Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics

Drew Wilson

Bill: Businesses hiring vets would get tax breaks

Republican state Sen. Rene Garcia and freshman Democratic state Rep. Daisy Baez have filed a bill that would give small businesses a tax credit for hiring veterans.

The legislation (SB 152) would establish the Veterans Employment Small Business Grant Program, which would give a one-time $3,000 tax credit to businesses for each veteran hired, and a $5,000 credit for each disabled veteran hired.

The House version of the bill had not been filed as of Tuesday afternoon.

“This legislation would serve as a win for both Florida’s small businesses and its veterans,” Garcia said. “If we are going to call ourselves the most veteran-friendly state in the nation, we must give our armed servicemen and women every opportunity to succeed in their post-service life and in their careers.”

Baez, an Army veteran, said service members “give everything to serve this nation and deserve our support and commitment,” adding that the bill would also help small businesses and the state’s economy.

The bill caps the total amount of tax credits a business can receive from the program at $25,000 a year and doesn’t hand out the tax credit until the veteran has been working in the job for at least a year.

Additionally, the program requires the new hire’s pay to be at least 80 percent of the median income for Florida veterans.

Florida has the third-highest veteran population of any state behind California and Texas, with about 1.6 million veterans. More than a sixth of Florida veterans have a service connected disability.

Service industry helps Florida boost 14.4K new jobs in Nov.

Florida added 14,400 new private-sector jobs in November according to employment data released by payroll company ADP.

According to the ADP Regional Employment Report, the bulk of Florida’s new jobs were in the service industry, which added 12,200 jobs, while goods-producing industries added 2,200.

Professional and business services saw the biggest gain at 4,100 jobs, followed by mining and construction at 1,900, manufacturing at 300 and trade, transportation and utilities at 100.

The November numbers show a 1,400-job dip compared to October, when the state added 15,800 jobs, and are far below the 20,500 jobs added in the Sunshine State in November 2015.

Still, Florida posted the third-highest job gain among the states tracked by ADP. California, which added 29,000 jobs, and Texas, which added 26,300, took the two top spots.

Regionally, the 17 states making up the South added the most jobs at 89,000. Western states added 60,000 jobs, followed by the Midwest with 35,000 and the Northeast with 32,000.

The ADP Regional Employment Report is produced using data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as the payroll company’s in-house data. The next report, covering December, will be released Jan. 11.

House approves Kathy Castor bill promoting concrete masonry, manufacturing jobs

The U.S. House passed a bill sponsored by Democratic Florida Rep. Kathy Castor Wednesday that would boost construction jobs and help develop better building materials.

“Local manufacturers and many across Florida worked diligently with me to boost jobs in the concrete masonry industry through this legislation. If signed into law, businesses will have the ability to pool resources for research and to develop safer, more durable, and more efficient products which would be a boon for building construction,” Castor said. “This bill supports an industry made up of primarily small, local businesses that create local jobs in the competitive construction market.”

The House voted 355-38 in favor of Castor’s bill, which she called a “win for jobs and our local manufacturers. The bill would put a one penny assessment on all concrete blocks sold, to fund research, education, and promotional programs for concrete manufacturers.

“Buildings made of structurally strong materials, such as concrete block, are vital to reduce the impacts of property insurance losses as the climate changes and Florida experiences more extreme weather events,” the CD 14 Democrat said. “Producers also will be able to develop durable, energy-efficient and affordable products that are better able to withstand volatile weather conditions in their particular regions, such as seismic events in the West or extreme weather in the Southeast.”

The bill now moves on to the U.S. Senate.

Darden Restaurants name former fast food exec to board of directors

nana-mensahOrlando-based Darden Restaurants announced Wednesday that it added former fast food executive Nana Mensah to its board.

Darden board chair Chuck Sonsteby said he and his colleagues “are delighted to welcome Nana to the board.” With Mensah’s appointment, Darden expanded its board to eight seats.

“His extensive restaurant operations background, both domestically and internationally, coupled with his experience as a public company director brings additional expertise and perspective to the boardroom,” he said.

Mensah is the chairman and CEO of ‘XSPORTS, Inc., a company that exports food packaging and food processing equipment internationally. Previously, he has served as the chief operating officer for Church’s Chicken and Long John Silver’s and as the vice president and general manager of the KFC brand for PepsiCo.

“I’m impressed with how well the Darden board of directors and the Company’s leadership team have worked together to build strong momentum across the business,” Mensah said. “I’m excited to be a part of this Board as we work to ensure Darden remains the industry leader and continues delivering value to shareholders.”

Darden Restaurants has more than 150,000 employees and 1,500 locations across its portfolio of brands, which includes Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52, among others.

Carlos Curbelo posts two-day haul of $50K in CD 26

Republican U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo raised more than $50,000 on Monday and Tuesday according to notices filed with the Federal Election Commission.

Curbelo brought in $7,000 on Monday, followed by another $44,195 on Tuesday, for a total of $51,195 in fundraising across the two days. Congressional candidates are required to report donations of $1,000 or more to the FEC within 48 hours.

Top donors included the National Restaurant Association PAC and the GEO Group, each giving $5,000, though Curbelo also received a $1,000 check Monday from Liz Cheney, the GOP candidate for Wyoming’s lone seat in the House and the daughter of former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney.

Curbelo is running against former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, which is shaping up to be one of closest races in the state.

The incumbent had raised more than $3.5 million for his re-election bid through Oct. 19 and had about $436,000 of that money on hand in his most recent report. Since that report, Curbelo has raised another $108,000, including the flurry of donations to start November.

Garcia had raised about $1.1 million through Oct. 19 and had about $217,000 on hand when the report closed. Since then, the former representative has reported about $116,000 in contributions.

CD 26 covers all of Monroe County and the bulk of southern and inland Miami-Dade County. The majority Hispanic district carries a slight advantage for Democrats in voter registrations and voted in favor of President Barack Obama by 11 points in 2012.

John Rutherford nets another $11.5K in CD 4 race

Republican John Rutherford brought in another $11,500 for his campaign in Florida’s 4th Congressional District, according to documents filed Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission.

The top donor on the notice was the Associated Builders & Contractors PAC, which chipped in $5,000 to the former Jacksonville sheriff Nov. 2.

Rutherford also took in $2,000 from Publix’s political committee, $1,500 from Ferber Company chairman Paul S. Ferber, and $1,000 each from the American Dental PAC, the Action Committee for Rural Electrification and Marietta Sand Corporation president Dawn D. Motes.

Through Oct. 19, Rutherford had raised about $711,000 for his campaign and had about $35,000 of that money on hand. Since that report, Rutherford has filed seven notices with the FEC totaling a combined $83,100 in new contributions.

Democrat David Bruderly, Rutherford’s main competition in CD 4, had raised about $46,000 through Oct. 19 and had about $11,300 of that money on hand.

CD 4 covers all of Nassau County, northern St. Johns County and the bulk of Duval County outside of the I-295 beltway surrounding Jacksonville. The district is primarily Republican and voted more than 2-to-1 in favor of Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney four years ago.


Bill Galvano committee brings in over $360K in five days

Bradenton Sen. Bill Galvano’s political committee pulled in more than $360,000 between Oct. 31 and Nov. 2, giving the future Senate president plenty of ammo to help his fellow Republican senators win re-election.

“Innovate Florida” kicked off the three-day fundraising spree with a $100,000 check from Cuban-American billionaire Miguel Fernandez Oct. 31, followed by a $12,500 haul Nov. 1 and $160,500 Nov. 2.

The Nov. 2 report shows $25,000 apiece coming in from the Associated Industries of Florida’s political committees The Voice of Florida Business, Floridians’ United for Our Children, and Floridians for a Stronger Democracy.

Galvano’s PAC also collected a $50,000 check from the Florida Prosperity Fund, a committee run by AIF VP of Political Operations Ryan Tyson.

According to the report, Innovate Florida had more than $1.2 million on hand heading into the final stretch of the election season.

With Galvano having already secured re-election for himself in Senate District 21, most of the new funds will likely be used to help out in some of the more hotly contested Senate races this cycle.

Among the top targets for both parties are the SD 8 contest between Republican Rep. Keith Perry and former Democratic Sen. Rod Smith, the SD 18 race between Republican Rep. Dana Young and Democratic attorney Bob Buesing, the battle between Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Democratic Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez in SD 37, and Republican Rep. Frank Artiles run against Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard in SD 40.

Despite the fundraising flurry, Innovate Florida did not report any spending over the three-day stretch, though the PAC has dumped $425,000 into the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee since the start of the 2016 election cycle.

That committee, which has only reported its financials through Aug. 25, has raised $16.6 million this cycle and had nearly $10 million of that money on hand.

Charlie Crist nets another $7K from lobbyists, Morgan & Morgan employees

Former Gov. Charlie Crist reported another $7,000 in contributions in a new FEC filing Tuesday, including checks from a pair of Morgan & Morgan employees.

The donor roll included attorneys Adam Brum and Keith Carter of Morgan & Morgan, who gave $1,500 and $1,000, respectively. Crist took a job at Morgan & Morgan after his lone term as Florida governor ended in 2011.

Also in the filing were Tallahassee lobbyist Jeff Sharkey and Nicholas Herbach of Index Management Services, who each gave $1,000, as well as the American Federation of Government Employees PAC, which gave $2,500.

Crist is running in Florida’s 13th Congressional District against incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly, who also filed a notice with the FEC Tuesday to report a $1,000 contribution from a PAC tied to Florida East Coast Industries.

Through Oct. 19 Jolly had brought in about $1.9 million and had about $160,000 of that money on hand, while Crist had raised about $1.5 million through Oct. 19 and had about $170,000 in his campaign account.

Since those reports, the candidates have been neck-and-neck, with each of them turning in new notices to the FEC on a daily basis.

Dana Young campaign hits door-knock milestone in SD 18 race

Tampa Republican Rep. Dana Young announced Wednesday her campaign has knocked on the doors of more than 85,000 voters within Senate District 18.

“I am truly excited to announce this milestone, which underscores our campaign’s dedication since Day 1,” Young said. “By meeting and listening to voters in our district, I have had the opportunity to share my platform and positive changes I have helped enact while in the Florida House of Representatives, as well as hear their concerns for our community. In the days left leading up to the election, I look forward to continuing to meet with as many voters as I can, demonstrating why I am the best candidate to represent Florida Senate District 18.”

Young, who currently holds the District 60 seat in the House, is running against Democrat Bob Buesing and a pair of NPA candidates in SD 18, which covers Northwest Hillsborough County.

The third-term representative also touted endorsements from more than a dozen organizations in the release, including from the Florida Chamber of Commerce and Tampa area police and firefighter organizations.

Young is by far the leader in fundraising in the district with more than $2.3 million in total fundraising across her campaign and political committee. Her closest competitor is Buesing, who had raised a little under of $450,000 for his campaign through Oct. 21.

SD 18 has slightly more registered Democrats than Republicans, and was narrowly carried by President Barack Obama four years ago.

Solar Amendment 1 committee takes in another $3.5M, now at $25M raised

The committee backing Amendment 1 took in $3.5 million in contributions last week, including another $3 million from utility companies.

Consumers for Smart Solar received $2 million from Florida Power & Light, $1 million from Duke Energy, and $250,000 each from conservative retirement group the 60 Plus Association and from a group called “Let’s Preserve the American Dream.”

Consumers has now raised more than $25 million this cycle, with more than $20 million of that money coming from the state’s biggest utility companies.

Consumers didn’t report any spending during the week of Oct. 22 through Oct. 28, and shows more than $4.6 million on hand one week out from Election Day.

The utility-backed amendment would add to the Florida Constitution the right for residents to own or lease solar panels, though residents already have that right.

The amendment would also prevent consumers who don’t use solar power from having to subsidize backup electrical grid access for those who do, a measure some environmental groups say will jack up prices for solar power.

A poll from St. Leo University, released Sept. 30, found 84 percent support for the amendment, while a Sept. 26 poll from the Florida Chamber Political Institute found 66 percent of Florida voters would vote for the proposal.

Constitutional amendments in Florida must have 60 percent support to pass.

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