Sunshine State News Blogs
Republican congressional hopeful David Jolly came out swinging against President Barack Obama’s health care law on Tuesday, backing U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s, R-Fla., proposal to ensure taxpayer dollars are not used to bail out insurance companies due to the impact of the law. Jolly is running against Democratic nominee former state CFO Alex Sink and Libertarian Lucas Overby in the March 11 special election.
“From its inception to its absurdly flawed roll-out and execution, Obamacare has been nothing but a mess of broken promises and failed practices,” said Jolly. “Now we learn Obamacare could result in great financial losses for insurance companies that were forced into the Obamacare exchange market. And worse, we come to find that taxpayers would be forced to make up for these losses when – not if – Obamacare ultimately fails. I applaud Senator Rubio’s effort to remove this provision and safeguard taxpayers from the financial losses that insurance companies will incur from their forced participation in a program that is guaranteed to fail. Senator Rubio has put forth common-sense legislation to keep taxpayers off the hook for Obamacare’s failure, and I fully endorse his proposal.
“Unlike my opponent Alex Sink who supports Obamacare, I see Obamacare for the failure that it is – and, it seems to be that the more we learn about hidden provisions within the law, the worse it gets,” added Jolly. “If given the opportunity to represent the people of Pinellas County in Congress, rest assured I will not stand for an administration that is attempting to cover up their failures through the end of the current president’s term by writing blank checks with taxpayer dollars.”
Dr. Ben Carson, who is being touted as a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, took a large step to becoming more politically active on Tuesday when he was named chairman of American Legacy PAC’s “Save Our Healthcare" campaign. Carson burst on to the political scene by offering sharp criticism of President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law at the National Prayer Breakfast.
“When I spoke just feet away from President Obama about the dangers of political correctness at last year’s National Prayer Breakfast, many were surprised,” Carson told conservatives on Tuesday. “After all, my background is medicine, not politics. But it doesn’t take a brain surgeon like me to see that America is facing serious problems. And right now, the No. 1 problem is Obamacare.
“Dropped coverage, failing websites, skyrocketing premiums -- the list goes on and on,” Carson added. “I wish I could snap my fingers and make Obamacare disappear tomorrow, but we both know that won’t happen. That’s why we’re launching Save Our Healthcare -- a national citizens’ effort to hold Washington accountable, re-center the health care debate around doctors and patients, and begin to answer the question of ‘What’s next?’ -- because real reform is absolutely vital.”
Carson will be running an online petition at SaveOurHealthcare.org.
“It is our goal to recruit every American that believes we can do better than Obamacare, and make sure that our message is received loud and clear by every elected official and candidate in 2014,” Carson insisted.
On Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott called for $80 million to go to cancer research as part of his proposed budget. The bulk of those funds -- $60 million -- would go to Florida Cancer Centers while another $20 million would go to grants.
“I am happy to announce today that our ‘It’s Your Money Tax Cut Budget,’ furthers our state’s commitment to becoming a national leader in cancer research,” Scott said on Tuesday. "This investment will help cancer centers across the state gain national recognition and conduct groundbreaking research. It is essential that we continue to support cancer research in Florida so we can provide for the health needs of families.”
U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., weighed in on Tuesday afternoon on what he hopes to see from President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address that night.
“Residents across Northeast Florida and the nation deserve policy from Washington that will grow the economy, put Americans back on the job, keep our military strong, and provide patient-centered health care – not the broken promises that Obamacare has delivered,” Crenshaw said. “Our country is at a crossroads. The foundation we lay now will determine our fiscal health and strength for generations to come. I’ll be fighting for a future built on the bedrock principles of low spending, lower taxes, less red tape, and a simpler tax code like the FairTax – all clear alternatives to the president’s priorities.
“Equally important, I’ll continue the fight to provide Americans with more choice and higher quality of care without damage to the economy," Crenshaw added. “And, as a member of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, I will work to make sure our men and women in uniform have the resources they need to protect us at home and around the globe. I hope the president shares that vision and is willing to work with Congress to achieve it.”
The Florida Retail Federation (FRF) cheered news that retail jobs grew 5.5 percent in Florida last year, adding 55,000 new jobs to the Sunshine State.
“Our top priority always has been to continue strengthening Florida’s economy by creating more jobs and making sure consumers get value for every dollar spent,” said Rick McAllister, the president and CEO of the FRF, on Tuesday. “That’s why FRF is championing several consumer-friendly measures during the 2014 legislative session that will complement the governor’s efforts to create more jobs and opportunities in our state.”
McAllister started focusing on the FRF’s legislative agenda on Tuesday, expressing support for Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal for a 10-day sales tax holiday for back-to-school shopping. The FRF is also backing Scott’s call for a 15-day sales tax holiday for hurricane supplies. The FRF is also behind closing the Internet sales tax loophole and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s call for a sales tax holiday for Energy Star and WaterSense appliances.
Gov. Rick Scott held a media event in Orlando on Tuesday, calling for reducing the business rental sales tax by 0.5 percent as part of his proposed budget.
“This part of our tax cut agenda is a $100 million reduction in the sales tax on commercial rent, which costs businesses about $1.4 billion per year,” Scott said, insisting the tax cut will help businesses expand in the Sunshine State. This reduction will make it more affordable for businesses to lease space, so they can keep more of the money they earn and create more jobs. Florida is the only state that imposes this tax, and we must keep working to make Florida the best place in the world to start and grow a business.”
Between this proposal and his call for reducing $400 million in car registraton fees, Scott is looking to cut $500 million in taxes in his proposed budget.
Scott’s proposal to cut the business rent sales tax won the applause of some of the leadership of the business community on Tuesday.
"Governor Scott’s proposed reduction in this tax will help economic development councils and industry groups attract new businesses to their regions,” said Sherri Meadows, the president of the Florida Realtors. “It will also begin to eliminate the unfair double taxation that occurs when tenants are forced to pay sales tax on property taxes collected as part of their lease."
“When Florida stands out as the only state in the nation that taxes commercial leases, word gets around to businesses and CEOs,” said David Hart, the executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Targeted tax reforms are essential to making Florida more competitive, and will provide job creators the opportunity to put more Floridians to work. The Florida Chamber thanks Governor Scott for his focus on securing Florida’s future by reducing commercial property lease taxes.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., insisted on Tuesday that his proposal to ensure federal funds will not be used to bail out insurance companies in the aftermath of President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law has support.
Rubio has introduced the “Obamacare Taxpayer Bailout Prevention Act” in the Senate while U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., is sponsoring it in the House. On Tuesday, Rubio and Griffin unveiled a letter signed by more than 30 conservative leaders and organizations in support of their proposal.
“As awareness grows about the likelihood of a taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurers under Obamacare, this possibility will be taken off the table,” Rubio and Griffin said in a joint statement on Tuesday. “The American people are tired of paying for Washington’s mistakes and tired of politicians who leave them and future generations with the bill. If Obamacare can’t survive without a taxpayer-funded bailout, it’s another sure sign this entire health law has to be replaced.”
Among the conservative groups and leaders backing the measure include FreedomWorks, the Tea Party Express, Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, Citizens Against Government Waste, the Campaign for Liberty, Log Cabin Republicans and Morton Blackwell.
Over the weekend, former Florida House Majority Leader Adam Hasner announced he would not challenge U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla. With Hasner staying out, the Republicans already in the race are ramping up their efforts to defeat Murphy. Case in point: former state Rep. Carl Domino who went all out in attacking Murphy on Tuesday bashing him on a host of fronts.
“Patrick Murphy abandoned his home and Fort Lauderdale to move to our district and buy the election with his daddy's money,” Domino emailed supporters. “For the past year, he has done Nancy Pelosi's bidding, becoming a rubber stamp for the far left's radical agenda. But now that Election Day is nine months away, Murphy is desperately trying to hide his liberal spots. He's pretending to be bipartisan, meeting with Republican leaders, and hinting about switching parties. He's even gone as far as to denounce Obamacare!
“Let me remind you that Murphy ran his first campaign in full support of the health care law and he still supports the basic pillars of Obamacare, he just doesn't want voters to know it,” Domino continued. “Patrick Murphy can't have it both ways. I'm not buying his act on Obamacare, and I hope you aren't either. We deserves better. And that's why I'm challenging Murphy for this seat.
“I have no illusions this will be an easy race,” Domino added. “Nancy Pelosi and her gang of radicals and the Murphy family are ready to pour millions of dollars into the district to defend this seat. But I've decided to take on this challenge because I'm dismayed by where this nation is heading – economically, foreign policy-wise, and socially.”
Domino pointed to his record as a businessman and as a retired Navy commander and Vietnam veteran as reasons he would do well in Congress.
“As a successful businessman, I have a skill set that is sorely lacking in Congress today. Washington needs to quit adding to our debt by reining in spending. Continuing to borrow from China or raising taxes are not viable solutions,” Domino insisted. “As a Vietnam veteran and retired commander in the U.S. Navy Reserves, I'm increasingly concerned about America's foreign policy strategy. We're abandoning our allies -- like Israel -- and allowing hostile countries, like Russia, to dictate our decisions. As a father, I fear that my children and grandchildren will not have the opportunity to enjoy the American dream as our generation and those who came before us did. And that's unacceptable.”
With President Barack Obama offering the State of the Union address on Tuesday night, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) is looking to tie his agenda to former state CFO Alex Sink who is running in a special election for the congressional seat left open by the death of longtime U.S. Rep. Bill Young, R-Fla.
“As Pinellas families tune in to President Obama’s address, they should remember that Alex Sink’s No. 1 goal is to go to Congress and push for the president’s liberal policies,” said Katie Prill, a spokeswoman for the NRCC on Tuesday. “A vote for Alex Sink this March ensures that Nancy Pelosi and Washington Democrats are one step closer to accomplishing their liberal agenda.”
This week, Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, introduced the Second Amendment Protection Act which would ensure the state of Florida would not work with the federal agents when it came to enforcing federal gun laws. The bill would also ensure state employees who work with federal agents to enforce federal gun laws would be subject to punishment including losing their jobs.
On Monday, Eagle said his proposal passed constitutional muster, pointing to both the Second and 10th amendments.
"The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution expressly provides that all powers not delegated to the federal government are reserved to the states,” Eagle said. “Time and time again, Florida has proven that we have the best solutions to our own issues, whether it be health care, education, or our balanced budget, which is accomplished without raising taxes. When it comes to protecting our fundamental Second Amendment rights guaranteed by the Constitution, I believe it is best left to be handled by Floridians for Floridians.”
The Princeton Review and USAToday teamed up to compile the rankings of the private and public colleges and universities that represent the best values in the nation and two schools from the Sunshine State placed in the top 10.
The New College of Florida ranked second among public colleges, placing only behind the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the rankings. The University of Florida placed seventh in the rankings.
Four other universities in Florida were included in the top 75 best value public colleges and universities in the nation: Florida State University, the University of Central Florida, the University of North Florida and the University of South Florida.
"We salute these colleges for their outstanding academics and affordability either via their comparatively low sticker prices or generous financial aid awards to students with need,” said Robert Franek of the Princeton Review.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the heavy favorite to be the Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 with senators and congressmen already flocking to her banner.
The Hill is noting that 18 senators, almost a fifth of the chamber, have already endorsed Clinton for president. Clinton is also getting the backing of 38 members of the U.S. House.
So far three congressmen from the Sunshine State have already jumped on the Clinton bandwagon with U.S. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., and U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., already supporting her.
With Winter Storm Leon looming across the South, the National Weather Service offered a winter storm warning for Tuesday afternoon and into Wednesday for parts of North Florida including the Panhandle and Big Bend.
The Florida Highway Patrol issued a warning on Tuesday for motorists:
With a winter storm warning posted for portions of North Florida, the Florida Highway Patrol urges motorists in affected areas to prepare for the possibility of adverse driving conditions. National Weather Service forecasts show a severe cold front moving into Florida, bringing with it the possibility of freezing rain and snow resulting in hazardous driving conditions for motorists.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is leading a delegation to Panama this week as the agriculture community looks to increase trade with that Central American nation. Two years ago, a free trade agreement with that nation was completed and the Panama Canal expansion is expected to be finished next year.
On Monday, Putnam and his delegation met with U.S. Ambassador Jonathan Farrar. “It’s an honor for the delegation of growers and me to meet with Ambassador Farrar,” said Putnam. “We’re thrilled to be in Panama to promote some of the world’s best products, and we appreciate the warm welcome we’ve received from everyone.”
Putnam and the delegation will be joined by PortMiami Director Bill Johnson on Tueday for more meetings, including with the president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Panama (AMCHAM).
Panama remains an important partner with Florida and ranks as the fifth largest trade partner with the Sunshine State when it comes to agriculture, which came to more than $168 million back in 2012 and created 1,800 jobs. In the last two years, Florida’s agriculture trade with Panama has grown 70 pecent.
Despite his many years in Tallahassee as a Republican, including serving in the leadership of both chambers of the Legislature, Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano continues to support Rep. Amanda Murphy, D-New Port Richey. After being appointed to his new position by Gov. Rick Scott, Fasano backed Murphy to replace him in the Florida House over the Republican candidate.
Fasano will be hosting a fundraiser for Murphy in New Port Richey on Wednesday night. Former Pasco County Commissioner Michael Cox, a Democrat, and attorney Joan Nelson Hook are also hosting the event.
The Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) continues to try to link President Barack Obama with former Gov. Charlie Crist. Despite spending most of his political career as a Republican, Crist is now the favorite for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Rick Scott in November. Looking to win over his new party, Crist has been bringing on members of Obama’s campaign team in recent weeks including naming Jim Messina as a campaign adviser last week.
"Birds of a feather flock together,” said Lenny Curry, the chairman of the RPOF, on Tuesday. “And when it comes to debt, both Barack Obama and Charlie Crist are the undisputed debt kings during their respective administrations. While Obama has racked up record deficits, Charlie brought Florida's state debt to record highs, both recklessly passing off the cost of that debt to future generations. Florida can't afford a governor who declares that he'll be just like Barack Obama."
The media availability will be held in the galleria at USF's Research Park.
According to a press release, USF forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle will provide updates on several topics including: excavations to date, the search for additional families for DNA testing, upcoming fieldwork and the next steps in the research.
Members of the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office will also be present to speak on their work with DNA identification and collection.
On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott unveiled a proposal for a 15-day sales tax holiday for hurricane supplies starting on June 1. Batteries, flashlights, first aid kids and other supplies would be covered under Scott’s proposal.
“This 15-day sales tax holiday will help Florida families prepare for hurricane season and let them keep more than $20 million,” Scott said. “This tax holiday will allow families to better protect and safeguard their homes during a storm.”
Hurricane season starts June 1 and ends on Nov. 30.
On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott announced that Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) will move its corporate headquarters from outside of Chicago to Boca Raton, bringing 225 new jobs to the area. CTCA runs five hospitals across the nation.
“We’re proud that Cancer Treatment Centers of America took a one-way ticket to the Sunshine State, and will add more than 200 new jobs to the region,” Scott said before pointing toward another company which recently decided to move its headquarters to the area. “This great news builds on Office Depot’s recent announcement that following their merger with OfficeMax, they too will setup their global headquarters in Boca Raton. To continue this success, we’re working to cut $500 million in taxes and fees this upcoming session to create an opportunity economy that provides generations of families with great careers, so they can pursue the American dream.”
“Selecting Boca Raton as our new corporate headquarters represents a major step in positioning Cancer Treatment Centers of America to serve even more patients in the future, while simultaneously providing our dedicated and valued employees with exciting opportunities for further personal and professional development,” said Gerard van Grinsven, the president and CEO of CTCA. “We deeply appreciate the support we received from the state of Florida, the city of Boca Raton, Palm Beach County and its Business Development Board, under the leadership of President and CEO Kelly Smallridge, in coming to this decision. We also want to acknowledge the special efforts of Florida Governor Rick Scott and Enterprise Florida for their assistance with our evaluation of the benefits associated with our relocation.”
With reports that the communist government ruling Cuba is ramping up on arrests of pro-democracy activists, two South Florida Republican congressmen took aim at the Castro regime.
"Widespread protests across the island in places such as Bayamo, Holguin, Havana, and Camaguey resulted in harassment and arrests of many of courageous pro-democracy activists by Castro's thugs,” said U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla. “Renowned leaders of the pro-democracy movement, including Dr. Oscar Biscet, have been detained and threatened with violent reprisals for daring to demand essential liberties. I urge those in the international community who value human rights to stand in solidarity with the Cuban people's struggle for freedom and demand an end to this brutal oppression.”
With the Community of Latin American and Caribbean State (CELAC) meeting in Cuba this week, a South Florida Republican insisted the group, which once had Venezuelan strong man Hugo Chavez as it chair, would do nothing to promote democracy in Cuba.
"While many leaders of the Western Hemisphere will be arriving in Cuba next week, it is appalling that the current human rights situation on the island will not be addressed nor condemned,” said U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. “Recent intimidation and oppression tactics against democracy leaders, such as Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and others, has been widespread throughout Cuba as the Castro regime seeks to silence the democracy movement leading up to the upcoming CELAC conference. I urge responsible nations to stand in solidarity with the democracy leaders and condemn these human rights violations that must end immediately."
More than 70 members of Congress will be wearing orange lapel pins on Tuesday night when President Barack Obama offers his State of the Union address. The pins indicate support of No Labels, a group trying to push bipartisan solutions in Washington.
No Labels calls for “political leaders from both parties coming together to develop goals for America that Republicans, Democrats and independents can agree on” which “will form the basis for a national strategic agenda -- a shared vision for the country that is a crucial step in finally breaking the cycle of gridlock and inaction in Washington and bringing about sustainable growth and prosperity.”
Three congressmen from Florida -- Republican Dennis Ross and Democrats Joe Garcia and Patrick Murphy -- will be sporting the orange pins on Tuesday night. Garcia and Murphy are expected to face competitive Republican challengers in November.
"In recent years, presidents have talked about being uniters, not dividers, but have never been able to deliver on that promise or told us how," said former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah, a co-chairman of No Labels, on Monday. Huntsman ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. "This campaign is a roadmap for how to bring a divided nation together. And it begins with political leaders like Representatives Ross, Murphy and Garcia, who are committed to working with colleagues across the aisle to look for areas of agreement."
"This is a bold call for nothing less than transforming American politics, and we're so appreciative that Representatives Ross, Murphy and Garcia have shown the courage and the leadership to help us launch this new effort," said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who is also co-chairing No Labels. "We believe that if both sides of the political divide can get together and develop a shared vision for this country, the hard work of policymaking will be much smoother."
Gov. Rick Scott continued unveiling parts of his proposed budget, focusing on education on Monday morning. Scott announced his proposed budget would send $18.84 billion for K-12 public schools, $2 billion for state colleges and $3.59 billion for Florida’s state universities. All of these are the highest levels in state history.
“Building on the record K-12 education funding and teacher pay raises and classroom debit cards of last year, I am committing an historic $18.8 billion in total funding K-12 education,” Scott said. “We need to provide the tools, training and funding to give our students the best chance for success.
“And our commitment to education doesn’t stop at the K-12 level,” Scott added. “We expect our students to get the best education at our state institutions of higher education that leads to a great job and career. That’s why I’m also investing record total funding for state colleges of $2 billion and $3.59 billion for Florida public universities. Our students deserve the best quality education, and this funding will help to ensure that every degree achieved is followed by a great career.”
Scott’s proposals are more than $540 million more than last year’s levels of K-12 funding and $40 million more for state colleges. The new proposal adds $40 million more to state universities.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., continued to warn about taxpayer dollars being used to bail out President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law. Rubio responded to a constituent question about the issue.
“What the law says is: ‘Now, the federal government, meaning you and your taxpayer dollars, will have to come in and bail these companies out.’ To me, that is absolutely wrong on two fronts,” Rubio said. “No. 1: government should not be participating in using taxpayer funds to bail out private companies. And No. 2: the second problem is if you’ve got to bail out Obamacare with federal funds, it tells you the law is a failure. We should not be bailing out a failure.”
Rubio also pointed to a bill he proposed which would prevent the possibility of a taxpayer bailout
“Interestingly enough, I’m starting to receive, at this point, quiet, bipartisan interest in the issue,” Rubio insisted. “But I think in the months to come, as we get
closer and closer to the reality that all of you are going to have to be seeing your taxpayer dollars going toward bailing out private companies at a time when our national debt is at $17 trillion and growing, I think you’re going to see a growing amount of support for that position.”
Florida writer Patrick Smith, best known for his historical novel “A Land Remembered” which offered a sweeping glance at Florida history through the story of a family, passed away on Sunday. Smith was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize three times and was also nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
“In a warm, accessible way, Patrick Smith told the Florida story,” said Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam. “His story of the courage, greed, love and loss in the swamps and glades of our state will be a Florida classic for many decades to come.
“It has been shared with newcomers, is still required reading in many schools and is equally enjoyed by multigenerational families who feel his story is part theirs,” Putnam added. "'A Land Remembered' began the conversation between the ranching community and the environmental groups who discovered, through the MacIvey clan’s story, common ground that endures to this day.”
Gov. Rick Scott reached across party lines to appoint former Rep. Mack Bernard to the Florida Elections Commission on Friday.
After serving in the House from 2009-2012, Bernard ran in the Democratic primary for a Florida Senate seat. Bernard lost by the skin of his teeth to Jeff Clemens with accusations of voting irregularities.
Bernard will served until the end of 2016.
In 2010, in a major political upset, Marco Rubio drove then-Gov. Charlie Crist out of the Republican Party and beat him in the U.S. Senate race by pointing out his support of President Barack Obama’s federal stimulus. With Crist now a Democrat running against Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) picked up the same attack on Monday.
"Before embracing President Obama and his failed stimulus plan, Charlie Crist tried a spending spree of his own,” said Lenny Curry, the chairman of the RPOF. “But as was often the case with Crist, it was nothing more than shallow platitudes that failed miserably as Florida's economy tanked. Florida can't afford a leader who is more interested in pleasing his Washington buddies than doing what is right for Floridians. We can't afford Charlie Crist."
Radel has been at the center of controversy over the last few months after he was arrested for misdemeanor cocaine possession in October. Instead of resigning, Radel said he would take a leave of absence from the House of Representatives.
Many in Radel's own party, however, called for his resignation from his position.
A special election will be held to replace Radel, as Gov. Rick Scott cannot appoint officials to the U.S. House.
One day after the suspended mayor of Sweetwater, Manuel Maroño, was sentenced to 40 months in federal prison for receiving $45,000 in a pay-to-play grant scheme, Gov. Rick Scott formally removed him from office.
On Friday the governor signed Executive Order 14-32 (see the attachment below).
Maroño, once considered an up-and-comer who boasted of his friendship with Gov. Scott, pleaded guilty in November to an honest services conspiracy charge, admitting splitting the bribe with lobbyist Jorge Forte. The men were caught in an Aug. 6, 2013, sting operation in which government agents set up a fake federal grant program. Maroño and Forte allegedly agreed to promote the program for economic development after they were paid.
Forte is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 6.
Two others facing similar kickback charges resulting from the same FBI sting operation are former Miami Lakes Mayor Michael Pizzi and lobbyist Richard Candia, though both allegedly received far less money than Maroño and Forte.
The initiative had gathered 710,508 valid signatures as of Friday afternoon.
"It's official: The supervisors of elections have validated enough of our submitted signatures to place us on the ballot in November -- more than the 683,149 we needed and in the required number of congressional districts," wrote Pollara on Friday. "This is an amazing feat. I have to admit, less than a year ago I never thought we'd see this day -- but thanks to your support and hard work, we were able to make history together. I want to thank everyone involved in this campaign -- particularly our staff, donors, petition collectors and volunteers -- for making this possible."
Although the initiative has gathered enough signatures to be on the ballot, it would still need to be upheld by the Florida Supreme Court, who will make their decision regarding the amendment's language before April.
Pollara also asked Floridians to donate to United For Care, saying the group needed to raise $20,000 by the end of the month to "get this new phase of the campaign off the ground" to get 60 percent of Floridians to support the amendment come November.
One of the group's key donors, Barbara Steifel, offered to match any donation made between now and 11:59 p.m., Jan. 31.
"That task is going to require a very quick ramp up of this campaign -- and it's going to be expensive," said Pollara. "Thank you, again, to everyone who helped us pass this critically important point in the campaign. Together we will bring medical marijuana to the thousands and thousands of seriously ill Floridians who are desperate for relief."
On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott announced that 14 communities across the Sunshine State will recieve $2.45 million in defense grants
“These investments are key to sustaining Florida’s military installations and the more than 758,000 jobs the military and defense industry supports in our state,” Scott said. “I am grateful to Florida’s servicemen and women, veterans and military families for their sacrifices and dedication to protecting families across Florida and the nation. I am proud to announce these $2.45 million of grants that are necessary to protect Florida’s military sector and keep our state the most military-friendly state in the nation.”
“Governor Scott, Speaker Weatherford and I are committed to making Florida's communities the most military-friendly in America,” said Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Destin. “As the sponsor of the enabling legislation, I'm keenly aware that the work of the Defense Support Task Force is critical to preserving and protecting Florida's bases and missions and I am grateful to the task force for making another significant investment in Northwest Florida.”
“I am proud of the role Florida’s military communities play in keeping our nation safe,” said House Speaker Will Weatherord, R-Wesley Chapel. “This funding supports jobs and provides stability in the communities supporting our military bases.”
The monies will be going to communities in Bay, Brevard, Clay, Duval, Escambia, Highlands,Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Okaloosa, Orange, Pinellas,Polk, Santa Rosa and Walton counties.