Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics

Drew Wilson

Eric Eisnaugle closes down 2018 campaign

Orlando Republican Rep. Eric Eisnaugle has officially dropped his 2018 re-election bid according to documents posted with the Florida Division of Elections.

Eisnaugle also filed paperwork to step down as the chairman of the PAC Committee for Justice and Economic Freedom, appointing Joseph Clements in his place. The committee hadn’t brought in any money since July, though it had about $135,000 cash on hand at the end of January.

The Orange County representative also had about $20,000 in his campaign account when he dropped out. That money will have to be disposed of within 90 days of closing down the campaign.

As FloridaPolitics.com reported earlier this week, Eisnaugle is one of several candidates vying to succeed C. Alan Lawson, who left his post on Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeal when he was appointed to the Florida Supreme Court in December.

Eisnaugle was first elected to the House back in 2008, but opted not to run for re-election after his second term when redistricting put him up against fellow Republican Steve Precourt. After two years out of office, Eisnaugle came back to the House in 2014 and was re-elected in 2016.

Pam Bondi still a rock star with Florida’s GOP voters, new AIF poll shows

Florida’s top lawmakers and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam are struggling with low name identification among likely Republican voters, but that isn’t the case for Attorney General Pam Bondi according to a new poll from statewide business advocate Associated Industries of Florida.

The AIF poll of likely Republican voters obtained by FloridaPolitics.com found that 54 percent approve of the job the second-term Attorney General is doing, while just 12 percent have an unfavorable view and 17 percent said they had no opinion.

Among Florida’s top elected Republicans, Bondi’s ratings only trailed Gov. Rick Scott, who had a net 67 percent approval rating, and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who netted 57 percent approval.

Putnam, who is considered an early front-runner to take over for Scott, scored 38 percent approval from the same crowd, with 3 percent voicing disapproval and 20 percent saying they had no opinion.

Putnam did come out on top in the mock ballot test for the Republican primary for Florida governor with 22 percent support, though 71 percent said they were undecided. The next highest vote-getter was House Speaker Richard Corcoran with 4 percent support.

AIF also tested the waters for the cabinet positions opening up in 2018, though each scenario featured “undecided” winning over 80 percent of the vote.

In other words, “there’s no news here,” notes Ryan Tyson, Vice President of Political Operations for AIF.

The low level of support for Corcoran likely stems from the fact only 44 percent 0f those polled knew who he was. Of those, 16 percent said approved of the job he was doing, while 4 percent disapproved and 24 percent had no opinion.

Senate President Joe Negron and Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala had even lower name ID than the House Speaker, with just 41 percent and 25 percent recognizing their names, respectively.

Still, both enjoyed relative approval from the Republican base: Negron had a plus-11 approval rating and Latvala came in with plus-8.

AIF surveyed 800 likely Republican voters who had voted in at least one of the last three Republican Primaries, but not the presidential preference in 2016. The group said 81 percent of those polled were over 50 years old and 90 percent were white.

Lake O land buy plan a non-starter with likely Republican voters, poll shows

Likely Republican voters are against the Florida Senate proposal to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee, according to a new poll released by the Associated Industries of Florida obtained by FloridaPolitics.com.

The survey asked Republican voters about a variety of issues on the table for the 2017 Legislative Session and no matter the wording, the South Florida land buy was a loser.

When asked whether the Legislature should use eminent domain to purchase the farmland for environmental purposes, a whopping 65 percent of those polled said they disagreed, with just 21 percent approving.

Voter opinion was just as harsh when the poll asked if the “state should continue to buy private farmland for environmental purposes and take it out of production, even if that means the state must borrow the money to purchase bonds.”

Voters said by a 64-23 margin that they disagreed with the proposition, with Panhandle Republicans supporting the idea slightly more than those living in the Jacksonville media market.

AIF also asked voters about the ongoing debate over whether to dismantle economic incentive programs and tourism marketing arm Visit Florida, but concluded the issue was too complicated for voters to comprehend.

“Overall awareness on these debates is low in this survey, regardless of how the question is tested,” said Ryan Tyson, AIF’s Vice President of Political Operations. “Furthermore, the nuances of the policy points used to better describe ‘incentives for job growth’ vs. ‘corporate welfare’ are far too complex for decisive support for either position in this survey.”

AIF said no matter the phrasing, the results for the incentives debate were contradictory “and talking points can easily get a voter to one side of the argument or the other.”

The survey did find that 55 percent of those polled said the Legislature is spending tax dollars wisely, though most of that support is soft, with 44 percent saying they only somewhat agree with that sentiment.

AIF surveyed 800 likely Republican voters who had voted in at least one of the last three Republican Primaries, but not the presidential preference in 2016. The group said 81 percent of those polled were over 50 years old and 90 percent were white.

Democratic lawmakers file bills to strengthen prescription drug reporting requirements

A pair of Democratic lawmakers announced Tuesday that they had filed bills to combat opioid abuse in Florida.

HB 557 and SB 840 would cut the reporting window for when controlled substance distributions are made to one day, and would require pharmacies or other drug dispensaries to submit the information online.

Current state law gives dispensers 7 days to report transactions to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

Rehabilitative hospitals, assisted living facilities and nursing homes would be exempt from the new reporting requirements so long as the patient receiving the drugs is receiving care on site.

“Our state’s medical physicians and pharmacists don’t have the information they need to identify harmful drug use patterns, and it’s costing families their loved ones,” said Rep. Nick Duran, who is sponsoring the House version of the bill. “This bill gives health professionals actionable data to fight prescription drug abuse and save lives.”

Lake Worth Sen. Jeff Clemens, who is sponsoring the Senate bill, said the more stringent reporting requirements would give physicians “close to real-time data to help them identify patients who may be teetering on the edge of addiction or are doctor shopping.”

The Florida Behavioral Health Association, a group that lobbies on behalf of behavioral health groups, agreed with Clemens.

“Maximum use of the PDMP is a key factor in addressing Florida’s opioid epidemic,” Executive Director Mark Fontaine said. “The PDMP will work more effectively using near real-time data to identify attempts to abuse the system.”

HB 557 is scheduled to be heard by the House Health Quality Subcommittee Wednesday. SB 840 has not yet been assigned to any committees.

Red-light camera ban clears final House committee

A House bill to ban red-light cameras cleared its final committee Tuesday and is ready for a floor vote when the 2017 Legislative Session kicks off next month.

The House Government Accountability Committee approved HB 6007 with a 13-3 vote; the only no votes came from Democratic Reps. Joe AbruzzoCarlos Guillermo Smith and Clovis Watson.

Last month, the bill had made it through the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee and the House Appropriations Committee with similarly lopsided votes.

The bill would not take effect until July 1, 2020, though it would cause a substantial dip in revenue on the state and local levels. According to the Government Accountability Committee’s staff analysis, banning red-light cameras would cause the state to lose out on about $63 million in general revenue a year, while local governments would lose nearly $73 million.

Earlier this month, a Senate bill that would put an end to the cameras failed to make it through the Senate Transportation Committee, though Democratic Sen. Daphne Campbell filed an identical bill Feb. 1.

Lawmakers backing a total ban on red-light cameras have pointed to a study from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that showed crashes were up more than 10 percent at intersections with cameras.

While the data shows an increase in rear-end collisions and crashes involving injuries, it did show a 3 percent decline in crashes involving running red lights and a 20 percent reduction in accidents involving pedestrians or other non-motorists.

Detractors say that study is flawed, however, because it includes crashes up to 250 feet away from intersections.

Democrats announce bill to boost renewable energy incentives

Lake Worth Sen. Jeff Clemens and Lantana Rep. Lori Berman filed bills that would allow Florida cities to create incentive programs to attract sustainable energy jobs.

HB 887 and SB 1090 would expand a pilot program to create “Energy Economic Zones” in cities, a designation for areas that encourage renewable energy generation, manufacture products that contribute to energy conservation, and grow jobs in the renewable energy sector.

The bills also remove a provision from the pilot program that required the Department of Economic Opportunity to consult with the Florida Department of Transportation before approving projects.

“Advances in solar, wind, and hydroelectricity have made the attracting and locating of companies investing in the future of renewable energy a highly competitive market amongst states throughout the country,” Berman said. “Having as many tools in the tool chest as possible that are available to Florida’s communities is what we are trying to achieve.”

Under the bill, businesses would have to meet qualified target industry standards in order to get incentives money through the program, and each city would be limited to $300,000 in incentives a year. Any unused portion of that money, however, could be carried forward for 5 years.

The bill would also require cities to collaborate with a university or other research institution to be eligible to receive state incentive money.

“This is the perfect way to support innovation at our universities and provide entrepreneurs with an avenue to help secure our energy future,” Clemens said.

The pair also noted a benefit their districts would likely receive under the bill. The City of Lake Worth could partner FAU’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center, which is a leader in ocean current energy due to its proximity to the Gulf Stream a few miles off the coast.


Jeff Brandes files bill to crack down on insurance fraud

St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes filed a bill that would strengthen the state’s ability to fight insurance fraud.

“Insurance fraud in Florida is evolving, and policyholders are forced to pay for it through higher premiums every year,” Brandes said. “This is a hidden tax on every Floridian who drives a car, owns a home, rents an apartment, or pays for health insurance.”

In a Friday press release, Brandes noted that fraud cases can account for up to 10 percent of an insurance company’s yearly losses.

SB 1012 would require insurers to develop and submit anti-fraud plans to the Division of Investigative and Forensic Services and would require anti-fraud training for employees involved with fraud prevention.

The bill also requires an annual report on fraud trends to be submitted to the Florida CFO, who could then assign or re-assign special prosecutors around the state based on crime trends.

Key Largo Republican Rep. Holly Raschein, who will sponsor the bill in the House, said she was “proud to sponsor this common sense solution that will better align the resources that we already have in place.”

“We must do everything possible to help hold the line on rising insurance rates—rates that are particularly high in South Florida,” she said.

Adam Putnam’s political committee adds another $500K

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam raised more than $500,000 for his political committee in the first half of February according to a newly updated financial report.

The committee, Florida Grown, brought in about $200,000 of its $538,000 haul from the Associated Industries of Florida and one of its related political committees. Another $100,000 came from Vero Beach businessman Robert Stork, and Disney chipped in another $50,000 on February 1.

February’s running total has already eclipsed January’s numbers, which saw the Polk County Republican add just over $400,000 to its coffers.

Those numbers were boosted by a $250,000 check from Florida Power and Light and $100,000 from Disney.

Most expenditures this month have been for payroll and office services, though the committee did shell out $82,000 to Lakeland-based Silloh Consulting on the first of the month.

Florida Grown finished January with about $4.7 million on hand, and through the first two weeks of February, that total looks to have breached the $5 million mark.

Putnam, a former congressman, is currently serving his second and final term as Agriculture Commissioner, though he is thought to be eyeing a run for governor in 2018.

Gus Bilirakis to hold another health care town hall in Wesley Chapel

Tampa Bay Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis will host another public listening session on the Affordable Care Act on Wednesday in Wesley Chapel.

During the two-hour event, Bilirakis said he would take feedback and ideas from constituents about the direction of the U.S. health care system, including the repeal and replacement of the ACA.

The six-term congressman has held similar sessions in Palm Harbor and New Port Richey this month, both of which packed with supporters of the health care law angered at Congressional Republicans’ plan to repeal the law without a replacement.

Following those events, Bilirakis signed on to a bill that would keep the ACA provisions protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions after its repeal.

“I heard a clear message from my constituents at recent town halls: people with pre-existing conditions need the peace of mind of knowing that they can get — and keep — health care,” Bilirakis said in a statement. “At events in Palm Harbor and New Port Richey, I listened to folks share personal stories about themselves and loved ones who were denied access to coverage because of a chronic illness. I made a promise to gather input from the people of Florida’s 12th District about the future of our nation’s health care, and I am keeping that promise with this legislation. We will protect those with pre-existing conditions and put in place a health care system that works for everybody.”

The Wesley Chapel will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Wesley Chapel High School Performing Arts Center on Wells Road. The event is open to the public.


Marco Rubio files bills cracking down on Iran, Russia

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio announced Friday that he is sponsoring a pair of bills to crack down on Iran and Russia.

Rubio, along with Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse and Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue, filed a bill to crack down on Iran’s use of commercial aircraft in support of terrorism.

The Iran Terror-Free Skies Act would require the executive branch to regularly report to Congress on whether Iran has used civilian planes for military purposes, such as transporting weapons or military personnel, to terrorist groups within its borders or abroad.

“As the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, Iran continues to systematically use its commercial airlines to supply the murderous Assad regime in Syria as well as to Hezbollah and other foreign terrorist organizations,” Rubio said. “If America turns a blind eye to the Iranian terror regime’s efforts to destabilize the Middle East and endanger the lives of innocents worldwide, we risk being complicit.”

The Miami Republican also joined up with Arkansas Republican Sen. Tom Cotton and Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson on a bill to bring Russia back into compliance with the INF missile treaty.

“Russia’s mounting violations of the INF Treaty, including testing and now brazenly deploying ground-launched cruise missiles with intermediate range, pose grave threats to the United States and our European allies,” Rubio said. “This legislation makes clear that Russia will face real consequences if it continues its dangerous and destabilizing behavior.”

The bill includes provisions to build up missile defense and place intermediate range missile systems within allied countries, among other things.

Texas Republican Rep. Ted Poe and Alabama Republican Rep. Mike Rodgers are sponsoring the bill’s House companion.


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