Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 57

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for SaintPetersBlog and FloridaPolitics.com. While at the University of Florida, Wilson was an editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and after graduation, he moved to Los Angeles to cover business deals for The Hollywood Reporter. Before joining Extensive Enterprises, Wilson covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools.

Florida Lottery confirms resignation of three high-level employees

The Florida Lottery on Thursday confirmed that three top officials had turned in their resignations—but wouldn’t say why. 

Secretary Jim Poppell “is committed to the Lottery fulfilling its mission of funding education for Florida’s students,” spokeswoman Connie Barnes said in an email. The Lottery’s profits go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which pays for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships, among other things.

“The department anticipates filling the General Counsel and Legislative Affairs position within the next week,” Barnes added. “We are currently evaluating how to best to utilize the Deputy Secretary (of Administration) position.”

She did not, however, provide copies of resignation letters or explain under what circumstances the three had left the agency.

But one insider told FloridaPolitics.com that the resignations are part of a “housecleaning” by Poppell, appointed by Gov. Rick Scott last month to replace Tom Delacenserie, now the head of the Kentucky Lottery. Poppell had been the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s chief of staff.

“There have been a lot of complaints about the Lottery, mostly from vendors about the department’s procurement process,” said the source, who asked not to be identified. “I think Poppell was given a mandate to clean house as the Lottery is a high priority for Gov. Scott … Three top people just don’t coincidentally decide to quit at the same time.”

Michael Manley had been Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Legislative Affairs, with a listed salary of $80,000. Josefina “Josie” Tamayo, a former circuit judge in Tallahassee, was General Counsel with a salary of $109,074 a year.

Tamayo, who’s held several top legal positions in state government over the years, was appointed a judge in 2010 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. She was defeated in a 2012 election for her seat by Tallahassee attorney Barbara Hobbs and left the bench.

Private university advocacy group honors Florida lawmakers

An organization representing the interests of Florida’s private colleges and universities released a “presidential honor roll” thanking some of the state’s top lawmakers for the historic increase in  financial aid for Sunshine State students in the 2017 Legislative Session.

The Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida lobbies on behalf of about 30 private not-for-profit schools across the state, including the University of Miami, Flagler University and the University of Tampa.

On the honor roll this year were Senate President Joe Negron and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, as well as Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala and House Appropriations Chair Carlos Trujillo.

The group also honored the chairs of the higher education appropriations subcommittees and policy committees in both chambers.

Future Senate President Bill Galvano and Sen. Dorothy Hukill held those posts in the senate, while Reps. Larry Ahern, Michael Bileca, Manny Diaz, Jr. and Elizabeth Porter held them in the House.

Also making the honor roll from the Senate:

  • Sen. Aaron Bean
  • Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto
  • Minority Leader Oscar Braynon
  • Sen. Audrey Gibson
  • Former Senate President Tom Lee
  • Sen. Bill Montford
  • Sen. Keith Perry
  • Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez
  • Sen. Wilton Simpson
  • Sen. Kelli Stargel

And from the House:

  • Rep. Ramon Alexander
  • Rep. Bob Cortes
  • Rep. W. Travis Cummings
  • Rep. James Grant
  • Rep. Shevrin Jones
  • Rep. Larry Lee
  • Rep. Tom Leek
  • Rep. Amber Mariano
  • Rep. Alexandra Miller
  • Rep. Mel Ponder
  • Rep. Jake Raburn
  • Rep. Paul Renner.

In total 14 senators and 18 representatives made the list, which ICUF started releasing annually last year. In that edition, 20 senators and 17 representatives were included.

Last year’s honorees who are still in office but missing from the 2017 edition include Sens. Anitere Flores, David Simmons, Jeff Brandes and Denise Grimsley as well as Reps. Jose Felix Diaz, Katie Edwards, Evan Jenne, George Moraitis, Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls.


Florida Trend names lobbying firm Meenan P.A. one of “Best Companies to Work for in Florida”

Florida Trend released its 2017 Best Companies to Work for in Florida list this week and lobbying and regulatory law firm Meenan P.A. made the top-10 in the small companies category.

Meenan was the highest-ranked Tallahassee-based company in the rankings and was one of only two legal-lobbying firms in the 2017 rankings. West Palm Beach-based Gunster also made the list in the large companies category.s

“So much of what makes our firm stand out is the people who work here,” said the firm’s managing shareholder Tim Meenan. “We embrace all they have to offer, and this recognition tells the next generation of legal professionals that they can look to Meenan P.A. as one of the best places to work.”

“It’s an honor to be recognized for the community and culture we have built here,” Meenan added. “We are dedicated to fostering an environment of professionalism and efficiency, and from that comes the outstanding work we produce for our clients.”

Meenan lobbies on behalf of companies ranging from Fortune 500 to small businesses, and also provides insurance, extended warranty, service contract, and other regulatory law services to clients in all 50 states.

In the first quarter of 2017, the firm brought in between $50,000 and $100,000 for legislative lobbying in the Sunshine State. Its clients included America’s Health Insurance Plans, Infinite Energy, Inc., Nationwide Insurance and The Humane Society, among others.

Florida Trend partners with the Best Companies Group to produce the rankings and judges companies that choose to participate with a questionnaire on company policies, practices and demographics before providing a randomly selected group of employees with an anonymous 78-question multiple choice and short answer survey.

Meenan P.A. and the other companies on the list were judged in eight categories: Leadership and planning; corporate culture and communications; role satisfaction; work environment; relationship with supervisor; training, development and resources; pay and benefits; and overall engagement.

“The best companies obviously provide strong pay and benefits to their employees, but they also offer fun diversions such as ice cream socials, holiday parties and field days,” said Florida Trend Publisher Andy Corty, “And these top companies encourage employees to participate in the organization’s overall success with training and open communications.”

The questionnaire and surveys put Meenan at the No. 8 spot among small companies. The firm’s employees, which include the 2017 additions of former Rep. Alan Williams and former Rick Scott staffer Karl Rasmussen, were particularly impressed with Meenan’s bonuses.

Meenan takes a bottom-up approach to its year-end bonus structure, by putting its administrative employees first in line, followed by associates before the firm’s partners take their slice.

The firm also boasts extensive community involvement including sponsorship of foster care group Boys Town, events supporting the March of Dimes, and its collection of food donations for Second Harvest.


Third Republican files for House District 51

Republican Tim Tumulty announced Monday he would run again for House District 51, where he unsuccessfully challenged Republican Rep. Tom Goodson last year.

“I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had over the years to develop a deep understanding of our community,” said Tumulty. “As the former Mayor of Cocoa Beach, I saw firsthand how the decisions made in Tallahassee have a direct impact on our community and our way of life.”

“I plan to continue to fight for our conservative values in the Florida House by keeping taxes low, developing more trade school opportunities for our children and holding our government accountable,” he continued. “I look forward to meeting with as many people as I can on the campaign trail and the opportunity to represent their interests in Tallahassee.”

Goodson switched to the reliably Republican HD 51 from HD 50 last year after former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli termed out of the Legislature. He beat Tumulty with 61.7 percent of the vote in the August 2016 Republican Primary.

Goodson is now termed out, making way for Tumulty and a pair of other Republicans to duke it out for the Space Coast seat. So far, Thomas O’Neill and Taylor Sirois are the only other candidates to enter the race.

Both candidates filed for the seat in April, so neither has filed their first campaign finance report.

When he ran for the seat last cycle, Tumulty was able to raise nearly $30,000, $6,500 through loans and about $23,000 through contributions.

The Cocoa Beach Republican holds degrees from Brevard Community College, the University of Central Florida and the Florida Institute of Technology.

He currently works as a math and physics teacher at Cocoa Beach Jr./Sr. High School, and in the past has worked in restaurant management, as a mortgage broker, and as an electrical engineer at Kennedy Space Center.

Since he officially filed on April 28, his first campaign finance report, covering the last three days of the month, is due May 10 alongside the inaugural reports from O’Neill and Sirois.

Florida comes in at No. 20 in distracted driving study

Florida is the 20th most distracted state according to a nationwide driver safety study released by driver safety company Zendrive Monday.

The study took in data from 3.1 million drivers over 5.6 million miles of driving and found that nationwide drivers spent an average of 3.5 minute an hour using their phone or other device.

Only 12 percent of road trips tracked in the study featured no phone use.

Floridians came in slightly under that average with about 5 percent of drive time – or 3 minutes an hour – spent using a device, despite their being no statewide ban on handheld device use on the road.

On the local level, Miami was the third most distracted city in the country, with drivers spending about 5.2 percent of their time on the phone. The only major metros coming in higher were Los Angeles, which is under a statewide ban on phone use, and Austin, TX, which is not.

Traffic deaths are on the rise after a decade of decline and Zendrive points to a study from the National Safety Institute that estimates more than 40,000 traffic deaths last year were preventable.

The company said tracking phone use and getting an accurate reading on its effect on drivers presents some challenges, such as the lack of a “phone use” check box on most forms police use to report crashes.

“Standard fields include factors such as unsafe speed, failure to yield and a generic ‘driver distraction/inattention,’ which could be used to report anything from changing the radio station to eating to a driver’s statement of ‘I just didn’t see her,’” the report said.

Zendrive, however, uses technology built into smartphones to measure driving, so by virtue of running on a smartphone, the company can measure phone use while driving.

The study is based on driver data collected through the app between December 2016 and February 2017. The data set includes more than 570 million trips and detects phone use when a driver handles a phone for a certain amount of time.

For privacy reasons, the company did not differentiate between talking, texting and the use of apps in the study.

Charlie Crist leads Florida congressional pack in first quarter fundraising

First quarter fundraising numbers are in for U.S. Representatives and first-term Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist leads the Florida Delegation with $720,000 raised between Jan. 1 and March 31.

Crist brought in $578,000 of that money through individual contributions, while $137,000 came in through committees. He also kicked in $5,400 of his own money for his CD 13 re-election campaign. He started the second quarter with $672,000 in the bank.

Crist’s performance was far and away better than any of the other incumbent Democrats, though fellow first-termer Stephanie Murphy posted a strong $286,000 report in the Orlando-based 7th Congressional District.

She spent just $41,000, leaving her with $256,000 in her war chest at the end of the quarter.

Former Democratic Party chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz also broke the $250,000 mark for the quarter with $287,000 in total receipts which left her with $236,000 on hand on March 31.

The only other Democrat to break the six figure mark was Lois Frankel, who raised about $206,000 in her re-election campaign for CD 21. The South Florida Democrat spent about $65,000 leaving her with $926,500 in her campaign account on April 1.

The other Democrats didn’t fare as well. Freshman Rep. Al Lawson brought in $72,000 in CD 5, and Darren Soto raised $41,000 in CD 9. Rep. Ted Deutch raised $51,000, Fredrica Wilson brought in $33,000, Alcee Hastings added just under $29,000, Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor raised just $23,500, and Val Demings has yet to file a report for the quarter.

Republicans had more incumbents breach the six-figure mark, though none were close to Crist’s monster Q1.

The top GOP fundraiser this quarter was Brian Mast, who took over the CD 18 seat from former Rep. Patrick Murphy after he decided to run against Marco Rubio for Senate. Mast was able to raise just under $430,000 and spent about $114,000, leaving him with $410,000 in the bank.

Rep. Vern Buchanan came in second among Florida Republicans with $395,000 raised. His $1.8 million in cash on hand is the highest among Republican incumbents.

Not far behind in total assets is Ron DeSantis, who despite only raising $14,500 for the quarter has nearly $1.7 million in the bank.

The bulk of the rest of the GOP incumbents hovered around the $100,000 zone in fundraising.

Gus Bilirakis raised just shy of $150,000 and has $160,000 on hand; first-term Rep. Matt Gaetz brought in $122,000 and has $129,000 on hand; Neal Dunn brought in $114,000 and has $67,000 on hand; Daniel Webster raised $105,000 and finished the quarter with $76,000 in the bank; and Dennis Ross raised $146,000 and has $126,000 in the bank.

The other incumbents are lagging behind the pack.

Rep. Tom Rooney took in $73,000 and spent $60,000 to finish the quarter with $85,000 on hand, while John Rutherford raised $45,700 and spent $16,000 for an on hand total of $32,000.

Finally, Gainesville Republican Rep. Ted Yoho raised a lowly $15,000 for the quarter and has about $100,000 in the bank.

Retailers expect record-setting Easter spending

A survey conducted by the National Retail Federation is predicting record-setting Easter spending this year with a projected total of $18.4 billion in spending for the Christian holiday.

“With Easter falling almost an entire month later than last year, that means warmer weather and more people in the mood to spend money to celebrate,” said Florida Retail Federation President/CEO R. Scott Shalley.

“This is great news for Sunshine State retailers, and with more consumers spending more money, we expect stores to be busy in the days leading up to Easter.”

The prime date for Easter this year, roughly determined by the first full moon after the vernal equinox, will cause a 6 percent hop in spending over last year when shoppers spent $17.3 billion. The per-person average will also jump 4 percent from the previous year to $152.

Customers aren’t putting all their eggs in one basket, either. Nearly nine out of 10 shoppers will pick up food or candy, while 61 percent plan to pick up gifts, and half say they will buy clothing, up from 45 percent last year.

About two out of five shoppers plan to buy flowers, decorations or greeting cards.

Big retailers, like Target and Wal-Mart, can expect a big influx of Easter shoppers during the holiday weekend, with 58 percent of Easter shoppers planning to make a stop. A little under half of those customers will visit department stores, while about a quarter plan to shop small at a local business.

Online shopping is also expected to get a 6 percent bump over last year, when 21 percent of consumers made their purchases from the comfort of their home, presumably while in bunny slippers.

Overall, food will make up the biggest piece of the pie with a projected $5.8 billion in spending — and that’s not including the expected $2.6 billion spent on candy. Clothes follow at $3.3 billion, gifts at $2.9 billion, then $1.2 billion in flowers and $1.1 billion on decorations.

Of course, the holiday isn’t all about shopping. For some, it’s about family; for others, it’s about egg hunts; for many more, it’s a significant religious experience.

More than 60 percent of respondents say they will spend the holiday with family, while 52 percent stated that they would head to church. A third said they would have an Easter Egg Hunt, while a sixth of respondents say they would go to a restaurant or open gifts.


HD 115 candidate Vance Aloupis breaks $100K mark in first month

Republican Vance Aloupis’ first finance report shows more than $100,000 in contributions for his campaign to take over for Rep. Michael Bileca in House District 115.

Aloupis, an attorney, took in $104,505 across 267 contributions since filing for the seat on March 1. The haul puts him far ahead of his two Republican Primary challengers, Carmen Sotomayor and Carlos Gobel, neither of whom has managed to reach the $1,000 mark.

The donor roll for the first-time candidate reads like a couple of major Florida politicos as well as dozens of business and individual small donors. Among the contributions are $1,000 checks from lobbyist Ron Book and a pair from PR firm Sachs Media Group and its founder, Ron Sachs.

Aloupis spent just $5,000 for the month, mainly on bank fees and website design, though he also spent a little money on catering a campaign event through well-known capitol area restaurant Andrew’s.

The final tally leaves Aloupis with about $98,000 on hand heading into April.

Aloupis is an alumnus of the University of Miami law school and spent several years practicing law before joining the Children’s Movement of Florida in 2010.

The group, founded by former Miami Herald publisher David Lawrence Jr., Aloupis and others, advocates for increased education funding and parental training for Florida children during their first five years of life.

In 2016, the 33-year-old took over Lawrence’s position as CEO of the Children’s Movement and though he is just now dipping his toe into politics, Aloupis has been appointed to several boards including a 2012 appointment by Gov. Rick Scott to the board of Volunteer Florida.

In 2014, Vance was honored by The Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida as the Young Floridian of the Year. And, in 2016, he was named one of three “next generation” visionaries by the Miami Herald.

Republican lawmakers raked in contributions ahead of the 2017 Legislative Session

New campaign finance reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections show Republican lawmakers stockpiled a lot of cash the week before the 2017 Legislative Session kicked off.

House Republicans Ben Albritton and Manny Diaz each had productive months for their campaigns to transition from the House to the Senate next year.

Albritton, who is running for SD 26, brought in more $102,400 between his campaign and committee, Advancing Florida Agriculture.

The bulk of that money, $64,400 went to the committee, which brought in $15,000 from U.S. Sugar and $6,500 from the Florida Committee for Conservative Leadership. An additional five donors, including the Florida Chamber of Commerce, chipped in at the $5,000 level.

On the campaign side, Albritton added an even $38,000 from 43 contributions, including 33 for the maximum donation of $1,000.

Albritton has a combined $199,000 on hand between the two accounts.

Diaz, who is running in SD 36, added $27,750 through his campaign account and another $31,500 through his committee, Better Florida Education.

The committee contributions included $10,000 a piece from OD-EyePAC and the Florida Jobs PAC, and at the end of the month the account had about $57,000 on hand.

The campaign cash came in across 30 contributions, including $1,000 checks from Publix, Charter Communications and six checks from subsidiaries of Jacksonville-based Vestcor.

He ended the month with about $105,000 in his campaign account.

Also posting a solid month was SD 14 Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who has been unable to make it to Tallahassee for session due to ongoing treatment for cervical cancer.

The Port Orange Republican added $25,500 to her campaign account in March, besting her February total of $21,500.

Donors last month included Anheuser Busch, lobbyist Ron Book, Friends of Dana Young and Innovate Florida, the committee run by future Senate President Bill Galvano.

The March showing left Hukill with $47,000 on hand for her 2018 re-election bid for the seat covering parts of Brevard and Volusia counties.

Wilton Simpson tacks on $263K for political committee

Future Senate President Wilton Simpson added more than a quarter-million dollars to his committee account last month, according to fundraising reports filed with the Florida Division of Elections.

The committee, Jobs for Florida, brought in $263,000 in the week leading up to the 2017 Legislative Session. Lawmakers are not allowed to raise money while the legislature is in session.

The largest committee donation came from the Florida Jobs PAC, which gave $25,000, followed by $15,000 a piece from Benderson Development Co., OD-EyePAC, and the Fontainebleau Resort. Another six donors pitched in $10,000, including the Florida Manufactured Housing Association, Aetna and the Associated Industries of Florida through their Voice of Florida Business political committee.

Simpson’s political committee spent $47,295 in March, leaving it with a little more than $1.1 million in cash on hand.

Capital Finance Consulting received the bulk of the committee’s spending, with about $34,000 heading to the Tallahassee-based firm.

In addition to the committee cash, Simpson brought in $24,600 for his 2018 re-election in SD 10, which covers Citrus, Hernando, and part of Pasco counties.

The Trilby lawmaker spent more than he brought in on the campaign side, however, with about $27,000 in expenditures mainly for campaign consulting. He had about $275,000 on hand in the account heading into April.

The SD 10 senator is set to become Senate President in 2020 after fellow Republican Sen. Bill Galvano.

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