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Florida law enforcement agencies say they'll give drug forfeiture money to pay for drug database

Asked on Monday to explain reports that he made a secret push to kill Citizens Property Insurance within four years, Gov. Rick Scott balked.

"I put out a plan in the campaign, which is my plan with regard to Citizens," Scott said. "It's moving it back to making it the insurer of last resort."

Scott ended the media gaggle when a reporter clarified that the question was not about his campaign plan, but about internal discussions in his office. "Okay, see you guys," Scott said.

Brian Burgess, Scott's spokesman, later disputed the Sarasota Herald-Tribune report that the current Citizens bill started out as a plan from the Governor's Office to completely phase out Citizens. Burgess said Scott never supported that plan.

"What matters at the end of the day is the governor's position," Burgess said. "The governor has not changed his position that Citizens should be the insurer of last resort."

SB 1714 would allow Citizens to raise rates by up to 25 percent, loosening the 10 percent annual cap on premium increases. It's scheduled to be heard in a committee Tuesday.

Police chiefs offer drug database funds

Attorney General Pam Bondi says many of Florida's local law enforcement agencies will give up part of their forfeiture money to help pay for the state's new drug-monitoring database.

The heads of 29 city and county agencies Monday agreed to contribute after concerns that proposed legislation prohibited pharmaceutical companies from funding the database.

Forfeiture funds come from the seizure of criminals' ill-gotten money and belongings.

The police chiefs of St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach and Temple Terrace pledged their support.

Group says state pays for lobbyists, PR jobs

A private state government budget research institute has questioned spending by Florida's state agencies on legislative and public relations.

Florida TaxWatch issued a report Monday saying taxpayers are funding 126 public relations positions and 71 lobbyists and other legislative affairs staffers

Salaries and benefits for the two categories total $14 million a year.

TaxWatch president Dominic Calabro urged state leaders to review all positions, determine which ones are essential and cut the rest.

The business-backed group found the median pay is $59,173 for public relations staffers and $61,540 for legislative affairs employees.

Five public relations and three legislative affairs workers are making more than $100,000.

ACLU seeks review of felon voting decision

The American Civil Liberties Union is asking the federal government to review a recent decision to end the automatic restoration of voting rights to nonviolent Florida felons once their sentences are up.

The ACLU sent its letter to the Justice Department on Monday. It says that the decision by Gov. Scott and the Florida Cabinet runs afoul of the federal Voting Rights Act. That law prohibits racially discriminatory practices in voting.

Scott and the Cabinet voted last month to require at least a five-year waiting period before ex-convicts can apply to get their rights back. The ACLU says the decision will disproportionately affect minorities.

Tampa lawyer will lead Florida Bar

Tampa lawyer Gwynne Alice Young has narrowly defeated former state Sen. Walter "Skip" Campbell to become president-elect designate of the Florida Bar.

Young beat Campbell by 751 votes out of more than 21,000 votes cast in a runoff election. The Florida Bar licenses and regulates the state's 90,000 lawyers.

Young is a former prosecutor who now works as a business litigator with the Carlton Fields law firm in Tampa. She will serve as Bar president starting in June 2012.

Governor has week to respond on rule freeze

At the request of an attorney for Gov. Scott, the Florida Supreme Court has granted the governor an extra week to respond to a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of his rule freeze. The court had ordered Scott to respond to the petition by Monday.

But on April 20, Scott attorney Charles Trippe asked for an extension. "Due to the contingencies of the legislative session, other responsibilities of the Office of the Governor, and the press of other matters, undersigned counsel respectfully requests a seven-day extension of time, through and including May 2," Trippe's motion reads.

The court agreed to the extension, but a line in the one-page order reads in all caps: "No further extensions of time will be granted to respondent for serving the response."

Rosalie Whiley, a blind woman from Miami seeking to reapply for food stamps, filed the suit against the governor last month alleging he overstepped his authority with the rule­making freeze. Her attorneys argue one of the stalled rules will make it easier for her to apply for food stamps online. She wants the executive order revoked.

The freeze was one of Scott's first acts as governor, included in an executive order signed less than an hour after his Jan. 4 inauguration.

Times staff writers Janet Zink and Michael C. Bender contributed to this report, which uses information from the Associated Press.

Florida law enforcement agencies say they'll give drug forfeiture money to pay for drug database 04/25/11 [Last modified: Monday, April 25, 2011 8:27pm]
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