail group withdraws legal challenge to craft beer

Published:   |   Updated: January 26, 2015 at 06:42 PM
James L. Rosica in Tallahassee

The Florida Retail Federation, a statewide lobbying group, is now backing away from its legal challenge to a loophole in alcoholic beverage law that benefits the state’s craft beer makers.

That’s because state regulators have voluntarily agreed to revisit the issue, the organization said in an email sent late Friday afternoon.

“It is an affirmative step towards clarifying how this statute is being applied,” the group said.

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State prison system hit with $340,000 verdict in whistle-blower suit

Published:   |   Updated: January 26, 2015 at 05:37 PM
James L. Rosica in Tallahassee

A jury in Tallahassee has slapped the state’s beleaguered Department of Corrections with a $340,000 verdict for wrongly firing a state prison warden and his assistant warden as retaliation for being whistle-blowers, court documents show.

The Leon County jury on Friday night awarded damages of $205,000 to Ted Jeter and nearly $136,000 to Carolann Bracewell, both for lost wages and benefits, according to a verdict form released Monday.

They both worked at Jackson Correctional Institution in Malone, located in the state’s Panhandle. The two had served a combined 50 years for the department.

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Brandes files medical pot bill

Matt Dixon in Tallahassee

Less than three months after a proposed constitutional amendment on medical marijuana narrowly failed at the polls, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, has filed a bill that would legalize medicinal pot in Florida.

Under the bill (SB 528), a licensed Florida physician can prescribe marijuana to patients with a specific list of nine diseases including, cancer, HIV or AIDS, epilepsy, or ALS disease, which is commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

In addition, a patient can legally obtain medical marijuana for a condition that produces more than one “qualifying symptoms.” Those include things like severe and persistent pain, severe and persistent nausea, and wasting syndrome, which is loss of weight, muscle atrophy, and significant loss of appetite.

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Bill aims to protect cyclists, pedestrians on Florida roads

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster in Naples

It was an accident that got Kathleen Passidomo involved.

Her law partner, Chuck Kelly, was struck by a pickup in January 2014. He broke his back, ribs and punctured a lung.

The driver that hit him was cited by Naples police for improper passing.

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Whoops: HD64 write-in lost his password, filing says. And his PIN. And his username

Published:   |   Updated: January 22, 2015 at 06:43 PM
James L. Rosica in Tallahassee

With social media, online banking, email, news website paywalls and a host of others, it’s not surprising when people have trouble keeping track of all their passwords.

Add to that a campaign for state representative and it only gets more confusing.

A filing on the state’s Division of Elections public website (non-password protected) shows that the write-in candidate for House District 64 asked to reset the password for his account in the state’s Electronic Filing System.

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Effort to allow hard liquor in supermarket aisles returns

Published:   |   Updated: January 22, 2015 at 04:56 PM
James L. Rosica in Tallahassee

It’s back: A lawmaker has revived an attempt to knock down the wall between whiskey and Wheaties.

Tucked nearly 1,300 lines down in an omnibus booze bill (HB 107), a provision would repeal the requirement for retailers such as supermarkets and big box stores to sell hard liquor separately from groceries.

Rep. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, is sponsoring the bill.

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Top aides to Putnam and Scott met after Bailey firing

Published:   |   Updated: January 21, 2015 at 05:46 PM
James L. Rosica in Tallahassee

[Note: Post updated at 5:30 p.m.; see additional info at bottom.]

Adam Putnam had struck a nerve in the Governor’s Office, and it was time for his new chief of staff to engage in some shuttle diplomacy.

On Dec. 16, news media started reporting that Gov. Rick Scott that same day had forced out Gerald Bailey, head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

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Brandes is bullish on solar energy

The News Service of Florida

Florida voters would be asked to give commercial property owners a tax break for installing renewable energy devices, such as solar panels, under a proposal (SJR 400) filed Tuesday by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

The legislation would expand to commercial structures an existing property-tax cut on installing renewable energy devices and would exempt the assessed value of the devices from the state’s tangible personal property tax.

Brandes’ proposed constitutional amendment comes after a diverse coalition announced last week that it is pursuing a 2016 ballot initiative that would allow businesses and property owners to sell limited amounts of solar energy to tenants and neighbors.

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Weatherford starts firm with brothers

The News Service of Florida

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford, often mentioned as a possible future candidate for statewide office, has formed a Tampa-based consulting and investment firm with two of his brothers, the firm announced Tuesday.

The firm, Weatherford Partners, will provide consulting services to businesses and will invest in companies. Weatherford, a Wesley Chapel Republican who served as speaker from 2012 to 2014, will be the firm’s managing partner.

He will be joined by Sam Weatherford, who was a founding member of the private-equity firm Schulze Global Investments, and Drew Weatherford, a former Florida State University quarterback who in 2011 co-founded Strategos Public Affairs in Tampa, according to the announcement.

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