Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 192

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

Humans and hurricanes created ‘perfect storm’ for algae blooms

According to new research from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the state will need 20 percent more water by 2030, and that water, of course, needs to be clean.

With the dueling water crises currently affecting Florida’s waterways – the blue-green algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee and the late-season red tide on the Gulf Coast – Florida Atlantic University professor Brian Lapointe said it’s time to start looking at the science and accepting that human activity caused these problems.

“Irma brought torrential rainfall and flooding across the state. And that’s when the brown tide started coming,” he said.

That massive amount of water overloaded Lake O, stirring up the nutrients in the lake bed serving as a catalyst and creating the “perfect storm” for an algal bloom.

But, Lapointe said, Irma shouldn’t shoulder 100 percent of the blame.

“It’s not the hurricane, it’s actually the nutrients we people bring to the state,” he said. “It’s the Sunshine State, we’ve got the light and temperature [for algal blooms].”

There has been a long debate about who is responsible for the nutrients, specifically nitrogen, in Lake O and other bodies of water. Agriculture played a major role years ago, and non-agricultural fertilizer use was a factor as well, but that’s not really the case anymore according to Lapointe.

“Where reducing fertilizers tremendously in the Sunshine State, so where are the nutrients coming from?” he asked. “All you have to do is read the headlines.”

Those headlines, and Lapointe’s research, put the onus on the tens of thousands of septic tanks near water bodies as well the state’s aging and inadequate wastewater infrastructure. Those tanks and sewers are leaching human waste into the water supply.

“Septic tanks are the major source of nitrogen. Around the Tallahassee area, 50 percent of nitrogen is from septic tanks and only 8 percent is from agricultural sources,” he said.

Fixing those problems will be costly – the infrastructure alone will take $18 billion to fix – but ignoring the problem could be even costlier.

Human fecal coliform killed off part of the coral reef around the Florida Keys, and that’s not even accounting for the human health implications. Residents and tourists have had trouble even breathing the air in the areas most affected by the dual blooms.

“If we do not protect environmental health, in this case water quality, it will have disastrous impacts on human health,” a video played by Lapointe said.

Lapointe closed out his presentation, delivered as part of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Future of Florida Forum, by making calling on business leaders and politicians to pay attention to scientific research before pulling the trigger on new policies.

Slamfest: Ron DeSantis lambastes Andrew Gillum at Chamber forum

Shortly after earning the “firm” endorsement of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis took the stage at the 2018 Future of Florida Forum to make his case and lambaste his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“Andrew Gillum has been mayor of Tallahassee for four years. In each of those four years, Tallahassee has had the highest crime rate in the state,” DeSantis said.

That claim is based on a report that used FBI data on burglary and larceny rates. It listed Tallahassee as the tenth worst city in the country when it comes to property crime rates.

“One of the candidates seeking to replace him, his former chief of staff, has been sending out literature saying that last year Tallahassee had the highest murder rate and something needs to change,” he continued. “If that’s not an indictment, I don’t know what is.”

(Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil on Wednesday sent out an email, however, saying that “under Mayor Gillum’s leadership, violent crime is down 24 percent, and overall crime is down 10 percent with crime at a five-year low in Tallahassee.

“Mayor Gillum’s investments into more police officers, restorative justice, and community policing have made Tallahassee safer than when he became mayor, period,” said McNeil, a Gillum backer. “The political fear-mongering from his opponent is false, dangerous, and disrespectful to the law enforcement officers on the front lines fighting crime every day.”)

DeSantis hammered Gillum for supporting the abolishment of ICE and said Gillum wanted to dismantle other law enforcement agencies, too.

The former Congressman also raised the specter of George Soros, Tom Steyer and other out-of-state activists, saying those billionaire liberal boosters were using the Sunshine State as a “petri dish” to test their priorities.

“Many of these people are basically socialists,” he said. “Well they make money but they don’t want that for anybody else.”

When it comes to his own goals if elected Governor, DeSantis stressed the importance of appointing conservative judges to Florida courts.

“Our next governor needs to appoint solid constitutionalists to the courts, including our state Supreme Court,” he said, adding that the state’s top court has been “legislating from the bench for the past 20 years.

“Three of the four liberal justices are retiring. I know there’s been some controversy about who will get to make these appointment but I’m operating under the assumption that I’ll win, get sworn in and be able to make three appointments,” he said.

DeSantis’ appearance at the Orlando event was protested by Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who was highlighting the former Congressman’s “dangerous record of voting to rip away health care from millions of Floridians in order to give massive tax cuts to corporate special interests.”

Smith was an early backer of Gillum, endorsing him during the early phase of the Democratic primary.

Ron DeSantis and his running mate, state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, will face Gillum and his LG pick, Orlando-area businessman Chris King in the Nov. 6 general election.

DeSantis Florida Chamber

Florida Chamber stands ‘firmly behind’ Ron DeSantis for Governor

On Thursday, the Florida Chamber of Commerce officially endorsed Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, saying he would continue the success that the Sunshine State has undergone under exiting Gov. Rick Scott.

“As president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, my top job is to secure the future of this state,” said Chamber head Mark Wilson. “ … Other states want to be like Florida. We have a big choice in the fall.”

Also on-hand for the Orlando news conference was past Florida Chamber chairwoman Glenda Hood and former House Speaker Will Weatherford. Both emphasized that they and the Chamber were “firmly” behind DeSantis’ bid for the Governor’s Mansion.

“I’ve seen what it’s like when this state has good leadership. Florida has had eight years of good leadership under Rick Scott,” Weatherford said. “The Florida Chamber stands firmly behind Ron DeSantis.”

In accepting the endorsement, DeSantis made the case that he’ll continue the tax cuts and job growth that Florida experienced under Scott. He also threw plenty of jabs at his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.

“I’m the only veteran running for Governor, and apparently I may be the only capitalist running,” the former Congressman said.

DeSantis hit Gillum on his proposed corporate tax hike from 5.5 percent to 7.75 percent to generate $1 billion for the state’s education budget. The Ponte Vedra Republican then touted the tax reform bill passed by Congress and his policy proposals if elected to lead the Sunshine State — from boosting vocational education to improving water quality.

“Our environment is really the foundation of Florida’s economic engine,” he said.

State Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, DeSantis’ pick for Lieutenant Governor, also gave her stump speech for the Republican ticket, saying she and DeSantis were the best option in every metric.

“We firmly believe we’re the ticket that’s going to continue to push Florida forward,” she said. “ … We’re not just the best choice for Florida, we’re the only choice.”

The Chamber’s endorsement comes after their unwavering support for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican primary. DeSantis defeated Putnam by 20 points last month.

As DeSantis was accepting the Chamber nod, Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith was nearby to protest against DeSantis’ “dangerous record of voting to rip away health care from millions of Floridians in order to give massive tax cuts to corporate special interests.”

Smith was an early backer of Gillum, endorsing him during the early phase of the Democratic primary.

Cybersecurity training could be a boon for Florida’s future workforce

Cybersecurity might not be top-of-mind for many businesses, but even an inadvertent data breach can cost millions of dollars and lead to loads of lost business.

“The average cost of a data breach is $3.62 million — that’s a worldwide average,” said Eman El-Sheikh, the director of the Center for Cybersecurity at the University of West Florida.

The average data breach costs an American business more than $7 million, she said, and every industry is affected. With those kinds of stakes, prevention is critical.

“A lot of businesses say ‘where do [we] start?’” El-Sheikh said. “There’s a lot of good resources and best practices available.”

Some of those recommended materials are available through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and some educational institutions and private businesses have shared their cybersecurity game plans as well.

Though getting a plan in place should be a priority, El-Sheikh said that the most important thing organizations can do is provide all employees, from the top down, at least some level of cybersecurity training. Especially since it’s not usually the computer whizzes who cause a breach.

“A lot of breaches have started with an inadvertent click on a link,” she said. “ … and an organization is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Cybersecurity presents many challenges, but El-Sheikh said if Florida shows some initiative in developing its workforce, the sector could be a wellspring of opportunity.

El-Sheikh’s talk was part of the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2018 Future of Florida Forum. On Wednesday the Chamber released its “Florida 2030” research report and among its findings was the need to create another 1.7 million jobs to support the state’s booming population.

“Right now, we have 13,000 cybersecurity jobs that are unfilled in Florida — these are jobs that have an average starting wage of $85,000,” El-Sheikh said, adding that by 2030 the nationwide cybersecurity deficit will be in the millions.

“We hear the need for 1.7 million new jobs by 2030 — why not bring those jobs to Florida?” she said. Bringing those jobs to the Sunshine State will take collaboration between the business, academic and government sectors, she added.

When it comes to prepping the workforce, that can start as early as grade school with resources such as the UWF Center for Cybersecurity’s Florida Cyber Range.

Many of the other skills future cybersecurity professionals need in order to snag a job can also be acquired outside of the traditional 4-year college system.

“I know that sounds odd coming from someone in higher education,” El-Sheikh said.

Jimmy Patronis: Florida is nimble, ready to respond to future challenges

Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis, the only Cabinet member able to run for re-election in the fall, recapped his first year on the job in a Thursday talk at the 2018 Future of Florida Forum.

“Just over a year ago Gov. [Rick] Scott called me in June and asked me if I would consider being the CFO for the state of Florida,” he said. “I never asked for it, I never lobbied for it.”

He was only on the job for a couple months when Hurricane Irma hit Florida shores, which he called his “trial by fire.” In the aftermath of the Category 5 storm, Patronis’ office was tasked with making sure fraudsters and scammers didn’t get between storm victims and the relief they needed.

“We had to do everything we could to make sure our citizens weren’t damaged twice by the storm,” he said.

In the past year, Patronis said the one of the law enforcement arms of his office had made more than 800 insurance fraud arrests and stared more than 700 prosecutions. Patronis also added that his office has helped put another $40 million into Floridians pockets by following up on complaints made via the state’s insurance help line.

The junior Cabinet member then recounted the economic dive Florida experienced during the Great Recession, and the recovery it has experienced in the years since, which he credits to Scott’s leadership. Like Patronis, Scott will also be on the ballot in the fall as the Republican nominee for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s seat.

“Under Rick Scott’s leadership we’ve paid down $10 billion in state debt and cut taxes by $10 billion,” he said. “If that’s not worth some applause I don’t know what is.”

That reduced debt led to Florida earning a AAA bond rating, which Patronis said makes the state more “nimble” and able to respond to future crises.

Rick Scott recognized with ‘Spirit of Free Enterprise’ award

The Florida Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday recognized Gov. Rick Scott with its “Spirit of Free Enterprise” award for his “laser-focused” effort to bring jobs to Florida and boost the state’s economy.

“I said earlier today that if Florida was a stock, I would buy it,” Florida Chamber CEO Mark Wilson said, adding that he was curious whether Scott’s exit after two terms in the Governor’s Mansion would impact his outlook.

Scott, who is challenging incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in the fall, was introduced as the “next U.S. Senator from the state of Florida” when he walked out to a standing ovation at the Chamber’s 2018 Future of Florida Forum.

“That’s a real honor,” Scott said. “First off, I don’t get to travel much with my wife, so I’m happy she could be here.”

Scott, often referred to as the “jobs governor,” touched on several stats and metrics achieved during his tenure in Tallahassee, from the state’s bounce back from the job losses brought about by the Great Recession to the rising rankings of Florida’s public universities.

“For any Gators out there, the University of Florida is the eighth-best public university,” he said. “For the Seminoles, Florida State is in the top-25 and five of our universities are in the top-100.

“Years ago these are things that people were saying about California. Now people are saying all these things about Florida,” Scott said.

The Chamber has given out the Spirit of Freedom award only once before, to Wayne Huizenga Sr., in 2010. Huizenga, a businessman and co-owner of several South Florida professional sports franchises, died this year at the age of 80.

“I did quite a bit of business with Wayne Huizenga,” Scott said. “When I called him up and told him I was going to run for Governor years ago, he just laughed. ‘Why would you do that to yourself.'”

Huizenga’s son, Wayne Huizenga Jr., was alongside Scott on the stage and said he knew his father was “a big fan looking down from heaven.”

Scott also gave a bit of a call to action for his Senate campaign.

“People say it’s all about money. It’s not,” Scott said, encouraging the crowd at the Florida Chamber event to get involved in the 2018 elections.

Gray Swoope: Rapid change is coming to Florida’s job landscape

Florida needs to add 1.7 million jobs by 2030, according to new Florida Chamber of Commerce research, but “disruption and transformation” present some unique challenges to meeting that goal.

“Eighty percent of the jobs in 2030 don’t exist today,” said former Enterprise Florida chief Gray Swoope, who now heads VisionFirst Advisors. “What are we doing? We don’t know what these jobs are.”

During his remarks at the Chamber’s 2018 Future of Florida Forum, Swoope touched on technologies such as autonomous vehicles that will usher in new economic sectors worth billions, but they will also affect other industries in unforeseen ways.

“Automation is a disruptor,” Swoope said, relaying an example. “Most car accidents are due to human error. How will this change things? The biggest source of organ donors is car accidents. We haven’t even thought about that.”

Among the highlights of the Florida Chamber’s “Florida 2030” research project was data showing that Florida is adding 1,100 new residents a day and that those people are younger and more diverse that the state’s current population.

And the majority of those new residents are moving to metro areas – in 12 years, 90 percent of Floridians will live in cities. Population decline, not just deceleration, is coming to the state’s rural areas. Helping develop all corners of the state evenly could help the exploding populations in the Interstate 4 corridor and South Florida from exacerbating stressors in those areas.

“Some people say these rural places are in ‘the middle of nowhere,’” Swoope said, referring to Sebring. “Really, those places are in the ‘middle of everywhere.’ They’re an hour and a half from Tampa, they’re an hour and a half from Orlando.”

No matter how Florida chooses to address these challenges, Swoope said, rapid changes are coming to the state’s economy.

“Once the solid rocket booster is lit, it is going somewhere,” he said. “It’s lit.”

Swoope said some the changes Florida needs to make to be ready for the next decade are workforce development and investing in more high-tech industries such as aviation and aerospace or advanced manufacturing.

Either way, the state needs a plan and it needs to implement it, Swoope said.

“The grade-A implementation of a C plan is better than no implementation of an A plan,” he concluded.

Mark Wilson: Florida is changing, and so are its challenges and opportunities

The Florida Chamber of Commerce kicked off the 2018 Future of Florida Forum with a presentation from its CEO, Mark Wilson, outlining the current climate of Florida and how it could change over the next decade.

“Florida is changing. Our economics, our demographics and our politics are all changing, and these changes bring both opportunities and challenges,” Wilson said. “… ’Last year, I said ‘If Florida was a stock, I would buy all of it that I could.’ I’m not going to do that this year, I want you to tell me.”

Wilson then covered the top-level findings the Florida Chamber’s “Florida 2030” research project, which it bills as a “once-in-a-decade, multimillion-dollar research project.”

Today, the Chamber’s research shows, Florida’s economy is the 17th largest in the world, and it’s outpacing the national growth rate by a full percentage point. It’s also creating one out of every 11 jobs in the country and adding 1,100 residents a day.

“If we’re adding 1,100 people a day, how are we doing that?” he asked. “Are people coming from California? Are people coming from New York? Are people coming from Brazil? Yes.”

The Sunshine State has also begun transitioning from an economy primarily based on tourism and construction to the 20th-most-diverse in the country.

Despite those encouraging trends, Wilson noted that growth and change weren’t heading to every corner of the state – 17 of the state’s 67 counties had a declining population last year, while major the metros in the I-4 corridor and South Florida have continued having explosive growth.

By 2030, Florida will have an additional 5 million residents; many of those new Floridians will be under 55 years old, the Chamber says. To support them, the state will need to create another 1.7 million jobs.

Wilson emphasized that the Chamber is nonpartisan but is “unapologetically pro-business.” How elections shake out in 2018 and the future will have a major impact on the state’s future, he said.

“California is 2,700 miles and only one vote away,” Wilson said. “We have billionaires from out of state that want Florida to be like California, New York or Illinois.”

Kayser Enneking

Kayser Enneking bounces back in SD 8 money race

Gainesville Democrat Kayser Enneking bested Republican Sen. Keith Perry for the second reporting cycle in a row in the race for Alachua County-based Senate District 8.

Enneking, a physician, raked in nearly $51,000 in hard money during the first two weeks of September, replenishing her campaign account after a primary battle that became costly in the final weeks of August.

The weekly reports covering the same stretch for her affiliated political committee, Florida Knows Excellence, saw it tack on another $33,500. Adding in the $84,000 in receipts between Sept. 1 and Sept. 14 brings Enneking’s overall fundraising total to $644,000.

Donors of note include Fort Lauderdale Sen. Gary Farmer, who provided another $25,000 in support via his Floridians for Ethics, Accountability and Responsibility committee and $2,500 from Avera & Smith, the law firm of 2016 SD 8 Democratic nominee Rod Smith, a former state Senator and FDP chair.

Spending far outstripped fundraising, however, with a slate of broadcast, cable and digital media buys eating away $160,000 in campaign funds. Enneking also funneled another $50,000 in committee cash to the Sen. Audrey Gibson-chaired Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

The two accounts had a combined $130,000 banked on Sept. 14.

Perry’s early September haul measured in at $53,350, with $29,350 in receipts heading to his campaign account and the remaining $24,000 collected through his political committee, Building a Prosperous Florida.

His donor sheet included a pair of $10,000 checks from a political committee tied to state Rep. Ben Albritton, who is set to cruise in his bid to succeed Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley in SD 26. Also checking in was Working Together For Florida PAC, the fundraising arm of Naples Sen. Kathleen Passidomo.

Perry spent about $30,000 during the two-week reporting period, with the bulk of those funds paying for campaign staffers and a handful of event sponsorships.

SD 8 covers all of Alachua and Putnam counties as well as the northern half of Marion County. It is one of a handful of districts that became more favorable to Democrats after the Senate map was redrawn ahead of the 2016 elections.

Despite Democrats holding an 8-point lead in voter registrations in the redrawn district, Perry scored a comfortable victory two years ago as the seat was narrowly carried by President Donald Trump.

A recent poll of the race found Perry up 49-38 percent over Enneking, though much of that gap was attributable to her comparatively weak showing among the Democratic base, which is expected to improve before the Nov. 6 general election.

That poll also found former Gainesville City Commissioner Charles Goston pulling 5 percent support for his unaffiliated run despite his lack of on-the-ground campaigning for the job.

David Perez SD 36

David Perez puts a dent in Manny Diaz’s fundraising advantage

Hialeah Republican Rep. Manny Diaz has been piling on the cash for his Senate District 36 campaign for the better part of two years, but Democratic nominee David Perez has chipped away at that lead in the sprint toward Election Day.

Campaign finance reports for the first half of September show Perez brought in $19,185 in hard money with an additional $50,000 heading to his affiliated political committee, Floridians for Change. That performance laps Diaz’s efforts and then some.

The third-term lawmaker added $12,600 in campaign funds between Sept. 1 and Sept. 14, with his Better Florida Education committee receiving $17,000 during the same stretch.

Perez’s early September spending clocked in at more than $100,000, including about $47,000 in ad buys and another $45,000 in committee cash funneled to the Florida Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, a Florida Democratic Party affiliated committee that supports state Senate campaigns.

Diaz showed half as much spending in his reports, with a $20,000 social media ad buy via Campaign Precision topping the list of outgoing funds.

To date, Diaz has a massive advantage in both overall fundraising and cash on hand. He has raised $500,000 in campaign funds and has $192,000 banked while his committee, which predates his Senate bid, had $84,000 at the ready on Sept. 14.

Perez, meanwhile, has raised a combined $356,000 and had about $105,000 left to spend through the same date.

SD 36 is currently held by term-limited Republican Sen. Rene Garcia, who has endorsed Diaz as his successor. The district covers an inland portion of northern Miami-Dade County including Miami Lakes, Hialeah, and Miami Springs.

SD 36 is one of only two Republican-held seats being targeted by Florida Democrats this cycle that voted for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton two years ago, and it did so by a much wider margin than in Tampa-based SD 18, where House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is challenging Republican Sen. Dana Young.

Clinton won the majority Hispanic district by 14 points, though Garcia won re-election over underfunded Democratic challenger Anabella Grohoski Peralta 55-45 percent.

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