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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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Gov. Scott quietly signs state worker drug testing into law

Monday, March 19th, 2012 by Dara Kam

In less than three months, the state’s 100,000-plus workforce will be subject to random, suspicionless drug testing making Florida the first in the nation to impose the policy.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the state worker drug-testing measure (HB 1205) into law today without fanfare or comment.

The new law, a priority of Scott’s which goes into effect on July 1, allows Scott’s agency heads to order the drug tests for up to 10 percent of their workers four times a year. Lawmakers did not include any additional funding for the urine tests, which run from $5 to $40, in the measure (HB 1205) in the state’s $70 billion budget, prompting some critics to question which services agencies will cut to absorb the costs. Workers can be fired if the drug screen is confirmed positive.

As is always done when Scott signs a bill into law, his office issued a release about the drug testing measure late Monday evening. His letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner transmitting his approval did not include any comment on the plan although it has been a priority of Scott’s since he assumed office last year.

Scott issued an executive order mandating the drug tests last year, but backed away from his plan after he was sued by the ACLU and the union representing government workers. Scott in June limited his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the case in which a federal judge in Miami heard oral arguments late last month.

The ACLU and Democratic lawmakers contend the law violates the constitution’s guarantee of unreasonable search and seizure by the government. And some lawmakers, including Republican Sen. Joe Negron of Stuart, objected that workers who drink alcohol the night before could have a positive test result even if they have not been drinking at work. Negron was the sole Republican senator to vote against the measure; three Republican House members also opposed it.

Scott last year also pushed the legislature to pass a law requiring that food stamp and emergency cash assistance applicants pass drug tests before receiving benefits. In October, a federal judge temporarily put that requirement on hold, ruling the drug screens were unconstitutional.

Drug testing state workers soon to become law

Friday, March 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

State workers would have to submit to random drug tests after the Senate signed off on a bill pushed by Gov. Rick Scott, certain to sign it into law once it reaches his desk.

The Senate overwhelmingly approved the measure (HB 1205) by a nonpartisan 26-14 vote, rejecting concerns that suspicionless, random drug testing of government workers is unconstitutional, intrusive and demeaning to the state’s 100,000-plus workforce, most of whom have gone without a pay raise for six years.

“There’s been no predicate laid whatsoever on why we need to have this bill,” said Sen. Joe Negron, a Stuart Republican and self-described libertarian, adding that he has been in the legislature for more than a decade.

“I haven’t been running across drug-addled employees who are unable to do their jobs,” he said.

And the measure is overly intrusive, Negron said, because “your urine and your blood are extremely personal body fluids.”

But the bill sponsor Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, argued that public and private sector workers should be subjected to the same requirements and that the screening could help prevent addiction.

And, he said, not requiring the tests could be dangerous.

“What you’re going to create then is a haven for abusers,” Hays said. “Then drug abusers will know they’re safe if they come to work for the state of Florida.”

Scott’s legal team has helped the bill’s House and Senate sponsors persuade lawmakers that the drug screening will be upheld even as they defend the policy in court. The governor is being sued over a drug-testing policy he imposed on state workers last year. After the ACLU and the state workers’ union sued the state, Scott in June quietly reversed his order for all but corrections officers pending the outcome of the case.

Miami U.S. District judge Ursula Ungaro, who heard the case against Scott last week, expressed serious doubts about the governor’s order and “had trouble understanding the circumstances under which the order would be valid.”

The measure would allow Scott’s agency heads to decide whether they want to institute the policy and require that they use money already in their budgets to cover the costs of the tests, which range from $5 to $40.

Bans on food stamps for convicted drug users and using welfare debit cards at strip clubs moving in the House

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Felons convicted of drug possession won’t be able to get food stamps or emergency cash for poor families unless they successfully complete state-approved substance abuse treatment programs and recipients of the cash aid won’t be able to use debit cards at strip joints or gambling locales under two bills approved by a Florida House committee Tuesday morning.

Barring drug abusing convicted felons is already part of federal law restricting who can get food stamps. But the federal government allows states to opt out of the prohibition, which Florida did more than two decades ago.

Both measures are aimed at ensuring that the money going to needy families benefits children, proponents say.

But Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, objected that the bill was “mean-spirited.”

“This bill presumes all poor people have a problem and use dollars in an inappropriate ways, especially those who have been convicted of a drug crime,” said Pafford.

Making sure felons who were convicted of drug possession complete treatment is a good thing, argued Rep. Dennis Baxley, a former state director of the Christian Coalition said at the House Human Services Committee today before the 12-6 vote along party lines in favor of the measure (HB 813). A Senate committee is expected to vote on the measure tomorrow.

“It’s about government not being a codependent,” Baxley, R-Ocala, said, adding that 80 percent of crimes are related to drug abuse. “Anything we can do to help people identify and move away from that is a benefit.”

Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins said the changes would bring Florida into line with federal law and mirror what many other states are now doing.

“I’m not sure why the state of Florida passed that law that allowed those individuals to receive food stamps. I guess that was just a different time,” Wilkins said. “I didn’t see any logical reason myself for why Florida has carved that out in today’s time.”

Those who are ineligible for the benefits because of their felony convictions could name someone else to receive the aid on behalf of the children in the family who would otherwise lose out on the food stamps or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. But some critics say the requirement that felons complete state-approved drug treatment could be problematic because many of the approved facilities have wait lists and they cost money. Popular recovery programs Alocholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, which are free, would not fulfill the requirements.

A separate, more controversial measure would restrict where those who receive TANF can use state-issued EBT cards. The move was prompted by a television report that found that some recipients of the cash aid – the poorest of the poor, as some Department of Children and Families officials call them – have used the cards at liquor stores, strip clubs and gambling joints. The measure (HB 1401) would prohibit their use at those locations and also stop poor families from using the cards out-of-state.

“Sometimes to do the right thing all people need is a little bit of encouragement,” Baxley said before the 13-4 vote. Rep. Mack Bernard of West Palm Beach split with fellow Democrats on the bill, saying he was troubled to learn the cards had been used at Internet cafés.

That provision could hurt abused women fleeing the state for their safety, objected Pafford, who failed to get the committee to strip the out-of-state provision.

Critics of the proposed policy say limiting where the cards can be used will not have much impact, in part because the cards can be used at ATMs where cash can be spent anywhere.

“It won’t have that big of an impact in terms of restricting individual usage,” Wilkins said. “I think we’ve got to deal with the fraud issue more and more. It’s the tip of the iceberg in terms of more and more fraud policies coming down the pike.”

Wilkins said his agency is trying to combat fraud in other ways, including taking steps to verify the identity of people applying for the benefits. Those applications are now done on-line, but Wilkins said he wants to add questions that would screen out imposters. If the questions aren’t answered correctly, applicants would then have to apply in person, Wilkins said.

Senate panel approves sentencing guideline, mandatory minimum changes

Monday, April 25th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave tepid approval to a measure sponsored by Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, that would give judges discretion over sentencing for drug traffickers and lower from 85 to 65 percent the amount of time non-violent offenders would have to serve.

Doing away with Florida’s sentencing guidelines and the requirement that prisoners serve 85 percent of their sentences were among Gov. Rick Scott’s transition team’s recommendations.

They’re also part of a national movement called “Smart on Crime” pushed by conservatives like Grover Norquist as one way to cut prison costs by getting drug addicts into treatment instead of putting them behind bars.

But the bill (SB 1334) gave at least one conservative senator heartburn because it does away with the minimum mandatory sentence for drug dealers and instead would impose a $200,000 fine on someone trafficking in as much as 10,000 pounds of pot.

“It sweeps way too broadly for me,” objected Sen. David Simmons, R-Maitland, a lawyer. “I’m reading where it says trafficking in cocaine. We’re talking about huge quantities of cocaine. We’re talking about 150 kilograms of cocaine and there’s no minimum mandatory sentence for that kind of person.”

The bill would transfer the sentencing authority to judges, Bogdanoff argued, and would require some repeat offenders to serve 92 percent – instead of the current 85 percent – of their sentences.

“This bill doesn’t say we’re not going to put drug traffickers in jail. It just says we’re going to leave the discretion to the judge,” argued Bogdanoff. “This is a whole movement on a national level. We are putting drug addicts in jail and that does not serve society. We need to get them help.”

UPDATE: House committee set to abolish pain clinic oversight, do away with drug database

Thursday, March 10th, 2011 by Dara Kam

CORRECTION: The House Majority Office data about the number of dispensing practitioners in Florida is incorrect. The actual number is 156, not 56, according to House Speaker Dean Cannon’s spokeswoman Katherine Betta. She also point out that although Florida’s dispensing practitioners comprise only 11% of those who hand out oxycodone nationally, but they dispense 85% of the oxycodone sold by practitioners in the U.S.

With House Speaker Dean Cannon‘s blessing, a House committee is preparing to abolish all oversight of the state’s pain management clinics and repeal a controversial prescription drug database law enforcement officials, including Attorney General Pam Bondi, believe is crucial in combating illicit narcotic trafficking.

The House Health and Human Services Committee Chairman is slated to vote on two bills (PCB HHSC 11-03, PCB HHSC 11-04) at an 8 a.m. meeting this morning that would repeal current laws regulating pain management clinics in an effort to crack down on pill mills and impose restrictions on the types of drugs doctors would be allowed to dispense.

One of the bills would bar Florida doctors registered as “dispensing practitioners” from handing out Schedule II, III, IV or V drugs, including highly addictive oxycodone and methodone.

But critics of the measure, pushed by committee chairman Robert Schenck, R-Spring Hill, say it will do little to keep the narcotics out of the hands of drug dealers because most of the prescription drugs are dispensed by pharmacies.

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Senate prez adamant about getting and keeping Rx drug database

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 by Dara Kam

Senate President Mike Haridopolos refused to back down from his support of a statewide prescription drug database despite Gov. Rick Scott’s attack on the privately funded program.

“I think this is a good idea,” Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, told reporters at his weekly Q-and-A session this afternoon.

Haridopolos said he “couldn’t be more strong about” the need for the database to curb “doctor-shopping” and help law enforcement officials go after prescription drug abuse.

“The governor has every right to have his opinion and I respect that. My opinion is strong. We will get this funded because it’s a major problem. It is destroying people’s lives. I think we need to take a vigilant stand and lead and make sure that Florida is no longer the pill mill capital of America. This is a real problem,” Haridopolos said. “Yes. I’m passionate about it.”

Read the rest of Haridopolos’ comments after the jump.

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