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Michael Van Sickler, Tampa Bay Times

Michael Van Sickler

Michael has been with the Tampa Bay Times since 2003. A Cleveland, Ohio, native, he graduated from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., and got his master's degree at the University of Florida. He has worked at the Ledger and the Palm Beach Post. For the Times, he has covered everything from mortgage fraud, growth and development in Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg City Hall and state government in Tallahassee. After a stint as assistant metro editor for the paper, he is now the government and politics editor.

Phone: (727) 580-9650.

Email: mvansickler@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MikeVanSickler

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  1. John Morgan ready to bet big on medical pot

    Blog

    From the Miami Herald's David Smiley:

    John Morgan spent nearly $7 million pushing two statewide ballot initiatives to expand medical marijuana throughout the state of Florida.

    But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to what the wealthy Orlando attorney and possible gubernatorial candidate says he’s prepared to invest in the industry now that it’s about to explode....

    John Morgan is going to bet on medical marijuana.
  2. Opinions across Florida: Vanishing lands and Tallahassee overreach

    Blog

    Here's a recap of opinions from Florida's news sources:

    Ever since voters overwhelming passed Amendment 1 with 75 percent of the vote, the Legislature has refused to follow through on the ballot measure's requirement to set aside money for land preservation.  Turns out, 2017 was no different. As the Tampa Bay Times editorial board points out, time is running out for a state that is seeing 1,000 people move to it every day....

    The nearly 250 acres of Busciglio family farm land, as seen from the air on March 24, 2017. Tower Dairy is less than 10 miles from downtown Tampa and the last dairy farm in Hillsborough County, Florida. Although the farm used to be at the end of a dirt road, development has closed in on the property. "They offered them so much money they couldn't afford not to sell it, " Sammy Busciglio said.
  3. SCOTUS won't hear Bondi appeal on death penalty

    Blog

    From Dara Kam at News Service of Florida:

    Bolstering a state law requiring unanimous jury recommendations in death penalty cases, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to consider an appeal by Attorney General Pam Bondi on the issue.
    The court's decision to deny what is known as a "writ of certiorari" essentially cements a state law enacted this year in response to a seminal Florida Supreme Court decision in a case involving convicted murderer Timothy Lee Hurst....

    Bondi
  4. Opinions around Florida: DeVos, the Sunshine, and sanctuary cities

    Blog

    Here's our rundown of opinions published across Florida:

    Tyler Durrant, a recent graduate of Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, wrote an essay originally published in The Nation that the Miami Herald ran over the weekend. In it, Durrant explains why she protested Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who spoke at the university on May 10.

    We were asked to sit quietly as DeVos — the same secretary of education who erased our country’s history of systemic racism by claiming that historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were “pioneers of school choice” — received an honorary degree. We were asked to sit quietly when our very own school lauded her for “building bridges and bridging gaps,” when only days earlier her administration had suggested that the basis for HBCU funding was unconstitutional. We were asked to sit quietly while she looked down at rows of young black graduating students and, quoting from our school motto, instructed us to “depart to serve.”...

    A group of students stand and turn their backs during a commencement speech by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos at Bethune-Cookman University on May 10.
  5. Rural lands program running low on cash

    Blog

    From Jim Turner of News Service of Florida:

    Gov. Rick Scott and the state Cabinet could spend about $8.5 million next week to conserve thousands of acres of land owned for decades by two ranching families.

    Such deals have become a widely used strategy in recent years to protect land from development.

    But the program that would pay for the deals in Okeechobee and Highlands counties --- known as the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program --- could be out of money by 2018, even with funds carried over from the current year's budget.

    “You'll see easements (proposed for conservation) until at least until the end of this calendar year,” John Browne, land programs administrator for the Florida Forest Service, told aides to Scott and the Cabinet during a meeting Wednesday. “After that, it will be kind of questionable.”

    Browne said after the meeting he isn't concerned about the future of the program.

    “The constituency that we support, they're very open about it, they love the program, they will continue to lobby, we'll continue to push for it,” Browne said. “This just happened to be a year where there were other things that were determined to be more important.”

    In the 2017-2018 budget recently approved by the Legislature, $10 million is set aside for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and nothing for the Florida Forever land-acquisition program, which once got $300 million a year. The budget remains subject to Scott's approval.

    Florida voters in 2014 approved a constitutional amendment that was designed to set aside money for land and water conservation. A large chunk of money in the new budget would go into a reservoir (SB 10) and other Everglades work totaling $155 million. Money would also go to beach projects and maintaining the state's natural springs.

    Another $170 million would go to debt payments, while agency operations would get $28 million and staff salaries and benefits would take up $164 million.

    “I don't buy the theory that it's the Everglades bill that is the reason the Legislature couldn't fund land conservation,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida and a prominent environmental lobbyist.

    The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program, a favorite of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, has been used 35 times to secure 36,706 acres across the state.

    Draper said those are the kinds of conservation efforts voters thought they were approving with the 2014 constitutional amendment. The ballot initiative designated 33 percent of an existing real estate tax to go toward land and water conservation efforts.

    “This is a real problem,” Draper said about a potential shortage of funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. “Florida is developing very quickly, and these landowners have a choice: `Do I develop the land or do I try and hold on to it in difficult economic circumstances or do I try to wait until the state can come up with some money and provide an easement?' ”

    Deals are typically structured as conservation easements, which restrict future development while allowing existing landowners to continue using the property for such things as agriculture.

    Browne said without money to set up additional easement deals, the state agency's focus will be on keeping an eye on the land that has already been set aside.

    The proposals going before Scott and the Cabinet on Tuesday involve more than 5,000 acres of ranch land, stretched over two parcels north of Lake Okeechobee.

    The parcels --- 4,177 acres in Okeechobee County and 1,034 acres in Highlands County --- could help control the quality of water entering Lake Okeechobee from the north.

    The Triple S Ranch in Okeechobee County, a cow and calf operation owned by the Scott family since 1948, sits about 25 miles west of Ft. Pierce and is within the recharge range for the Kissimmee River basin.

    The Highlands County land, owned by the Hartt family since 1939, drains into the Arbuckle Creek, which eventually flows into Lake Okeechobee. Used as a cow and calf operation, the land also provides buffer to the Avon Park Air Force Range.

    The deals would leave the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program with about $11 million for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2017....

    Florida is running out of money for conservation easements
  6. Opinions across Florida: Beaches, opioids and secret meetings

    Blog

    Here's a rundown of commentary from across the Sunshine State.

    With all the attention that Visit Florida got this year, it can be easy to forget that one of the most important tourism expenses for the state is its beaches.

    Amplyifying the work done by the Naples Daily News' terrific Shrinking Shores series, the news outlet's editorial board wrote how the Legislature did addressing beaches this year. (Short answer: Not very well)....

    Beach erosion continues in Florida.
  7. Samantha Bee touts push to restore felon voting rights in Florida

    Blog

    Last month, the Florida Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a proposed amendment restoring voting rights for convicted felons was constitutional. The ruling rejuvenated the campaign to put the measure on the 2018 ballot.

    "Florida voters are getting very excited about this," said Desmond Meade, an ex-offender who is leading the petition drive to restore felon voting rights in Florida. He told the Times/Herald that he'd engage churches, local activists and student groups to gather the 700,000 signatures needed....

    Samantha Bee interviews Desmond Meade
  8. Opinions across Florida: Few raves for Legislature

    Blog

    Ten days after lawmakers ended their regular legislative session, Florida's editorial boards and columnists are still slamming them.

    Where to start?

    Let's try education, where the Orlando Sentinel's Scott Maxwell took lawmakers to task for teacher bonuses. Lawmakers agreed to spend $233 million, much of it through the "Best & Brightest" scholarship program, for "highly effective" teachers, who would receive a $1,200 bonus and "effective" teachers, who would get an $800 bonus. But as Maxwell points out, these bonuses often don't go to those who are most deserving, including a second-grade teacher recently profiled in the Sentinel for making a difference in the lives of her students. Maxwell: ...

    Florida's Legislature
  9. NSF: Health officials look to halt smokable marijuana

    Blog

    The News Service of Florida's Dara Kam:

    The Florida Department of Health on Monday ordered a medical-marijuana operator to stop selling a “whole flower” product sold for use in vaporizers but which can easily be smoked, saying the product is not permitted.

    Quincy-based Trulieve started selling “Entourage,” a whole flower product meant to be used in the Volcano vaporizer, last week.

    The department's cease-and-desist letter to Trulieve came after The News Service of Florida reported Wednesday about the sales of the whole flower product, which can easily be smoked in pipes, bongs, or joints --- all off-limits to patients under Florida's current medical-marijuana laws.

    “Licensed dispensing organizations have a responsibility to ensure their product is not one that can easily be transitioned into a smokable form. Therefore, whole flower products are not permitted,” state Office of Compassionate Use Director Christian Bax wrote to Trulieve on Monday.

    Current law bans “smoking” of medical marijuana but includes an exception that allows patients to use vaporizers to consume cannabis products. Smoking is defined as “burning or igniting a substance and inhaling the smoke.”

    The “Entourage” products, released by Trulieve last week, come in “small, wire mesh bags” sold in vaporizer cups. The mesh caps affixed to the tops of the bags “can be removed with minimal effort” by purchasers, according to the letter.

    “Given the above facts, Trulieve is hereby ordered to immediately cease and desist sale of its Entourage product,” Bax wrote.

    In a statement, Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers said Monday the company was “surprised by the letter” but is “immediately and completely complying with the department's wishes while evaluating our options.”

    Rivers told the News Service last week she believed the product was legal and that her company had been selling whole-flower products for nearly a year.
     
    “We feel very strongly that having products available that allow patients to have a choice and to benefit from the entourage effect, also available to physicians to make recommendations to patients, is critical. So if that means we're pushing the envelope, we've had a form of whole-flower vaporizer available from the day we've opened. This has always been part of our product line and will continue to be in the future,” Rivers said last week.

    Lawmakers during the annual legislative session that ended last Monday were unable to reach consensus on a measure to implement a voter-approved constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana for a broad swath of patients with debilitating illnesses.

    But they were in nearly universal agreement on at least one thing: Patients shouldn't be able to smoke pot products.

    Key legislators contacted by the News Service last week about the sale of whole flower products that could be smoked were taken by surprise.

    John Morgan, the Orlando trial lawyer who largely bankrolled what was known as Amendment 2, has pledged to sue the state over the smoking issue, which he says was tacitly approved in the constitutional amendment approved by more than 71 percent of voters in November.

    Patients and advocates maintain that the medicinal effects of whole flower consumption outweigh that of processed products, such as oils or other derivatives, including those inhaled by “vaping.”

    But the Department of Health apparently isn't sold on that argument.

    The state's marijuana operators are allowed to seek permission to sell “ground cannabis plant material” meant to be vaped, Bax acknowledged in Monday's letter....

    A Trulieve dispensary on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa
  10. Matt Gaetz, political scion, still playing anti-establishment card

    Blog

    If you're the son of a former Senate President whose net worth in 2015 was more than $25 million, how do you represent yourself as a man of the people?

    If you're Matt Gaetz, you simply keep saying that you are. That's what Gaetz did as a House representative. And that's what he's still doing as a Congressman representing Fort Walton Beach.

    The Pensacola News Journal published a profile of the 35-year-old that included well-worn contentions by Gaetz that he's anti-establishment....

    U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, seen here in the Florida House in 2013, still maintains he's an outsider
  11. Smokable medical pot available, even with objections from lawmakers

    Blog

    From the News Service of Florida's Dara Kam:

     Even while Florida lawmakers have insisted they do not want patients to smoke pot, one of the state's seven licensed medical-marijuana vendors on Tuesday began selling whole-flower cannabis.

    Florida law bans patients from smoking the substance, but doesn't prohibit vendors from selling marijuana buds meant for use in vaporizers --- but which also can be smoked in joints, pipes or other delivery devices.

    Trulieve, one of seven licensed marijuana operators in Florida, started selling the whole-flower product on Tuesday, just days after lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a measure to carry out a voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for patients with a broad swath of debilitating conditions.

    Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday her company has sold whole-leaf products in different forms --- all designed to be ingested by vaporizers --- for nearly a year. Those products, however, were ground up, unlike the new bud-like product that can be smoked.

    Quincy-based Trulieve's new product, first sold on Tuesday, comes in canisters designed for use with vaporizer pens. But patients can easily use the substance in other ways, such as in joints, bongs or pipes --- consumption methods off-limits under state law.

    Rivers said whole-leaf products are critical for patients seeking the “entourage effect” that results from consumption of whole-flower marijuana, as opposed to processed cannabis products, such as oils or other derivatives.

    “We feel very strongly that having products available that allow patients to have a choice and to benefit from the entourage effect, also available to physicians to make recommendations to patients, is critical. So if that means we're pushing the envelope, we've had a form of whole-flower vaporizer available from the day we've opened. This has always been part of our product line and will continue to be in the future,” Rivers said in a telephone interview.

    Trulieve's new product went on the market after Monday's end of the 2017 legislative session, during which lawmakers insisted they wanted to impose a ban on smoking marijuana products. 

    “The bills that were going through the process on the House and Senate side were the antithesis of this activity,” Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who took over negotiations on the pot measure in the waning days of the session, told the News Service on Wednesday.

    The session ended without legislators reaching a consensus on implementation of the constitutional amendment, approved by more than 71 percent of voters in November.

    Not only were lawmakers intent on banning smoking of marijuana, Galvano also seemed surprised that current law allowed vendors like Trulieve to sell the whole-flower products.

    “I understand the technical nature of the argument that's being made to you. But if the net result was the retail sale of marijuana that could be put into a rolling paper or any other apparatus, that was not the intent. In fact, the intent was to prevent that from happening,” Galvano, slated to take over as Senate president late next year, said.

    Smoking of medical marijuana was one of the key issues for patients during debate on implementation of the constitutional amendment, largely bankrolled by Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan. Morgan maintains patients should be allowed to smoke the substance and has threatened to sue over the issue.

    Limited medical-marijuana laws approved in 2014 and 2016 prohibit smoking but allow vaporizing. The whole flower “entourage effect” is  the result of a combination of terpines and cannabinoids present in cannabis.

    “We are very clear with our patients that smoking is currently illegal, under current Florida law, however vaporizing is specifically allowed,” Rivers said.

    But sales of whole-flower products raised red flags even for other medical marijuana proponents, for a variety of reasons.

    “I think it's going to be a challenge for law enforcement, and patients need to exercise caution,” said Jodi James, executive director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network.

    James was referring to the odor created when marijuana is used in a “vape” pen, or smoked by other means. 

    James pointed the finger at lawmakers for failing to establish parameters for consumption of marijuana after passage of the amendment.

    “If this is their idea for allowing an industry to develop, I'm very disappointed in them for not taking a stronger hand on it. If they didn't see it coming, I'm very surprised at their lack of foresight,” she said. ...

    Customers leave the new Trulieve medical cannabis dispensary on Dale Mabry
  12. Despite lawmakers' opposition, smokable medical pot being sold

    Blog

    From the News Service of Florida's Dara Kam:

    Even while Florida lawmakers have insisted they do not want patients to smoke pot, one of the state's seven licensed medical-marijuana vendors on Tuesday began selling whole-flower cannabis.

    Florida law bans patients from smoking the substance, but doesn't prohibit vendors from selling marijuana buds meant for use in vaporizers --- but which also can be smoked in joints, pipes or other delivery devices.

    Trulieve, one of seven licensed marijuana operators in Florida, started selling the whole-flower product on Tuesday, just days after lawmakers failed to reach agreement on a measure to carry out a voter-approved constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for patients with a broad swath of debilitating conditions.

    Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday her company has sold whole-leaf products in different forms --- all designed to be ingested by vaporizers --- for nearly a year. Those products, however, were ground up, unlike the new bud-like product that can be smoked.

    Quincy-based Trulieve's new product, first sold on Tuesday, comes in canisters designed for use with vaporizer pens. But patients can easily use the substance in other ways, such as in joints, bongs or pipes --- consumption methods off-limits under state law.

    Rivers said whole-leaf products are critical for patients seeking the “entourage effect” that results from consumption of whole-flower marijuana, as opposed to processed cannabis products, such as oils or other derivatives.

    “We feel very strongly that having products available that allow patients to have a choice and to benefit from the entourage effect, also available to physicians to make recommendations to patients, is critical. So if that means we're pushing the envelope, we've had a form of whole-flower vaporizer available from the day we've opened. This has always been part of our product line and will continue to be in the future,” Rivers said in a telephone interview.

    Trulieve's new product went on the market after Monday's end of the 2017 legislative session, during which lawmakers insisted they wanted to impose a ban on smoking marijuana products. 

    “The bills that were going through the process on the House and Senate side were the antithesis of this activity,” Sen. Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who took over negotiations on the pot measure in the waning days of the session, told the News Service on Wednesday.

    The session ended without legislators reaching a consensus on implementation of the constitutional amendment, approved by more than 71 percent of voters in November.

    Not only were lawmakers intent on banning smoking of marijuana, Galvano also seemed surprised that current law allowed vendors like Trulieve to sell the whole-flower products.

    “I understand the technical nature of the argument that's being made to you. But if the net result was the retail sale of marijuana that could be put into a rolling paper or any other apparatus, that was not the intent. In fact, the intent was to prevent that from happening,” Galvano, slated to take over as Senate president late next year, said.

    Smoking of medical marijuana was one of the key issues for patients during debate on implementation of the constitutional amendment, largely bankrolled by Orlando trial lawyer John Morgan. Morgan maintains patients should be allowed to smoke the substance and has threatened to sue over the issue.

    Limited medical-marijuana laws approved in 2014 and 2016 prohibit smoking but allow vaporizing. The whole flower “entourage effect” is  the result of a combination of terpines and cannabinoids present in cannabis.

    “We are very clear with our patients that smoking is currently illegal, under current Florida law, however vaporizing is specifically allowed,” Rivers said.

    But sales of whole-flower products raised red flags even for other medical marijuana proponents, for a variety of reasons.

    “I think it's going to be a challenge for law enforcement, and patients need to exercise caution,” said Jodi James, executive director of the Florida Cannabis Action Network.

    James was referring to the odor created when marijuana is used in a “vape” pen, or smoked by other means. 

    James pointed the finger at lawmakers for failing to establish parameters for consumption of marijuana after passage of the amendment.

    “If this is their idea for allowing an industry to develop, I'm very disappointed in them for not taking a stronger hand on it. If they didn't see it coming, I'm very surprised at their lack of foresight,” she said. ...

    Trulieve's medical cannabis dispensary on Dale Mabry in Tampa.
  13. NSF: 10 big issues with session

    Blog

    From News Service of Florida's Jim Saunders:

    Florida lawmakers will gather Monday at the Capitol to pass a new state budget. But for the most part, the annual legislative session ended Friday night when the House and Senate adjourned after a final round of negotiating and maneuvering.

    As always, the Legislature considered hundreds of bills during the session, with many passing, many dying quietly and others flaming out because of disagreements between the House and Senate.

    Here is a quick look at 10 big issues:

    BUDGET: House and Senate leaders struggled to reach agreement on a spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1, with the sometimes-contentious process forcing them to extend the session through Monday. Lawmakers will vote on an $82.4 billion budget, though that figure does not include some costs tucked away in other bills. The budget will provide a modest increase for the main formula for school funding, give state employees their first raise since 2013 and take into account a package of tax cuts.

    DEATH PENALTY: Florida's death penalty has been on hold since January 2016 because of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court. But lawmakers moved quickly during the session to address one key legal issue. They passed a measure that requires unanimous jury recommendations before defendants can be sentenced to death. The Florida Supreme Court last year struck down a law that required only 10 of 12 jurors to agree on recommending death sentences.

    ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Gov. Rick Scott spent the final days of the legislative session traveling the state in a last-ditch effort to pressure lawmakers on the issues of funding economic-development agency Enterprise Florida and tourism-marketer Visit Florida. But Scott, who battled throughout the session with House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, about the programs, got little of what he wanted. That has led to widespread speculation that Scott could go so far as to veto the budget.

    EDUCATION: Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, had two different sets of education priorities --- but both largely got what they wanted. Lawmakers will vote Monday on what is known as a budget conforming bill that includes Corcoran priorities such as the “schools of hope” program, which will encourage charter schools to open near academically struggling traditional public schools. Negron, meanwhile, focused on bolstering the university system and got agreement on issues such as expanding the Bright Futures scholarships program and requiring universities to offer block tuition, which involves students paying a flat fee per semester rather than a credit-hour charge.

    GAMBLING: With the incentive of trying to reach a new gambling deal with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the House and Senate worked on plans that could have revamped the state's gambling industry. But the efforts collapsed early in the final week of the session, with House and Senate negotiators unable to reach a compromise. Among the key differences was the Senate's support for allowing slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities in eight counties where voters have approved the machines in referendums --- an issue opposed by the House, which wanted to take a more status-quo approach to gambling.

    GUNS: Second Amendment supporters got a win late Friday when lawmakers approved a plan to shift a key burden of proof in “stand your ground” self-defense cases, an issue backed by groups including the National Rifle Association. But other high-profile gun issues got bottled up in the Senate early in the session and did not pass. Those issues included a proposal to allow people with concealed-weapons license to carry firearms on college and university campuses and a proposal to allow license holders to openly carry firearms in public.

    HEALTH CARE: Corcoran and other House Republican leaders pushed for easing health-industry regulations, arguing a more free-market approach would help improve access to care. But the Senate scuttled high-profile House proposals such as eliminating what is known as the “certificate of need” approval process for building hospitals. Similarly, the Senate never took up a House proposal that would have changed criteria for the addition of hospital trauma centers, long a contentious issue in the hospital industry.

    INSURANCE: After regulators last year approved a 14.5 percent increase in workers' compensation insurance rates, lawmakers faced pressure from business groups to make changes that would hold down rates. But the House and Senate could not agree on a plan, with the differences largely focused on proposals to limit fees for injured workers' attorneys. Lawmakers also did not move forward with a proposal to repeal the state's no-fault auto insurance system and could not reach agreement on an issue known as “assignment of benefits,” which property insurers blame for increased homeowners' rates.

    MEDICAL MARIJUANA: The House and Senate adjourned Friday night without approving a plan to carry out a November constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana in the state. Negotiations about the issue continued through the final days of the session, but the failure to agree on a bill will leave implementation of the voter-approved amendment to state health officials. A key difference between the House and Senate centered on how many marijuana dispensaries the state should have.

    WATER: Along with pushing for changes in the university system, Negron made a top priority of building a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The issue hit home for Negron: Polluted discharges from the lake have fouled waterways in Stuart's Treasure Coast district, and the reservoir could help alleviate the problem. Negron's proposal initially drew heavy opposition from farmers, including the sugar industry, and some community leaders south of the lake, but the Senate and House ultimately agreed on reservoir plan after Negron made changes.


    --- News Service staff writers Lloyd Dunkelberger, Brandon Larrabee, Dara Kam and Jim Turner contributed to this report....

    Corcoran at the helm
  14. Lenny Curry: Thanks but no thanks on CFO

    Blog

    So scratch Lenny Curry off of your list of possible CFO candidates for Gov. Rick Scott.

    From First Coast News:

    Mayor Lenny Curry confirmed to First Coast News on Saturday that he is NOT seeking seeking an appointment to become Florida's Chief Financial Officer, to replace the departing Jeff Atwater....

    Lenny Curry
  15. Joe Biden to headline Florida Democratic gala

    Blog

    The Florida Democratic Party announced today that former Vice President Joe Biden will be the keynote speaker at its annual Leadership Blue Gala on June 17th at the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Fla.

    "We are thrilled to announce the former Vice President as our keynote speaker. Joe Biden has spent his life in public service and has fought tirelessly for the Democratic belief that all Americans deserve an equal shot in our economy, not just those at the top. We are excited to welcome him back to Florida for our Leadership Blue Gala," said FDP Chair Stephen Bittel. ...

    Joe Biden