Hillary Clinton to campaign for Charlie Crist in Miami

Matt Dixon, (@Mdixon55)

Hillary Clinton, who many believe will be Democrat’s 2016 presidential nominee, will be in Miami Oct. 2 helping raise money for Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign.

Clinton is widely popular in Florida. A July poll from Quinnipiac University had her approval rating at 58 percent, including at 95 percent with Democrats.

“Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may be taking some criticism recently in the news media and among some liberal Democratic precincts, but nothing has changed among average voters in Florida where she remains queen of the political prom,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

With presidential speculation in the air, the visit will put Clinton in the nation’s biggest swing states heading into the 2014 midterm elections. She is also scheduled to attend a fundraiser on Sept. 30 for New Hampshire state Senator Lou D’Allesandro, according to the New Hampshire Union-Leader. That state hosts the nation’s first presidential primary.

The Florida stop comes one month after her husband, former President Bill Clinton, rallied Democrats at a Crist event in Miami. (more here)

So far, President Barack Obama has been a no-show for Crist, which is likely due to one reason: he’s unpopular in Florida. In the same Quinnipiac University poll, Obama’s job approval rating was underwater by a 44-52 margin.

Details about the location of the visit have not yet been announced publicly. The event was announced on the Facebook page of Bob Poe, who serves as chairman of Crist’s political committee.

Data released on ObamaCare signups

Nearly 35,000 people in Collier and Lee counties signed up for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act during the first year of enrollment, according to the federal government.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department has released county-by-county enrollment data, and the 10-county area in Southwest Florida saw 69,665 people sign up for coverage between Oct. 1, 2013, and April 19, 2014, according to the Health Planning Council of Southwest Florida.

The council provided counselors, or navigators, to help uninsured people enroll in plans and determine if they qualify for subsidies to help with premiums.

Besides Collier and Lee, the counties included in Southwest Florida’s numbers are Charlotte, Desoto, Glades, Hendry, Hardee, Highlands, Manatee, and Sarasota counties.

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Gov. Scott signs death warrant for double-murderer

James L. Rosica, (@JlRosicaTBO)

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday ordered the execution of a Gadsden County man convicted of the murder of his wife and the rape and murder of his 10-year-old stepdaughter.

Chadwick Banks, 43, will be put to death 6 p.m. Nov. 13 at Florida State Prison in Raiford, according to a letter signed by Scott that accompanied the death warrant.

Banks, who at the time was on felony probation for aggravated assault, shot wife Cassandra Banks in the head as she slept early on Sept. 24, 1992, according to a news release.

He then went to the bedroom of his stepdaughter, Melody Cooper, where he sexually assaulted her, then also shot her in the head.

He later pleaded no contest to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of sexual battery of a minor, according to court records provided by Scott’s office.

Banks received a life sentence for his wife’s murder and for the child’s rape, and received the death penalty for the child’s murder, records show. He has since exhausted all avenues of appeal.

Banks will be the 20th man put to death during Scott’s first term as governor, according to Department of Corrections records.

For comparison, former Gov. Jeb Bush presided over 21 executions, but that was over his two terms.

DCF employee wins race discrimination suit against agency

James L. Rosica (@jlrosicaTBO) in Tallahassee

A federal jury in Tallahassee last week sided with a Florida State Hospital employee who had filed a race discrimination suit against the state.

Jurors awarded Phyllis Garrett $10,559 in lost wages and $10,000 for “mental and emotional anguish,” finding she was discriminated against when she was denied promotions, court documents show.

The Department of Children and Families, which oversees the hospital, “is currently reviewing the verdict and exploring our legal options,” spokeswoman Alexis Lambert said.

Garrett, 53, started as a senior nurse supervisor in 2008 at the state-run psychiatric hospital in Chattahoochee, about 44 miles west of the capital.

After she had been turned down for other positions in the facility, she complained to administrators that she was being discriminated against because she is black, her suit said.

Garrett was then demoted, placed on probation and had her schedule changed.

By 2011, she applied for her original supervisory position but it went to a white woman who “had previously been denied an interview for not meeting employment criteria,” the suit said.

Garrett, who lives in the Panhandle town of Greenwood, was represented by Tiffany Cruz of Tallahassee’s Mattox Law Firm. The department’s outside counsel was the Henry Buchanan firm, also of Tallahassee.

The case is Garrett v. Department of Children and Families, No. 4:13-cv-568, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.

Role of local governments unclear if medical marijuana amendment passes

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, (@Jenna_Buzzacco)

The goal is to be proactive.

Yet as local governments consider ordinances related to medical marijuana, experts said it’s not entirely clear whether local laws will carry any weight if a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes passes.

“I think this is one of those circumstances where you really don’t know what is going to happen until (the state Department of Health) starts making rules and the Legislature starts looking at it,” said Ryan Padgett, assistant general counsel for the Florida League of Cities. “But I think that’s why cities are trying to get ahead of the curve. They want to be proactive, not reactive.”

Florida voters will decide on Nov. 4 whether to pass Amendment 2, which would allow medical use of marijuana for people with debilitating diseases, as determined by a licensed Florida doctor. The amendment must past by a 60 percent majority.

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