Issues of Interest

MEDICAL MARIJUANA After the Legislature passed a bill approving the limited use of marijuana for medicinal reasons this spring, the Department of Health has been busy writing the rules to license and regulate it.  Two hearings were held in Tallahassee this summer with packed audiences and much public testimony.

Former Governor Jeb Bush recently announced his opposition to Amendment 2, the ballot initiative which similarly supports the use of cannabis for severe health conditions. Voters will cast their ballots in November on this issue, which requires sixty percent approval for passage.

MEDICAID EXPANSION The Florida Medical Association unanimously approved a resolution endorsing the expansion of Florida’s Medicaid program at their annual meeting in July. The Association had previously avoided the issue, but voted in favor with the caveat that any such expansion be tied to an increase in reimbursement rates for Medicaid.  Governor Scott and out-going Senate President Don Gaetz support federal funding for Medicaid expansion so that a million more Floridians can receive health coverage while out-going House Speaker Will Weatherford remains in opposition.

SOLAR PROJECTS A three-year pilot program approved by the Florida Public Service Commission will allow homeowners and governments to utilize solar energy. Florida Power and Light launched a voluntary program where interested customers can contribute $9 per month to fund solar projects throughout the State. Two groups opposed the effort saying the program will have little impact on Florida energy options.

TOURISM In 2013, the Florida Legislature gave Visit Florida a then-record $54 million to promote tourism in our State. By 2014, that figure rose to $74 million. According to a report released August 4th by Florida Taxwatch, the investment is working. Florida saw 94.7 million tourists in 2013, up 2.8 million from 2012. Those extra visitors translated into roughly 76,000 new jobs, almost half unrelated to tourism.  Leisure and hospitality jobs average $22,500 salaries, while the professional indirect jobs average an annual salary of $43,000. Visit Florida President Will Seccombe told the Florida Cabinet on August 19th that the State has hosted  almost 50 million tourists so far this year. Visitor spending is up 7.4 percent in January through May 2014, totaling $35.7 billion. Their goal is to reach 100 million visitors in the upcoming calendar year.

FSU PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH  Sara Saxner, an FSU graduate student serving on the controversial presidential search panel, resigned on July 11th. In response, the United Facility of Florida-FSU-Graduate Assistants United chapter demanded that she be replaced by 13 students.  The Chapter would like to increase the ratio of students to non-students on the search committee, which has three students serving on the 27 member panel.

The application deadline for those interested in serving as the next president was September 2nd. The Presidential Search Advisory Committee will meet on September 5th.

FLORIDA POLYTECHNIC   Florida Polytechnic University opened on August 20th, two years after being created by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Scott. The University has two colleges, the College of Innovation and Technology and the College of Engineering, which offer six degrees. Florida Polytechnic will house a “book-less” library as well. Check out this article from the LA Times.

RED TIDE A red tide bloom was confirmed about 40 to 90 miles off the Florida’s Gulf Coast from Dixie and Pasco Counties. Known as karenia brevis, the Florida Red Tide organism could potentially cause a large fish kill, disrupting commercial and sport fishing. Thousands of dead fish have already been reported along the Northeast coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Researchers say beaches should be safe but recommend checking the website here for updates.

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