Florida Five: Bondi reports big illegal pill bust, Fla. minimum wage to top $8

Five of today’s top Florida political stories at your fingertips:

pills with moneySuspects busted in probe provided pills in Central Florida, Bondi says – An investment broker and a Shar-Pei breeder are among 20 defendants charged after an 18-month investigation into illegal prescription drug sales across Central Florida. The Orlando office of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration led the investigation that reached from Melbourne to Tampa, according to state Attorney General Bondi’s Office of Statewide Prosecution — the agency that will take the suspects to court. The arrests were the latest since early 2011, when state law enforcement began cracking down on “pill mills” where doctors prescribed narcotics without cause and drug addiction and overdose deaths soared along the East Coast.  Read more

Florida House speaker announces committee appointments – The Florida House published its new list of committee chairs and members Monday. House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, said the chairmen and chairwomen “represent every region of our state” and will bring “fresh ideas and common-sense solutions to government.” “Our committee and subcommittee chairs will lead the House with a strong focus on jobs and our economy,” Crisafulli wrote in a statement. “Our state is in recovery and whether it is through education, healthcare, the environment, or public safety, a strong Florida means better jobs and a better environment for our citizens to prosper.” Read more

Court releases redistricting docs — this time relating to role of consultants in Senate maps – The Florida Supreme Court on Monday thrust into the limelight yet another secret email that reveals the role of political consultants in the redistricting process that could have bearing on the pending lawsuit over Senate redistricting. Tom Hofeller, of the Republican National Committee, wrote to Rich Heffley, a consultant to the Republican Party of Florida, which appeared to underscore the consultants’ role in the redistricting process. Congratulations on guiding the Senate through the thicket,” Hofeller wrote on April 27, 2012 after the Florida Supreme Court approved the disputed Senate maps. “Looks as if, so far, the Democrats have not realized the gains they think were [sic] going to get. Tom.” While the email won’t effect the congressional districts, which the Legislature revised and the courts have upheld, it could play a role in the pending lawsuit over Senate redistricting. Read more

Florida minimum wage to top $8, debate continues – Florida’s lowest-paid workers will get a raise Jan. 1, but a higher minimum wage sought by state and national Democrats doesn’t appear on the immediate legislative horizon. The automatic increase of 12 cents an hour, recalculated by law each year based on the federal Consumer Price Index, will increase the state minimum wage to $8.05 in January, up from $7.93. Voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment aimed at annual minimum-wage hikes. The upcoming increase will also boost the minimum wage for tipped employees from $4.91 an hour to $5.03. Read more

GOP legislators want changes to utility commission – Two Tampa Bay area legislators are calling for major changes to the appointed panel that regulates utilities. Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor republican, and Sen. John Legg, a republican from Trinity, are proposing legislation that would prevent the governor from appointing elected officials to the Florida public service commission. Former State Rep. Jimmy Patronis is joining the commission in January. The proposal also requires PSC members to come from different parts of the state. A draft of the bill also proposes limiting PSC members to two terms in office. Read more

Bonus for “Festivus” fans: Satanic display expected in time for Christmas

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