New Study Explores Crony Capitalism in Florida

The DeVoe L. Moore Center Blog

A new study published by The James Madison Institute by DeVoe L. Moore Center Policy Analyst Matthew Kelly and Center Director Samuel Staley explores two examples of crony capitalism in Florida’s government policy: sports stadium subsidies and film tax incentives. The authors urge Floridians to remain vigilant over the spending of their tax dollars by government officials and prevent the enrichment of special interests at the public’s expense.

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Make your voice heard in the upcoming hearings in Florida regarding medical marijuana regulation

The Department of Health has proposed rules for Amendment 2

Here is an article about the proposed Department of Health Hearings.

February 6-9, 2017 staff members from the DOH Office of Compassionate Use are visiting five Florida cities. The tour is an effort by the Department to fulfill the public comment requirements.  

Anyone can make a comment about the implementation of Amendment 2 through the Departments’ online form found here. 

If you are passionate about ensuring patients have safe, legal access to cannabis, consider attending and speaking at a meeting near you.

Items to speak out about!

  • Changing the definition of caregiver – Any close blood relative should be allowed to act as a caregiver without a background check. A level 1 background check won’t exclude a con artist or swindler from becoming a caregiver and extorting a patient, unless the rules exempt people convicted of fraud or elder abuse. 
  • Don’t ask Doctors to order specific quantities of cannabis. The proposed rules require doctors to “order” specific quantities of cannabis, which is too much like an unlawful prescription and puts doctors at risk under federal law. If doctors don’t participate, patients won’t be able to enroll.
  • Let the doctor make the decision if cannabis is right for the patient. The proposed rules give the Florida Board of Medicine — not the patient’s doctor — the ability to determine whether the patient’s condition is “substantially similar” to those listed in the amendment.
  • Ensure doctors can re-authorize our recommendation every 45-days without a subsequent visit! Patients can’t afford to pay a doctor, often out of pocket, every 45-days just to stay on the registry.

When preparing to speak, here are some things to consider. 

  • Know what you’re talking about. Read the proposed rules carefully and look up the references. 
  • The DOH can only implement the laws as written in the Constitution or written in Florida Statute. Make sure you understand the difference and speak to what DOH can actually do. Here is the full statute as it exists.
  • Don’t try to cover more than one or two items when you speak. Pick your point, have your facts on hand and make it relevant.
  • There will be forms available before the meeting, get there early and fill one out. Your statement becomes part of the official record and the information you provide is public.
  • Your time will be limited to three minutes or less. If enough people ask to speak you could get one minute. Get to your point quickly.
  • Don’t waste time introducing yourself. They have your form. Get to your point quickly.

Here are the times and locations of the public hearings. You don’t have to attend to be heard.


Remember, everyone can comment through
this online form.

Feb 62:00 pm Office of Compassionate Use Public Hearing – Duval County Health Department, 900 University Blvd. North in Jacksonville

Feb 710:00 am – Office of Compassionate Use Public Hearing – Broward County Health Department, 780 SW 24th Street in Fort Lauderdale

Feb 89:00 am – Office of Compassionate Use Public Hearing – Florida Department of Health, Tampa Branch Laboratory, 3602 Spectrum Blvd.

Feb 86:00 pm – Office of Compassionate Use Public Hearing – Orange County Health Department, 6102 Lake Ellenor Drive in Orlando

Feb 94:00 pm – Office of Compassionate Use Public Hearing – Betty Easley Conference Center, 4075 Esplanade Way, Room 148 in Tallahassee.

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Big Sugar’s strong appetite for corporate welfare

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Algae blooms are impacting Florida’s Treasure Coast just in time to ruin the Fourth of July holiday weekends of visitors.  A state of emergency has been declared. If the bloom doesn’t clear, summer vacations will be canceled; those who make their living in resort areas have already been impacted.

Is this merely the vagaries of Mother Nature? It is not. Instead, this is a case of government-subsidized destruction that is supported by both political parties. Government subsidies for the domestic sugar industry have helped to create the algae blooms. The blooms have been going on for years and have killed wildlife such as dolphins, manatees, and pelicans, as well as causing beach closings.

On top of price supports, the government enforces a system of tariffs and quotas on imported sugar.

One source of the algae is Lake Okeechobee, the second biggest freshwater lake in America. The fertile earth surrounding the lake has supported Florida’s sugarcane industry.  Sugar plantations then send their farm contaminants into the lake. When water levels in the lake get high, the Army Corps of Engineers releases algae contaminated water into the St. Lucie River, a seven-mile estuary connected to the coast.

Runoff from the plantations adds about 15 billion gallons of contaminated water a year to the lake. This contaminated water is low in oxygen and high in nitrogen and phosphorus, conditions which help breed algae.

Cause-and-effect in complex eco-systems is hard to trace. What percentage of the algae growing is due to sugar plantations? We don’t know for sure. What we do know is this, sugar plantations are contaminating the water. In the absence of government subsidies, sugar plantations in Florida might not even exist.

Government Sweethearts

World prices sugar are lower and sometimes considerably lower than the domestic price of sugar. The Manhattan Institute’s Jared Meyer and Preston Cooper explain how government subsidizes the sugar industry:

“The program that supports the American sugar industry has many facets. Most infamous is a subsidy program in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture gives loans to sugar farmers and allows them to repay those loans with raw sugar if sugar prices fall below 20.9 cents per pound. This program functions as an effective mass purchase of sugar, which drives up prices for consumers and thus doubly subsidizes the industry…

The government also enforces a system of tariffs and quotas on imported sugar, limiting the supply of cheaper sugar that can be imported from abroad. This results in wide spreads between global and domestic sugar prices.”

The cost of all this? Economist Mark Perry explains the cost of the sugar subsidy in 2012:

“By forcing Americans to pay an average of 43.4 cents per pound in 2012 for inefficiently produced domestic beet sugar instead of 26.5 cents per pound for more efficiently produced world sugar, US sugar policy forced Americans to pay a “premium” of almost 17 cents per pound for the roughly 17 billion pounds of American sugar produced last year.  In total, that 17 cent per pound “premium” translates to almost $2.9 billion in artificially inflated costs for the domestic sugar purchased by American consumers and businesses in 2012.”

The high-fructose corn syrup industry did not exist prior to the sugar price support program.

From Big Sugar to Big Corn

One intervention leads to another. The Department of Agriculture sells the purchased sugar at a discounted price to ethanol producers. Ethanol production is another industry which arguably would not exist without government subsidies. Subsidized ethanol production further damages the environment.

Not only is the sugar subsidy costing billions of dollars, but it is also shifting the jobs of confectioners overseas to take advantage of the lower world sugar price.  Trump has proclaimed he will never eat Oreos again because the cookie manufacturer is shifting production to Mexico. Manufacturers in Mexico can purchase sugar at the world’s price; no doubt that influences their purchase decisions.

As importantly, sugar subsidies are helping to destroy our health as Michael Wohlgenant explains:

“The high-fructose corn syrup industry did not exist prior to the early 1970s, when the current sugar price support program was implemented. The industry came into existence only because of the high sugar prices created by the program. Now, however, the high-fructose corn syrup industry accounts for about half of all sugar consumed in the U.S., much of which is used by the soft drink industry. Increasingly, questions have been raised about the possible health effects of high-fructose corn syrup, including its relationship to obesity, diabetes and liver damage. If the program were eliminated, sugar prices would fall and the proportion of high-fructose corn syrup in our diets would decline significantly.”

Subsidizing sugar plantations in Florida makes no more sense than subsidizing pineapple plantations. Theoretically, pineapples could grow commercially in Florida; but Florida pineapples would cost more than those grown in other locations. Thus, the free market utilizes land that could be growing pineapples for more efficient uses. In the same way, if sugar subsidies were ended, land currently utilized for growing sugar cane would revert to high valued uses.

Allowing contaminated discharges into Lake Okeechobee is another form of subsidy. The cost of this subsidy is paid by homeowners whose property values are affected and by the tourism industry whose visitors stay away when impacted beaches are closed or contaminated.  

Walt Disney World resort is a mere hundred miles from Lake Okeechobee. They are known for keeping their property pristinely clean. Why? The ability of Disney to charge premium prices is directly impacted by the quality of the consumer experience. On the other hand, Lake Okeechobee is an unowned resource; and through political contributions, the sugar lobby known as Big Sugar has obtained considerable bipartisan political clout.

Bernie’s Sugar Daddy

For example, in 2014 American Crystal Sugar Company donated to 221 members of Congress, 109 Democrats and 92 Republicans. How about Bernie Sanders? After all he has railed against corporate corruption and many see him as a critic of corporate greed. Sanders supporters take note; he too takes Big Sugar’s money.

Sugar subsidies are an example of the well-known principle that government grows when a program has benefits that are concentrated and costs that are diluted. The sugar industry has a much stronger interest in promoting subsidies then we as individuals have in opposing them. Big Sugar’s millions of dollars of campaign contributions are a small price for them to pay to ensure that their interest comes before the interests of taxpayers, property owners, consumers, and the environment.

When we subsidize something we get more of it. Government subsidy of Big Sugar means we get more sugar, along with greater destruction of the environment.  Environmentalists who favor a larger role for government might want to take note.

Barry Brownstein


Barry Brownstein

Barry Brownstein is professor emeritus of economics and leadership at the University of Baltimore. He is the author of The Inner-Work of Leadership. He blogs at BarryBrownstein.com, Giving up Control, and America’s Highest Purpose.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Artie Lurie out with endorsement of Five for Florida

Libertarian Party of Florida candidate for Florida House District 90, Artie Lurie, came out this morning, July 1, 2016, with an endorsement of Americans for Prosperity of artie-lurieFlorida’s “Five for Florida” plan. Lurie is in a head-to-head competition with Democratic Party incumbent, Lori Berman.

American for Prosperity Florida’s (AFP) “Five for Florida” is a five point plan:

  1. Make taxes fair and end political favoritism through crony capitalism and corporate welfare
  2. Don’t make financial promises taxpayers can’t keep
  3. Be stewards of good, transparent government
  4. Empower students with the best education
  5. Free entrepreneurs to pursue the American Dream

Lurie stated in his official endorsement this morning of AFP’s Five for Florida, “As the Libertarian candidate running for Florida State house of representatives in district 90, I am the only candidate that is running on a platform of liberty and small government, and it is with great enthusiasm that I endorse your Five for Florida plan! It is without question, the only way we can greatly reduce the size and scope of our state government. It is imperative that we point out how big our state government is and how much money it is wasting to our taxpayers every year. There is no doubt that our state government doesn’t work. It can’t educate our children properly, it can’t keep our streets safe, it can’t keep our environment clean, it can’t do anything well except recklessly spending our tax dollars. We must get our state government out of all of these areas immediately! Once we get government out of the way, we can repeal the state sales tax and cut property taxes in half, a savings of at least $5000 to the average family. The end result will place much more control over our own lives. Services like health care and education will improve dramatically, and will be much more affordable than it is now.”

Americans have long tired of the favoritism shown through crony capitalism and corporate welfare to billionaires by their elected officials. The Federalist used a Common Dreams article as the basis for calculating the real cost of corporate welfare to the average American citizen and it isn’t pretty. It is a practice that both Republicans and Democrats regularly participate in the supposed promotion of “economic development” which rarely offers a net positive return to taxpayers. Rather than allow the free market to thrive in Florida, bureaucrats from Tallahassee all the way down to the local level interfere by creating unfair competition among businesses, essentially picking winners and losers. Democrats and Republicans alike seem addicted to this unethical method of “economic development” even when shown how it actually costs taxpayers in the end.

 

Special Districts in Florida — The DeVoe L. Moore Center Blog

By: Matt Kelly and Tyler Worthington Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O’Neil once said, “all politics is local,” meaning that politicians must appeal to local constituents to succeed. Yet political economy is arguably most opaque and complex at local levels. Local governments have grown as numerous as they are multifaceted. Over […]

via Special Districts in Florida — The DeVoe L. Moore Center Blog

Florida Senator Jeff Brandes offers bill to reform driver license suspension rules

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Yesterday, January 6, 2016, Senator Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) announced SPB 7046, related to penalties and fees, has been filed. The proposed legislation will dramatically reform the driver license suspension and revocation process in Florida, and follows a series of hearings by Senator Brandes in the Transportation Committee on the topic.

“Losing a driver license is a devastating penalty which most heavily impacts those with the least ability to afford it. For years the state has piled on driver license suspensions as an additional sanction for various non-driving related activity,” stated Senator Brandes. “This legislation will help thousands of Floridians who are caught in a relentless cycle of debt within the legal system. This bill will reduce a major burden on our courts from license suspensions, and it will give many Floridians a means to get back to work.”

The proposal follows media reports last year detailing the substantial number of driver license suspensions occurring annually in Florida. Following those reports, Senator Brandes and the Transportation Committee held several hearings and heard testimony by the State Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, elected Public Defenders, and various Clerks of Court. This proposal is a result of those hearings, and it is designed to radically reduce the number of suspended and revoked driver licenses. The bill establishes an alternative system for sanctions for the more than 1.2 million driver license suspensions annually.

SPB 7046 removes suspension and revocation penalties for certain non-driving-related offenses. Individuals who would have their licenses suspended today for many financial related issues will instead be issued a hardship license. The reform package also reforms a controversial surcharge in law for fines or fees which are sent to collections, and clearly establishes the right of a defendant in financial hardship to enter into community service as an alternative method of payment. Finally, the bill eliminates the felony criminal charge for a third or subsequent driving while license is suspended or revoked resulting from a defendant’s inability to pay a fine or fee.

Initiative underway to legalize marijuana in Florida, petition signatures have begun

Yesterday, August 26, 2015, Regulate Florida received the go-ahead to begin collecting signatures for a landmark petition to change in how Florida deals with marijuana (cannabis). The proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution will regulate the commerce of cannabis with age restrictions and guidelines for licensing as well as the rights for adults over 21 to possess and cultivate the plant at home.

If passed by over 60 percent of Floridians, the initiative will have the effect of dramatically reducing the taxpayer expense of housing Floridians in state prisons while generating a large amount of tax revenue for the state. According to the nation’s most authoritative survey, a majority of Americans now favor the legalization of marijuana. The measure comes at a time when Americans and Floridians are more willing to acknowledge the reality that the War on Drugs has been an abject failure and marijuana is mostly seen as less harmful than other products legally or illegally. The Regulate Florida’s aim is to have a marijuana industry flourish in the state, generating revenue and reducing crime.

The initiative was crafted by 2014 Florida Attorney General candidate Bill Wohslifer, Esq. and Michael Minardi, Esq. Through their teamwork, as well as some dedicated volunteers, the Florida government has given its approval for them to begin collecting signatures in an effort to get the measure on the November 2016 ballot.

Wohslifer stated yesterday in an email, “Sensible Florida, Inc. was not the first team to ask me to draft a regulation ballot initiative for the 2016 general election. I declined earlier opportunities because of limitations on my volunteer time. But when Karen Goldstein introduced me to the team she was developing this initiative with, I could not say no. I worked with Karen in the past on the Cathy Jordan Medical Cannabis Act. I trust her judgment and insight.”

READ THE FULL STORY HERE!