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Latvala: Political Infighting In Tallahassee Shuts Out Lawmakers

May 11, 2017

State Sen.  Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, spoke Thursday at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg. There, he said the political infighting he witnessed during the recent legislative session was some of the worst he's seen.

Latvala said lawmakers who voted against House Speaker Richard Corcoran's push to eliminate funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida - the state's tourism marketing and job creating efforts -  paid a price. He says term limits are to blame for concentrating power in  the leaders of the House and the Senate.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, seated at right, with (left to right) State Rep. Chris Latvala, State Rep. Kathleen Peters, State Rep. Wengay Newton and State Sen. Darryl Rouson. The moderator is Peter Schorsch
Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF News

"I saw first-hand how members who voted the wrong way on those bills were punished," he said. "And I had members from around the state - not just here in Pinellas - who came to me and asked me to take care of their appropriations because they'd been shut out of the process because they voted to wrong way. That's what it's come to in Tallahassee."

Latvala just wrapped up a term as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. But he may be back in Tallahassee soon for a special session on medical marijuana.

He said negotiations between the House and Senate over how many dispensaries should be allowed broke down at the last minute. He says a proposal from the House two hours before they adjourned on Friday was for seventeen licensees, with up to 100 dispensaries each.

He says there are 856 Walgreen's stores in Florida - and that would be half the number of possible medical marijuana dispensaries.

"I think 100 per license is just absolutely ridiculous," he said. "and that's all about John Morgan and the people who want to make a lot of money on this, it's not about the folks of the state of Florida."

Attorney John Morgan of Orlando spearheaded the movement that placed a referendum on medical marijuana into the state Constitution. Morgan has been pushed to run for governor as a Democrat. Latvala says he's "leaning toward" running for governor, but won't make a decision until the summer.