Ana Ceballos, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 9

Ana Ceballos

Ana covers politics and policy for Florida Politics.

Before joining Florida Politics, she was the legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press and covered policy issues impacting immigration, the environment, criminal justice and social welfare in Florida.

She holds a B.A. in journalism from San Diego State University. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a criminal justice reporter for the Monterey Herald and the Monterey County Weekly. She has also freelanced for The Washington Post at the U.S.-Mexico border covering crime in the border city of Tijuana, where she grew up. Ana is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese.

Mandating E-Verify in state constitution eyed by commissioners

A review panel is flirting with the idea of implementing a vexed employment verification system into the state constitution to weed out undocumented immigrants before they enter the workforce.

The proposal (P29) cleared the Constitution Revision Commission’s General Provisions Committee on Tuesday, following a long stretch of public comment with clashing viewpoints on the federal system, called E-Verify.

Commissioner Rich Newsome, an appointee of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, dubbed himself an “accidental sponsor” of the proposal that aims to make sure businesses are hiring legal workers. Newsome said he also took it on to protect “the greatest, most hard-working undocumented immigrants” from labor exploitation.

“When you have a black market, when you go to an illegal industry that is in the business of hiring folks who are not documented, the folks who are in that process have no recourse under the law,” Newsome said.

Adam Blalock, an attorney with the Florida Farm Bureau, however, said such a proposal would significantly harm the agriculture business, adding that crops would go unpicked and rot because the domestic supply of workers is not enough.

“The ag community is not opposed to E-Verify or immigration reform, but the reality is that if it is put in place, there will be a labor shortage in the ag industry in the state,” Blalock said. “We’ve seen in other states, that after implementing it they saw an exodus of labor in ag.”

To counter that point, a group of five men bombarded panel members with arguments on how much good the federal employment system would do for the state’s public safety.

But unsubstantiated claims about the crimes undocumented immigrants commit were sprinkled into those arguments, including one that said undocumented immigrants have committed 40 percent of all murders in the state. There is no conclusive data to support that claim.

Following testimony, panel members voted in support of the system, but expressed concern about the impact it would have on agriculture.

The American Civil Liberties Union has publicly said for some years that the system could present “enormous privacy and security risks” for immigrants currently cleared to work because it is riddled with inaccuracies.

“I don’t believe we are burdening anyone for making them do this,” Commissioner Sherry Plymale said.

Gov. Rick Scott signed an executive order six years ago which mandated employers use the system. The economic impact of that order was not discussed before the panel.

The proposal now heads to the Executive Committee, but a date has not yet been set. If it does pass, the measure would go before all commissioners, who will then decide whether it should go on the November ballot. It would then need 60 percent of the votes to be amended into the state constitution.

“At the end of the day, voters don’t vote on statistics,” Newsome said. “What people think about when they vote is if they see a problem, how we need to address it.”

Terrie Rizzo keeps early Dem chair race lead with 33 endorsements

With the endorsement of 33 voting members, Palm Beach County Democratic Chair Terrie Rizzo is inching toward gathering the 51 percent of the votes needed to secure the Florida Democratic Party chairmanship.

“Each of the men and women who have publicly endorsed my candidacy does so because they share my vision for a 67-county strategy, continued investment in the grassroots and our core mission to protect every voter’s right,” Rizzo said.

The four-person race to be the next leader of the state’s party will come to a halt Dec. 9, when the State Executive Committee elects its new chair. And so far, Rizzo continues to have the early lead.

Ousted Stephen Bittel has not yet stepped down from his committeeman post, but has asked Juan Cuba, chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Executive Committee, to cast his 62 votes toward who gets to be his successor.

Cuba said he is asking members to enter their preference electronically, and that he will vote accordingly, based on what the majority wants.

So far, the all-female cast in the race includes Rizzo, Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez, Brevard County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Stacey Patel, and Monica Russo, a prominent Democrat who wants to expand the rules of the party to be eligible to run. Russo is the current president of the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) Florida.

Andrew Gillum picks ‘unapologetic progressive’ as new campaign manager

Andrew Gillum named as his new campaign manager on Tuesday an “unapologetic progressive” whose political work has included Pennsylvania-based campaigns for Hillary Clinton and John Fetterman, a mayor who is now running to be that state’s lieutenant governor.

As the Democratic Primary recently expanded to four candidates, Brendan McPhillips is swooping in to fill the seat left vacant by Phillip Thompson in July to help the Tallahassee Mayor reach the governor’s mansion.

The new hire comes a couple months after Gillum brought on Akilah Ensley as his new finance director in an effort to breathe some life into his fundraising, which is currently in a months-long drought and has been since the dual specters of an email scandal and an FBI investigation arrived in the early days of his campaign.

“The Mayor has an unmatched progressive record, from beating the gun lobby in court to standing up against oil pipelines, and I know that in 2018 we are finally going to take back the Governor’s Mansion,” McPhillips said in a statement.

A self-proclaimed beer enthusiast on Twitter, McPhillips said Gillum will not get across the finish line by running “Republican Lite—we have to be bold to convince this state that it is out time to put a Democrat in charge again.”


The hire was announced by campaign communications director Geoff Burgan, who said McPhillips “will bring new ideas to this race, and help us ensure true Democratic values are a part of every conversation between now and Election Day.”

Gillum faces former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former congresswoman Gwen Graham and Winter Park businessman Chris King in the primary race, and trails all three when it comes to fundraising.

Levine, the latest to enter the race, had a million-dollar month in October and has $5.4 million in the bank. He leads the Democratic field, followed by Graham with $2.66 million on hand and King with about $1.7 million on hand. Gillum had $557,571 on hand at the end of October.

Under the national spotlight, a look at Uber’s Florida lobbying team

As Uber faces regulatory scrutiny over a massive data breach that impacted the information of 57 million people worldwide, it maintains one of the largest lobbying footprints in Florida.

Along with its two in-house lobbyists, Stephanie Smith and Cesar Fernandez, the company retains six firms and spent up to $392,993 in the first two quarters of this year, which encompass last Session.

The firms include: Ballard Partners, Floridian Partners, Liberty Partners of Tallahassee, Pittman Law Group, RSA Consulting Group and The Fiorentino Group.

Those firms helped the company pass priority legislation during the 2017 Session that legalized companies like Uber across the state. The years-long battle to do so was hampered by former Senate President Andy Gardiner, a Republican from Orlando, who was a big opponent of the bill.

With Gardiner’s exit, the biggest roadblock was gone.

This year, Uber is supporting HB 19 and SB 150, two measures that seek to repeal personal injury protection, also known as PIP. If passed, drivers who are at fault in an accident would be fully liable for any damages they cause.

The company is also tracking Sen. Jeff Brandesself-driving car bill, but remains neutral on it.

While it remains unclear how many Floridians were impacted in the hack, the company recently admitted it paid $100,000 to hackers to delete the information they stole and keep the attack under wraps for more than a year.

Since the story came to light, lawmakers have called for “significant penalties” against the ride-hailing service and a slew of investigations into the cover-up have ensued.

State settles $11M in sexual harassment claims over three decades

While the state Capitol in recent weeks has been beset by sex scandals, records show that the state has a 30-year history of settling sexual harassment claims, costing taxpayers more than $11 million.

The state has agreed to resolve more than 300 claims with an overwhelming proportion taking place in the Department of Corrections, followed by the Department of Children and Families and the Department of Transportation, according to records released by the administration of Chief Finance Officer Jimmy Patronis first requested by The Associated Press.

The largest amount the state settled for was $1.3 million tied to a class-action lawsuit filed by nurses who worked at a state prison. The smallest amount was $500 and went to pay a sexual harassment claim at a state prison as well.

The documents show there was one legislative employee in the ‘90s accused of sexual harassment. That case was settled for $165,000.

The details come at a contentious time at the state Legislature, where two senators, ousted Democrat Jeff Clemens and Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala, have been accused of sexually harassing women in the legislative process.

Stephen Bittel, the former Florida Democratic Party chair, also stepped down from his post after women accused him of creating a hostile environment for women in the workplace which included him systematically asking some women about their sex lives.

Sally Boynton Brown, who resigned as the president of the state’s Democratic Party after Bittel, was also accused by two former staffers of “enabling” his sexually inappropriate comments.

DACA’s economic hit to Florida looms large, proponents say

The end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program could come as soon as March, and as that deadline looms, proponents of the Obama-era program say its demise could mean a $1.5 billion blow to Florida’s economy.

If Congress does not pass a replacement for DACA by March — a top priority for Democrats before the year’s end — the Trump administration will begin to wither away protections that shield some 800,000 young undocumented immigrants from immediate deportation, including an estimated 372,000 in Florida.

According to the left-leaning Center for American Progress, 87 percent of DACA recipients in the state are in the workforce. If the program goes away, so would their legal work permits and the tax dollars they contribute to government coffers.

Undocumented immigrants eligible for DACA contribute state and local taxes, and are not eligible for most public benefits, such as food stamps, Medicaid or social security retirement benefits.

As some in Congress laud the end of DACA, which they deem important to send a clear message that immigration laws should be enforced, those who want to codify legal protections for young adults who came to the U.S. illegally as children warn that losing the so-called “DREAMers” would negatively impact the economy.

Earlier this month, proponents of DACA reached out to members of the conservative James Madison Institute Leaders Fellowship during their monthly meeting.

The theme encompassed a discussion on immigration reform, featuring Ted Hutchison with FWD, a Mark Zuckerberg-backed immigration advocacy group. The fellows were told there are many “misconceptions” about DACA recipients and that if they go the state will suffer financially.

“When we think of immigrants, we think of the people who work in (agriculture), or those who work with Google, but a lot of foreign-born nationals are cardiologists and doctors,” Hutchison said.

The districts where DACA recipients have the largest economic presence are those of U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Francis Rooney, both Republicans, and Lois Frankel, a Democrat. In those three districts alone, it is estimated DREAMers contribute approximately $349.3 million to the economy.

Here’s an estimated breakdown of DACA recipients’ contributions to each district in the state.

Nancy Ann Texeira to lead Senate GOP fundraising team

Nancy Ann Texeira has been tapped to oversee next year’s fundraising efforts for the main committee supporting GOP state Senate campaigns.

Senate President-designate Bill Galvano on Monday announced that Texeira, a “trusted and proven member” of his team since 2013, would lead the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“Nancy has consulted on both sides of the aisle, which gives her unique perspective and experience that I believe will help us meet and exceed our fundraising goals,” Galvano said.

Texeira has a track record raising money for the FRSCC. In announcing her new official role, Galvano attributed the recent “historic fundraising quarter” to her.

The FRSCC raised more than $3.2 million from July through the end of September this year. Those numbers were way up from the April to June reporting period when it took in $720,000.

Texeira has also worked as the chief consultant to Innovate Florida, a political committee controlled by Galvano.

Florida GOP to appeal $110,000 fine tied to campaign finances

The head of the Republican Party of Florida, Blaise Ingoglia, is appealing $110,000 in fines the party accrued for not filing state campaign finance reports on time for the House District 116 Special Election.

State Rep. Daniel Perez won the seat and filed his report on time detailing $30,950 in contributions from the party, which included polling, research and one campaign staffer. But the Party failed to submit its report to the Division of Elections when it was due on Sept. 22.

The state’s Party claims it did not receive any notification from the Division of Elections that it had not yet filed its report, and that they only became aware of the mistake 11 days after the deadline, when $110,000 in fines had been accumulated.

For state executive committees, the penalty for failing to submit campaign finance reports after the special election has taken place jumps up to $10,000 a day.

“Providing public access to campaign finance information prior to an election is important,” Benjamin Gibson, the counsel for the state’s party, said. “The current instance, though, is not a case where the public was deprived of information prior to the special election, or where the act of omission was intentional.”

A hearing on this case will be held before the Florida Elections Commission on Nov. 28 at the Capitol.

Terrie Rizzo announces 22 endorsements, giving her early lead in Dem chair race

In the race to become the next Florida Democratic Party chair, a position left vacant by ousted Stephen Bittel, Palm Beach County Democratic Chair Terrie Rizzo is already hoarding endorsements.

In her two-day grassroots bid to be the next state party leader, Rizzo announced Wednesday over 20 endorsements, which she says account for more than 40 percent of the vote necessary to secure the chairmanship.

Here are the names of those who have endorsed her:

  • Martin County State Committeewoman, Cristina De La Vega
  • Clay County State Committeeman, Bobby Poole
  • Hillsborough County State Committeeman, Russ Patterson
  • Hillsborough County DEC Chair, Ione Townsend
  • Student Caucus, Justin Atkins
  • Orange County State Committeeman, Doug Head
  • Osceola County State Committeeman, Casmore Shaw
  • Palm Beach County State Committeewoman, Deidre Newton
  • Palm Beach County State Committeeman, John Ramos
  • Pasco County State Committeeman, John Ford
  • Polk County DEC Chair, Shawn Kinsey
  • Charlotte County State Committeewoman, Lucy Garner
  • Charlotte County State Committeeman, Tom Garner
  • Collier County Chair, Yudy Barbera
  • Marion County State Committeewoman, Joyce Blake
  • Marion County State Committeeman, Marc Bruzdziak
  • Escambia County State Committeeman, Keith Hardy
  • Escambia County State Committeewoman, Dianne Krumel
  • Martin County State Committeeman, David Dew
  • Disability Caucus Chair, Bill Rettinger
  • Jewish Caucus Chair, Mark Winer
  • Small County Coalition Chair, Wendy Williams

The hasty election comes after Bittel resigned following reports that he was demeaning toward women in the workplace, and systematically talked about sex with female staffers. Before the former leader officially stepped down from his post, a date for the election of his successor was scheduled for Dec. 9.

So far, Rizzo and Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez are in the race. Monica Russo is rumored to jump in the race.

With its top leaders gone, Florida Democratic Party’s focus turns to chair election

In one day, the Florida Democratic Party lost its two top leaders.

Chair Stephen Bittel and Sally Boynton Brown, the state’s party president, submitted their resignation letters on Monday and the party accepted.

“We are looking forward to getting back to the important work of turning Florida blue,” Johnna Cervone, the party’s spokesperson, said in a statement.

Boynton Brown, who was hired by Bittel in April, announced she would step down a day after she defended Bittel following reports that he created a hostile environment for women in the workplace. After Boynton Brown came to his defense, two former staffers accused her of “enabling” his unwelcomed, systematic sexual comments while she was in office.

Rumors that Boynton Brown would not leave also began to circulate on Tuesday when a petition — with no binding power — emerged.

The goal of the petition, spearheaded by Grace Carrington of Broward County, Jim Gangitano of Volusia County and Cynthia Chestnut of Alachua County, was to get Boynton Brown to stay, but it went nowhere. By the end of the day, the state party sent out a press release saying both resignations had been received and accepted — effective immediately.

Amid the turmoil, some members are still concerned that Bittel is too involved in the election process of his successor since he intends to keep his Miami-Dade state committeeman post.

Juan Cuba, the chairman of the Miami-Dade Democrats, said he has been asked to cast the former state leader’s 62 votes, the most of any other member, except for Miami-Dade State Committeewoman Francesca Menes, who also has 62 votes. Cuba also said he is asking members to vote their preference for state chair electronically, and that he will follow suit based on what the majority of the membership wants.

Menes expressed concern about the outgoing chair having a say in when the election for the next chair would be held. That meeting was scheduled for Dec. 9 on the day Bittel announced he would resign — four days before he was officially out as chair.

“I feel in no way shape or form, can the outgoing chair be responsible for calling a state party meeting, where there could be a special election to elect his successor,” Menes said in an open letter.

“For this course of action to take place would mean that we as a party will once again choose which rules we abide by and don’t abide by.”

The countdown to the election has already prompted candidates to pop up. Palm Beach County Democratic Chair Terrie Rizzo has announced her bid for the seat and Hillsborough County State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez is in. And it is rumored that Monica Russo is also mulling a run.

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