Senate leaders from both sides of the aisle disputed former Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher’s contention she wouldn’t receive a fair hearing in the Republican-dominated Senate if she challenged her removal from office.
On Wednesday, Senate President Bill Galvano said hearings by his chamber on suspensions handed down by Gov. Ron DeSantis are a check between the legislative and executive branches.
“We don’t have these suspensions come to us with a preconceived disposition,” said Galvano, who served in the state House with Bucher before he was elected to the Senate.
“I have respect for her. We worked on many issues together,” Galvano added of Bucher. “So, I was, frankly, surprised she did not believe due process would prevail.”
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, a Jacksonville Democrat who also served in the House with Bucher, said the fates of elected officials should be left to voters, rather than DeSantis issuing suspensions.
But Gibson added her support for the Senate hearing process.
“I believe the (Senate) body would be fair, I don’t know why it wouldn’t be,” Gibson said. “It’s going to a special master first. Then the decision would be made on the facts.”
Bucher opted to resign Monday after being suspended by DeSantis following troubled recounts in the November elections.
“The process established in Florida law would require that I go before a handpicked state Senate committee with the governor’s lawyers as the prosecutors,” Bucher wrote in her resignation letter. “This is my only option for due process. The law does not provide for guidelines or rules. Prior to my service as your supervisor, I was a very vocal member of the House minority party in Tallahassee. As such, I do not believe I can receive a fair hearing before a very partisan Senate.”
Galvano announced last week that former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette, a Collier County Republican, will serve as special master in an appeal by suspended Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson. He also said Goodlette would act as a special master if the Senate received appeals from Bucher and suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
TEEING UP MARIJUANA EXPANSION
CBS generated a lot of buzz by just saying no to a Super Bowl ad trumpeting the benefits of medical marijuana. And, of course, there’s a connection to the Sunshine State.
Acreage Holdings, a Canada-based medical marijuana company, was willing to pay $5 million for a 60-second ad, according to reports. But CBS rejected the spot.
The Super Bowl kerfuffle, however, wasn’t the only news Acreage made this month.
The company paid $63 million --- in cash --- to acquire Nature’s Way Nursery of Miami, Inc., also known as Green Owl Pharms, according to a press release issued by the company.
“The combination of policy and demographics in Florida makes it one of the largest growth cannabis markets in the U.S. and we could not be more pleased to close this deal,” said Kevin Murphy, Acreage founder, chairman, and CEO.
LOOKING FOR HEMP INNOVATION
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who noted Wednesday she was elected because she doesn’t “walk in the same boots as our previous agriculture commissioners,” is setting up committees focused on marijuana and innovation.
Separate hemp and medical-marijuana advisory panels will be rolled out shortly, once Fried settles on a cannabis director in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.
The medical marijuana panel will be expected to provide input on “new initiatives, such as a patient portal on our website for gathering consumer complaints and feedback from patients.” The hemp group will be “dedicated to making Florida a national leader in hemp.”
“I intend for our state to harness the potential of, and become the gold standard for, hemp production,” Fried said.
The committee on innovation, whose members are still being pieced together, may take a little longer.
Fried envisions the panel featuring international agriculture experts from nations like Israel and Canada, who could bring “environmentally-conscious technologies” for energy resources to crops, irrigation, the fight against red tide and to climate change impacts.
Fried also sees the innovation effort as a way to attract businesses to Florida.
“If we get more companies here to be headquartered and to bring their technologies, then that’s more job growth and economic development,” Fried said.
AIR DESANTIS RETURNS TO FLIGHT
DeSantis is back flying in a seized drug plane, despite an emergency landing that required using oxygen masks that dropped from the ceiling.
“The FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) says they have fixed that, but I have never had to do that in all my years of flying in different aircraft, whether it’s civil or military,” DeSantis said Tuesday in describing the forced landing Jan. 11 in St. Petersburg while on his way to Fort Lauderdale. “So, it was a little bit of a strange deal. But we ended up landing safely.”
DeSantis said he used the twin-engine King Air to get to Sebring on Friday as he responded to a mass shooting and used it again Tuesday as he went to Naples and Fort Lauderdale for a pair of environmental announcements.
DeSantis is being shuttled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as part of its security detail. The FDLE does not provide similar services to Cabinet members.
State lawmakers are expected to discuss possible funding for new state aircraft, along with rules for its use, as they move into budget talks when the legislative session begins March 5.
House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, said any new aircraft should be limited to the governor, with other leaders getting on board only if invited by him.
“I don’t know of too many situations that would require Cabinet officers or presiding officers to get to a place in such a short time,” Oliva said. “If there is some sort of tragedy, we can all make our way down in relatively short order. But I think the person that would be required to be there, in the event of an emergency, a tragedy, some pressing matter, I think the executive is the one that would have to get there.”
Former Gov. Rick Scott, who had his own plane, ditched the old air fleet following the 2010 election.
TWEET OF THE WEEK: “Another bad call by @NFL = their decision to NOT donate to support FL Panhandle hurricane recovery. This devastation can’t be forgotten and Floridians need support regardless of viewership numbers. Looking forward to seeing how much we can put you down for @nflcommish.” --- state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis (@JimmyPatronis).