Legalize It All: How to Win the War on Drugs

“We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” – John Ehrlichman, a senior aide to Richard Nixon.

Archived version.

Alternate archived version.

Miami, FGCU make NCAA field; Gators, Seminoles, Ospreys to NIT

Only two teams from Florida are participating in this year’s NCAA Tournament. By the time the “Big Dance” begins in full on Thursday, there may only be one remaining.

The Miami Hurricanes will continue their outstanding season on Thursday in Providence, Rhode Island. Miami earned a number three seed in the South Region and will take on the 14th- seeded Buffalo Bulls, champions of the Mid-America Conference.

As far as Miami goes, they could face the No. 6 seed Arizona Wildcats and the No. 2 seed Villanova Wildcats. Should they make the regional final, the Hurricanes (25-7) could face the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks (30-4).

The other Florida team in the field made quite a splash the last time they were in the field. The Florida Gulf Coast Eagles, champions of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament, made a surprise run to the Sweet 16 in 2013.

This year will be much more difficult. The Eagles (20-14) will play Tuesday night in one of the four “play-in games” in Dayton, Ohio against Farleigh Dickinson. Should they win that game, FGCU would face top-seeded North Carolina on Thursday.

The NCAA Tournament bracket is here.

As expected, both Florida and Florida State received bids to the NIT. The Gators have the strangest road ahead.

The 32 teams are broken into eight “quadrants,” meaning one of the four teams in that quadrant will host first and second round games. One of those is the “Florida Quadrant,” but despite a No. 2 seed, the Gators will not be hosting anything.

Since the O’Connell Center is undergoing improvements, Florida cannot host any games until next season. Florida, a No. 2 seed, will face No. 7 seed North Florida, but the game will be played on Tuesday in Jacksonville, home of the Ospreys.

Should the Gators (19-14) win that game, they would play the winner of third-seeded Ohio State and sixth-seeded Akron on the road. Monmouth is the top seed in the group.

Florida State (19-13) is seeded fourth in their group. The Seminoles will host Davidson on Tuesday.

If they are able to beat the Wildcats, a trip to Valparaiso, Indiana is likely in order. Valparaiso enters the NIT 26-6.

While the NCAA Tournament has its share of upsets, the NIT provides some surprise winners as well. Many times this occurs because some of the higher seeded teams had higher expectations than the NIT and play accordingly.

The NIT field can be found here.

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Florida poised to approve a nearly $82.3 billion budget

Putting behind a year’s worth of rancor, the Florida Legislature on Friday will approve a more than $82.3 billion budget that includes a slight boost in money for schools but also rejects many of Gov. Rick Scott‘s main priorities.

Just a few months ago the Republican-controlled Legislature was rushing to pass a budget to avoid a state government shutdown. This time the House and Senate put together a spending plan for this year that increases the state budget by roughly 5 percent without the arguing and finger-pointing that had consumed most of 2015. The vote guarantees that legislators end their session on time.

But along the way legislators forged a budget that ignored much of what the GOP governor wanted. They shot down his bid for a $250 million fund to lure new companies to the state. Scott’s tax cut package, a centerpiece of his 2014 re-election bid, was scaled back significantly. Instead of using a budget surplus to give tax cuts largely to businesses, legislative leaders instead steered money to a small trim in local property taxes.

Both Senate President Andy Gardiner and House Speaker Steve Crisafulli insisted that their approach was a reaction to recent news that showed that Florida’s economic recovery may be faltering and that tax collections aren’t growing as robustly as once forecast.

“There’s a reality to how much money you have available and the resources you have and we had to recognize that,” Crisafulli said this week.

There are other places that legislators also bucked Scott. They agreed to borrow money in order to set aside more than $700 million in school construction projects. Florida in the past would routinely borrow money for building projects, but they had stopped due to continued opposition from Scott.

Crisafulli defended the practice, saying that it makes sense to use bond proceeds for construction with interest rates so low. Still the move could risk a veto from Scott, who last year slashed nearly $500 million from the budget before signing it into law.

Democrats have usually been sharply critical of the annual budget. But this year they said they would vote for the budget to “send a message” to Scott. This means that the Republican-controlled Legislature should have enough votes to override Scott in case he vetoes the budget or spending items within it. It takes a two-thirds vote to override a veto.

“We have a governor who refuses to govern and that has enabled us to cross party lines,” said Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat.

Some legislators, however, said there were shortcomings in the budget. They complained it doesn’t include an across-the-board pay raise for state workers or boost spending enough in Florida’s troubled prisons system. A push by Florida’s prison chief to hire enough correctional officers to switch from a 12-hour shift to an 8-hour shift was not approved by budget negotiators.

Rep. Charles Van Zant, a North Florida Republican who is leaving this office due to term limits, harshly criticized GOP leaders for refusing to set aside more money for state workers and prison employees.

“We have the money, but we are cheating our employees,” said Van Zant.

Despite saying they didn’t have money for pay raises, legislator still spread throughout the budget tens of millions for hometown projects. Some of the same projects were vetoed by Scott last year, leading to rampant speculation that legislative leaders may have already agreed to override Scott. Crisafulli and Gardiner have continued to insist they don’t have any agreement on overrides.

“There’s going to be things in there the governor doesn’t like, there’s going to be things in there the governor likes,” said Crisafulli.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

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