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Crist’s lead over Scott shrinks to within margin of error in Democratic firm’s new poll

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by George Bennett

Trailing Democrat Charlie Crist by double digits in polls last year, Gov. Rick Scott has pulled within the margin of error in a new Public Policy Polling survey.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott is gaining ground on Democrat Charlie Crist and has moved into a virtual tie in the 2014 governor’s race, a new poll by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling says.

Crist gets 43 percent and Scott gets 41 percent in the poll of 591 Florida voters conducted Jan. 16-21. The poll’s margin of error wasn’t immediately available, but previous PPP polls with similar sample sizes have had a margin of error of about 4 percent, which would mean Scott and Crist are effectively even. PPP’s last gubernatorial poll in October showed Crist with a 50-to-38 percent lead. Crist held a 52-to-40 percent lead in a March 2013 PPP poll.

Voters have negative opinions of both Scott and Crist. Asked about Scott’s job performance, 34 percent approve and 51 percent disapprove. Asked a slightly different question about Crist, 36 percent said they have a favorable view and 46 percent unfavorable.

Scott defeats the other Democrat seeking the governorship, former state Sen. Nan Rich, by a 40-to-34 percent margin.

The PPP survey suggests Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi could face a tight re-election contest. She leads Democrat George Sheldon by a 37-to-34 percent margin and has a 37-to-35 percent edge over Democratic state Rep. Perry Thurston.

Some other highlights of the new poll are after the jump…

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Crunch time for marijuana and enviro ballot measures

Monday, January 6th, 2014 by John Kennedy

Petition gatherers are now taking the place of street corner Santas and bell-ringers as ballot proposals to legalize medical marijuana and boost environmental spending race toward a fast-approaching deadline.

United for Care, the marijuana initiative, and Florida’s Water and Land Legacy campaign, both have collected close to 1 million voter signatures.

But the campaigns are still working toward building a sizable cushion to clear the required level of 683,149 valid signatures needed by Feb. 1 to qualify for the November ballot.

“Even if a large percentage of what we have now are determined to be not valid for some reason, we’re confident we have what we need,” said Aliki Moncrief, field director for Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, which could set aside $10 billion over the next two decades for environmental efforts.

The Florida Supreme Court has already approved the campaign’s ballot language. Meeting the signature hurdle is likely to quickly shift the campaign toward another round of fund-raising and strategy aimed at November, Moncrief said.

The effort had 559,211 valid signatures through Friday, according to the state’s Division of Elections. But about 400,000 more signatures either have not yet been officially recorded by the state or still remain in the hands of county election supervisors, according to the campaign.

Ben Pollara, campaign manager for United for Care, said signature gatherers for the marijuana proposal plan to wind down next week, comfortable that their total also will yield the state requirement.

Florida elections officials have recorded 210,961 valid signatures from United for Care, although plenty more are still being processed, Pollara said.

Supporters of the initiative, however, are keeping an eye on the Supreme Court, which last month heard contentious arguments over whether United for Care’s ballot language is constitutional, or, as opponents insist, is misleading to voters.

Much of Florida’s Republican leadership was joined by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the state’s medical association and law enforcement organizations in urging that justices bar the measure from the ballot.

The court has until April 1 to decide.

“We still think that the court will rule in our favor,” Pollara said. “But there’s nothing we can do about that now.

“We do know, though, that this would all be for naught if we didn’t get the signatures. That’s 150 percent of our focus right now.”

Full story here:   bit.ly/1a0Ioqt

 

With Florida donors allowed to write bigger checks, Crist takes advantage

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 by George Bennett

Charlie Crist visited the kitchen help during a recent stop in West Palm Beach, but he also made sure to tap donors who can stroke $3,000 checks for his Democratic campaign for governor.

Charlie Crist was quick to take advantage of a new Florida law that allows donors to write much fatter checks to candidates.

Of the $777,925 former Republican Gov. Crist collected in November for his Democratic quest for governor, $432,000 came from 144 contributors who wrote checks for the new statewide maximum of $3,000. Through Oct. 31, the most a contributor could give to a candidate was $500 for a primary and $500 for a general election.

Crist’s Democratic primary foe, former state Sen. Nan Rich, collected two $3,000 checks in November. She raised $31,230 for the month and has raised $255,320 overall.

Gov. Rick Scott officially launched his reelection campaign on Tuesday. His first contribution report will be due next month.

Scott signed a law this year allows a contributor to give up to $3,000 per primary and $3,000 per general election for statewide races. For state legislative and local contests, the new limit is $1,000 per primary and $1,000 per general election.

Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater collected 43 checks for $3,000 in November. Attorney General Pam Bondi logged 13 contributions at the new $3,000 maximum and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam had 10 donors who wrote $3,000 checks.

In Palm Beach County legislative races, Democratic state House candidate David Silvers snagged 13 contributions at the new $1,000 limit in his bid to unseat state Rep. Bill Hager, R-Boca Raton. State Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Stuart, had nine contributors who wrote $1,000 checks in November.

October money round-up: Nan Rich’s negative cash flow, cabinet members pad totals, Magar rocks

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 by George Bennett

Democratic governor candidate Nan Rich at last month's statewide Democratic convention in Lake Buena Vista.


Fresh Florida campaign finance reports filed this week mark at least two milestones: the beginning of monthly, instead of quarterly, filings and the likely end of Nan Rich‘s status as the Democratic fundraising leader in the 2014 governor’s race.

Rich raised $8,291 in October while spending $8,788. Since April 1, former Senate Democratic Leader Rich has raised $102,419 and spent $135,701. For her entire campaign, which began in April 2012, she has raised $224,065 and spent $161,805.

Rich remains the top Democratic fundraiser for governor in current Division of Election records because former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist didn’t open his Democratic campaign for governor until Nov. 1 and won’t file his first money report until next month.

Crist might have passed Rich’s 18-month fundraising total in his first week as a candidate. At an event in Broward County last week, former Democratic state Sen. Steve Geller said Crist raised about $500,000 combined for his campaign and for the political committee Charlie Crist For Florida. Geller, who helped organize the event, said he didn’t know how much money went directly to Crist’s campaign and how much to the committee.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott‘s “Let’s Get To Work” committee raised $824,835 during October and has about $17 million in cash on hand.

Some other highlights from the October money reports after the jump…

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Florida Republicans flex legal muscles against marijuana

Friday, November 8th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Florida’s Republican legislative leaders Friday said a proposed 2014 measure legalizing medical marijuana should be barred from the ballot because of a host of constitutional problems.

House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, submitted a brief to the Florida Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hear arguments Dec. 5 on the measure backed by the organization United for Care.

Lawyers for the legislators cited failings in the proposal’s text and ballot summary, concluding it is misleading to voters and violates a number of constitutional standards.

“The proposed amendment and its ballot title and summary fail to provide the clarity that the voters deserve when considering whether to amend their constitution,” Weatherford and Gaetz said in their brief.

“This court should issue an advisory opinion directing that the proposed amendment not be placed on the ballot,” they told justices.

Attorney General Pam Bondi last month submitted papers to the court, saying she also found problems with the measure.

On Friday, the deadline set by justices for briefs in the matter, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida Medical Association, Florida Sheriffs Association and the advocacy group, Save Our Society from Drugs, also weighed in against the measure.

Medical marijuana backer rips Bondi, offers to pay for TV debate on issue

Monday, October 28th, 2013 by George Bennett

Bondi

The lawyer leading efforts to legalize medical marijuana in Florida ridiculed Attorney General Pam Bondi for calling the proposed ballot language for the measure misleading.

“She knows about as much about constitutional law as my Jack Russell terrier does,” Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan said of Bondi after Bondi argued to the Florida Supreme Court last week that the ballot summary for the medical marijuana question fails to inform voters of the “breathtaking scope” of the amendment.

Morgan

Morgan, whose law firm employs likely Democratic governor candidate Charlie Crist, offered to pay for TV time for a debate between Bondi and Jon Mills, the attorney and former Florida House speaker who Morgan said wrote the proposed medical marijuana law.

Morgan and his law firm have contributed $400,000 so far to the campaign to gather 683,149 voter signatures to put a medical marijuana question on the November 2014 ballot. The summary that would appear on the ballot says the amendment “allows the medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating diseases as determined by a licensed Florida physician.”

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Florida Democratic battle for Attorney General — may not happen

Sunday, October 27th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Florida Democrats attempting to gain a seat on the state Cabinet face a possible slugfest for one — the race for Attorney General.

George Sheldon, an ex-deputy to former longtime Democratic Attorney General Bob Butterworth, delivered his campaign speech Sunday morning to party activists gathered at Disney World, a day after new rival, Perry Thurston, introduced himself to the crowd. Sheldon directed his fire at Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Sheldon said she was “not just right-wing, she’s wrongheaded.”

He went on to blister Bondi over leading the legal challenge by two dozen states opposing the Affordable Care Act. But his harshest assessment came of Bondi’s push last month to reschedule an execution because it conflicted with her planned campaign kick-off fundraiser.

“She should’ve resigned,” Sheldon said, drawing cheers from those gathered at the Democratic conference.

Thurston announced his candidacy Saturday. His speech later to conference delegates was mostly pegged to his role as state House Democratic leader, although he, too, managed to plug his new candidacy.

Florida’s three Cabinet posts are held by Republicans who, with Gov. Rick Scott, give the GOP command of the state’s executive branch. The Legislature also is led by Republicans, with Thurston topping the outnumbered ranks of House Democrats.

Bondi has already raised more than $400,000 for her campaign and has received another $220,000 from the Florida Republican Party for rent, staff, travel and other costs, state records show. And the prospect of a Democratic primary for attorney general is not something party leaders are seeking.

Christian Ulvert, the Florida Democratic Party’s political director, said Sunday that “something might be worked out.” Sheldon also told the Post that talks may soon be underway that look intended to get Thurston to drop his candidacy to avoid a costly intraparty clash.

“I hate that this comes down to money,” Sheldon said. “But it’s expensive to run these Cabinet races.”

Bondi casts a cloud over marijuana amendment

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Attorney General Pam Bondi

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi cast a cloud Thursday over a proposed ballot measure that would legalize medical marijuana in the state.

Bondi, a Republican, told Florida Supreme Court justices that problems exist with the proposed ballot title and summary, arguing that that they mislead voters about the scope of the amendment. The Supreme Court reviews proposed citizens-sponsored ballot measures to assure they meet constitutional standards and can bar those that do not.

The attorney general’s opinion is merely advisory to justices on the validity of the proposal.

For her part, Bondi said the amendment, “obscured the most fundamental issue underlying its proposal: The nature and scope of marijuana use the amendment would allow.”

While the ballot title and summary say the amendment would allow marijuana to be prescribed only for patients with “debilitating diseases,” it actually “would allow marijuana in limitless situations,” the attorney general concluded.

The amendment would allow patients with cancer, Lou Gehrig’s disease, HIV/AIDs and Parkinson’s disease to be among those eligible for treatment with marijuana. But it also gives doctors authority to prescribe for “other conditions.”

“Particularly for a physician who considers the marijuana’s health risks low, there is no “condition” beyond the amendment’s reach,” Bondi wrote. “The ballot summary does not convey this breathtaking scope, instead telling voters that marijuana would be limited to ‘individuals with debilitating diseases.’”

The proposed Florida constitutional amendment has gained almost 110,000 valid signatures on its way to a required 683,149 verified voter signatures by Feb. 1 to get on the November 2014 ballot.

Those signatures collected so far have triggered the Florida Supreme Court review. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have approved marijuana being prescribed for medical conditions.

Sheldon challenging Bondi for Attorney General on “character” issue

Monday, October 21st, 2013 by John Kennedy

A former top deputy under Bob Butterworth, Florida’s last Democratic attorney general, announced Monday that he will challenge Republican Pam Bondi next year.

George Sheldon, who recently stepped down as an assistant secretary in the Obama administrations’ Health and Human Services Dept., said he plans to return “character” to the attorney general’s office.

“Taking on predatory lenders, human traffickers, and those who engage in deceptive practices is the job of the Attorney General…not working full time trying to deny health insurance to children and anyone with preexisting conditions,” Sheldon said.

“This race is about character.  Who has the experience and character to use the office of attorney general for general good rather than as a personal, political, partisan platform,” he added.

Bondi spearheaded the lawsuit brought by two-dozen states unsuccessfully seeking to have the Affordable Care Act declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.  She also recently caught heat for rescheduling a planned execution because it conflicted with a fund-raiser heralding the kickoff of her re-election campaign.

Sheldon served as Florida’s Department of Children & Families secretary under then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist, now a Democrat, is likely to run for governor and share next year’s ballot with Sheldon.

Sheldon earlier was deputy attorney general under Butterworth and is a former state representative. He sought the nomination for attorney general in 2002, finishing third behind current Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer. Dyer lost to Crist that year.

Bondi’s campaign said the incumbent was ready for the challenge.

“As Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi has fought hard to defend and protect the people by making Florida a zero tolerance state for pill mills, taking on human trafficking, and pursuing consumer relief from both, mortgage and Medicaid fraud, ” said Pablo Diaz, Bondi’s campaign manager.

“Pam Bondi and George Sheldon have very different credentials and points of view, and we welcome the opportunity to show the voters in Florida that they will have a clear choice between two distinctly different candidates.,” he added.

 

Florida’s Rx database draws controversy, but little use by docs

Tuesday, September 24th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Florida’s prescription-drug database, seen by supporters as a key front in the state’s battle against drug abuse, is being used by less than 17 percent of the state’s health care professionals, Health Department officials acknowledged Tuesday.

The drug-monitoring database is already under scrutiny following the wrongful release of the drug histories of more than 3,000 people to attorneys earlier this year.

But several lawmakers Tuesday said they were surprised by how little it is relied on by medical professionals issuing prescriptions.

“I’m surprised it’s not higher given how much we talk about this,” said Rep. Joe Saunders, D-Orlando.

The database was once fought by Gov. Rick Scott, who became a supporter after Attorney General Pam Bondi and others convinced him that having an effective monitoring program was crucial to stop doctor-shopping by those seeking prescription drugs.

It was also designed to help law enforcement crack down on medical professionals suspected of profiting from over-issuing prescriptions.

The ACLU told a House Health Quality Subcommittee on Tuesday that it wants stricter standards for law enforcement reviewing Floridians’ drug histories. The database’s program manager, Rebecca Poston, assured lawmakers that efforts remain underway to tighten security.

But Poston conceded that there is no law requiring doctors and others to use the database before they issue prescriptions.

Professionals had earlier complained about long delays accessing the data. But now, Poston said it appears doctors, dentists and pharmacists just prefer not to take time to review prescription histories.

“There’s nothing that requires the practitioner to utilize the system,” Poston told lawmakers.

Democrats say Bondi owes apology for execution change

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 by John Kennedy

The Florida Democratic Party demanded a public apology Tuesday from Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi for asking to reschedule a convicted killer’s execution so she could attend a campaign kick-off fund-raiser.

Bondi late Monday acknowledged that she was wrong to request that Gov. Rick Scott change tonight’s scheduled execution of Miami double murderer Marshall Lee Gore so she could attend the political event at a Tampa waterfront home.

Scott this week said he went along with Bondi’s request, but didn’t know the reason she sought the change.

Gore is now scheduled to die Oct. 1.

But Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant said Bondi owes an apology to Floridians for shirking her duty as a state official.

“Everyone can agree that this is disgusting and wrong,” Tant said.  “The people of Florida expect their public officials to place their job before their own re-election fundraising. Pam Bondi’s decision to prioritize political fundraising over Florida’s criminal justice system represents a breach of the public trust and shows callous disregard for the families of Marshall Lee Gore’s victims.”

 

Scott says he didn’t know Bondi fund-raiser clashed with Gore execution

Monday, September 9th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Gov. Rick Scott said Monday that he agreed to move a scheduled execution this week at the request of Attorney General Pam Bondi, concerned that it would clash with a scheduled campaign kick-off fund-raiser she planned in Tampa.

Marshall Lee Gore, convicted of killing two women in Miami 25 years ago, was scheduled to die Tuesday. But Scott last month ordered the execution date changed to Oct. 1 “at the request of the attorney general.”

Bondi’s office has defended the move, saying she had the fund-raiser planned for weeks at a Tampa waterfront home. The event is expected to draw many of the state’s legislative leaders, along with campaign donors.

“Her office contacted my office and asked for postponing,” Scott said Monday, although he said he was unaware it was because of the fund-raiser.

Asked if he thought it was a proper call, Scott added, “We set the date. The attorney general’s office asked for the postponement, so we went along with that….When another Cabinet member asks for something, we try to comply with that.”

UPDATE: Bondi late Monday issued a statement, saying she regretted pushing for the rescheduling, although the Oct. 1 date now appears set.

“As a prosecutor, there was nothing more important than seeing justice done, especially when it came to the unconscionable act of murder,” Bondi said. “I personally put two people on death row and, as attorney general, have already participated in eight executions since I took office, a role I take very seriously.”

“The planned execution of Marshall Lee Gore had already been stayed twice by the courts, and we should not have requested that the date of the execution be moved,” Bondi added.

Advocates blast Scott for fanning fear of ObamaCare

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013 by John Kennedy

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act pushed back Wednesday against Gov. Rick Scott and Republican Cabinet members who a day earlier raised concerns that the privacy of uninsured Floridians could be compromised when they sign-up this fall for health coverage.

“The governor of a state with more than 4 million uninsured should not be discouraging people from getting care,” said Monica Russo of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is assisting non-profit organizations contracted with federal authorities as “navigators” in getting the word out about enrollment beginning Oct. 1.

Nick Duran, the Florida director for Enroll America, which is leading the effort, said in a conference call with reporters Wednesday that surveys show 55 percent of uninsured Floridians are unaware of the enrollment requirement.

Meanwhile, the Republican-ruled Florida state government has taken few steps to advance enrollment, advocates said. Florida had earlier spearheaded an unsuccessful legal campaign by two-dozen states looking to block the Affordable Care Act from taking effect.

“We have not had much help from the state, to tell you the truth,” said Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida CHAIN, a statewide health advocacy organization that will receive federal grant money as a navigator. “It’d be helpful if they got the word out.”

By contrast, Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater raised concerns at a Cabinet meeting in Miami on Tuesday, warning that the enrollment process could lead to privacy violations and identity theft affecting many low-income Floridians.

Bondi also is among 13 Republican state attorneys general who last week demanded that U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius answer questions about the navigator program.

“Federal safeguards that should be in place to protect our privacy are behind schedule and inadequate,” Scott said. “It is unclear how the federal government will protect personal information from being stolen or otherwise misused.”

Advocates say that many of the nonprofits doing the outreach already contract with the state for various programs. State legislators during the 2013 session approved a health law (SB 1842) that requires navigators hired in Florida to be registered with the state, be U.S. citizens or legal aliens and undergo background checks by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Bondi bashes Obamacare with FOX friends

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi joined FOX News “Fox & Friends” host Gretchen Carlson early this morning for the latest round of Obamacare-bashing.

Bondi, a former contributor to FOX News and frequent guest on the conservative network since her 2010 election, was asked about the latest twist in the federal health care law that spurred an outcry from Republicans.

President Obama’s administration announced on Friday it was delaying requirements that state-run health care insurance exchanges verify applicants’ eligibility for subsidized health care coverage.

Bondi railed against the HHS delay of the verification for eligibility. But the new rule won’t affect Florida because the state is not running its own exchange. Just 16 states and the District of Columbia chose to set up their own marketplaces. Like Florida, nearly every other state has defaulted to the federal government’s exchange.

“Here, now, we have nothing to prevent fraud. Anyone can come and say that they qualify for this and there’s absolutely no verification,” Bondi, a Republican, told Carlson.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it would delay the required random checks for eligibility for a year. The online exchanges are supposed to go up on Oct. 1, and individuals are slated to begin purchasing insurance through them by Jan. 1.

Bondi took over a multi-state lawsuit led by Florida against the Obama administration over the health care law after she took office in 2011. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law last year but ruled that states do not have to participate in an expansion of Medicaid that was a key portion of the federal law. Florida lawmakers opted this year not to expand the federal-state health care program for the poor. The expansion would have covered about 1 million uninsured Floridians.

The fact that the new regulation won’t impact Florida didn’t diminish Bondi’s outrage.

“It’s going to be unbelievable,” she said. “I’m not going to say everybody’s going to commit fraud…
I would hope they wouldn’t. But we’ve opened something up that is vulnerable and invites fraud. That’s what frightens all of us. It’s going to be difficult for the IRS to verify. It’s going to be difficult for state authorities to verify. It’s just one more example of what a mess this federal takeover has become.”

Trifecta: Bondi files re-election papers

Monday, July 1st, 2013 by Dara Kam

Joining her two GOP Cabinet colleagues, Attorney General Pam Bondi filed papers on Monday to seek another term as the state’s top legal eagle.

Bondi announced her entree into the 2014 race on Twitter: “Officially filed for re-elect this morning-looking forward to continuing working hard and serving the people of Florida!”

Chief Financial Jeff Atwater and Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Adam Putnam have also filed their initial campaign documents. Thus far, only Putnam has drawn a Democratic challenger.

Bondi, backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce, won a three-way Republican primary in 2010 and handily defeated Democrat Dan Gelber, winning nearly 55 percent of the vote.

Since she took office in 2011, Bondi’s been at the forefront of some high-profile lawsuits. She took over predecessor Bill McCollum’s case against the federal government over the federal health care law, ultimately losing when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the law is constitutional but that states don’t have to participate in the expansion of Medicaid.

More recently, Bondi sued BP over the Deepwater Horizon oil blast that rocked Panhandle tourism and dumped oil onto the region’s pristine beaches and emerald waters.

She also was one of the lead attorneys general in settlement with banks over foreclosures.

Since her election in 2010, Bondi has been on a crusade to stop prescription drug abuse, convincing Gov. Rick Scott to back a statewide prescription drug database and backing measures to crack down on “pill mills.”

Bondi’s also a renowned pet-lover who brings her St. Bernard Luke to work with her and has made a habit of bringing dogs available for adoption to Cabinet meetings.

Palm Beach County can’t sue Legislature over gun law, appeals court rules

Friday, June 28th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County commissioners won’t fight a ruling from the 1st District Court of Appeals upholding a lower court decision in their battle to undo a gun law that imposes fines and other penalties against local officials.

The appeals court agreed with Leon County judge John Cooper, who ruled last year that the county can’t sue the Florida House or the Florida Senate over the 2011 law that bans local officials from imposing gun laws.

The 2011 law imposes a $5,000 fine and removal from office for local officials who violate it.

A county attorney on Friday said the commission won’t appeal Thursday’s ruling but the suit against Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi will proceed.

County commissioners argued that the law is unconstitutional and that the sanctions “are simply a form of political bullying that serves no governmental purpose” and have a “chilling effect.”

Under pressure, hipster retailer drops prescription line

Friday, June 14th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Urban Outfitters is apparently axing its tongue-in-cheek prescription drug line under pressure from health advocates and attorneys general, including Florida’s Pam Bondi.

Bondi’s staff said the Philadelphia-based chain did not contact her office but instead the AG learned about it online.

CNN reported that the company intends to drop the accessories that include a set of syringe-shaped shot glasses along with shot glasses, beer “koozies” and coasters that look like prescription pads.

The coasters bear the label “Al Koholic, M.D.” whose address is on “Brewskis Lane” in “Sloshville, NY.” The beer koozie, also “prescribed” by “Dr. Koholic, Al,” appears to be a prescription bottle for “BOOZEMIN.” And the “prescription shot” glasses are printed with the “Rx #: VRY-NBR8TD” with a quantity “As many as you can stomach” and refills: “Sure!”

CNN is reporting that Urban Outfitters is bowing to pressure from a variety of groups and killing the line.

“In the 20,000 products that comprise our assortment, there are styles that represent humor, satire, and hyperbole,” Urban Outfitters told CNN in a statement. “In this extensive range of product we recognize that from time to time there may be individual items that are misinterpreted by people who are not our customer. As a result of this misinterpretation we are electing to discontinue these few styles from our current product offering.”

Bondi, who’s been on a crusade against prescription drug abuse since her 2010 election, hailed the company’s decision.

“I commend Urban Outfitters for making the right decision by ending its prescription line of products. Prescription drug abuse has destroyed so many lives in our country, and we appreciate the sensitivity that Urban Outfitters has demonstrated by voluntarily discontinuing this line,” she said.

Scott signs $200 million mortgage settlement bill

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 by John Kennedy

About $200 million from a National Mortgage Settlement will be scattered across Florida, with cash going to domestic violence centers, Habitat for Humanity and housing subsidies for low-and medium-income homeowners and renters under legislation signed Tuesday by Gov. Rick Scott.

“This money will help those who’ve been harmed by foreclosures in this state,” Scott said, moments before signing SB 1852. “Funding in this bill also will help various affordable housing initiatives and will help make additional affordable housing available in the Sunshine State.

“This is very great news for Florida families who are struggling to make ends meet, just like my family was when I was growing up,” he concluded.

Florida is drawing the money as part of a nationwide, $25 billion settlement reached more than a year ago between attorneys general and five big mortgage servicers. It’s taken Attorney General Pam Bondi and the Republican-controlled Legislature months to reach agreement on how to distribute the cash.

“This has been a long time coming,” Bondi said Tuesday. “We are very proud of this settlement.”

The biggest share of the money, $60 million, will go to the Florida House Finance Corp., for the state apartment incentive loan (SAIL) program, mostly to provide rentals for the elderly and developmentally disabled. Another $40 million goes to the State Housing Inititiatve Program (SHIP), also run by the FHFC, to be directed to cities and counties for renovating owner-occupied homes.

“This is a great day for Floridians and a great day for affordable housing,” said Wellington Meffert, of the FHFC.

Bondi acknowledged that the settlement didn’t steer money directly to homeowners struggling to keep homes. But she said that stemmed from the need to maintain accountability over the dollars.

“It’s hard to write checks directly out there. It needed accountability,” Bondi said. “That’s why we’re going through these various agenicies, just to make sure it’s going where it’s meant to go.”

Bondi, other AGs ask Urban Outfitters to quit selling druggy accessories

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 by Dara Kam

Pam Bondi and 22 other attorneys general are demanding that Urban Outfitters quit selling accessories they say is glorifying drug use and “undermining” efforts to combat prescription drug abuse.

The trendy company is targeting the hipster crowd with a line of products that riff on prescription drugs, including a set of syringe-shaped shot glasses along with shot glasses, beer “koozies” and coasters that look like prescription pads.

The Rx-line appears to be as focused on booze as drugs. The prescription-pad coasters bear the label “Al Koholic, M.D.” whose address is on “Brewskis Lane” in “Sloshville, NY.” The beer koozie, also “prescribed” by “Dr. Koholic, Al,” appears to be a prescription bottle for “BOOZEMIN.” And the “prescription shot” glasses are printed with the “Rx #: VRY-NBR8TD” with a quantity “As many as you can stomach” and refills: “Sure!”

But for Bondi, whose made fighting prescription drug abuse her top issue since taking office in 2011, and the other top lawyers, the kitschy barware isn’t a joke.

“Profiting from a ‘prescription line’ that is contrary to Florida’s efforts to combat prescription drug overdoses and drinking is unacceptable. We are calling on Urban Outfitters to forgo a few sales and help us save a lot of lives,” Bondi said in a statement.

The products “demean the thousands of deaths that occur each month in the United States from accidental overdoses,” Bondi and the AGs from 22 states and Guam wrote to Urban Outfitters CEO and Chairman Richard A. Hayne in a letter dated today. “These products are not in any way fun or humorous but make light of this rampant problem. We invite you to pull these products from your shelves and join with us to fight prescription drug abuse.”

Read the attorneys general message here or after the jump.

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AG Bondi sues BP, Halliburton for $5.4 billion

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013 by Dara Kam

Attorney General Pam Bondi has sued BP and Halliburton for more than $5.4 billion for lost revenue to the state caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil blast.

“We know BP has caused a tremendous amount of damage to our state,” Bondi told reporters at a press conference this afternoon. “Millions of barrels of oil were spilled into our Gulf for months and months during the height of tourism season in our state. There is no doubt in my mind that BP must be required to compensate our state for our losses.”

Bondi said she offered the oil giant a deal 90 days ago but received no response. She filed the lawsuit on Saturday, the three-year deadline for lawsuits for damages. The 86-day gusher clotted the Panhandle’s pristine beaches and emerald waters with oil at the onset of the region’s tourist season.

“We had hoped BP would do the right thing and work with us…yet that hasn’t happened,” Bondi said, adding that the state “did not even receive a response” from BP. “It’s astonishing to me considering the harm BP has caused our state and our people. Floridians deserve better and we are going to receive it from BP.”

Bondi said the bulk of the $5.4 billion she is seeking is based on anticipated future losses, mainly sales and use taxes, corporate taxes and documentary stamp taxes from a drop in real estate transactions.

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