Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 97

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.

Capitol reax: Nursing homes, first responders, arming teachers, busting unions

After going back and forth with similar bills, the Legislature cleared a proposal Monday that would require nursing homes to have backup generators on site to keep the air conditioning running during power outages.

The bill, HB 7099, is a priority of Gov. Rick Scott, who issued a similar requirement via an emergency rule following a dozen heat-related deaths at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills following Hurricane Irma.

Upon the bill’s passage, Florida Health Care Association Executive Director Emmett Reed issued the following statement:

“FHCA applauds Florida lawmakers for passing legislation that prioritizes the care and comfort of the residents in our state’s nursing homes. The Legislature’s ratification of the nursing home generator rule is another important step to ensuring Florida remains a leader when it comes to taking care of our seniors, especially during disasters. We appreciate the Legislature, Governor Scott and the Agency for Health Care Administration for allowing us to be part of the discussion and considering our recommendations as this rule was developed. Our priority has always been to strengthen emergency procedures so the focus remains on the well-being of residents and the emergency planning that ensures their safety. We look forward to the Governor signing this legislation into law.”

Also on Monday, lawmakers sent a bill that would expand workers’ compensation benefits to first responders who suffer job-related post-traumatic stress disorder to Scott’s desk.

A spokesman said the governor will “review the legislation” when received, but would not commit to Scott’s approval. If CFO Jimmy Patronis has any sway, however, SB 376 will get Scott’s signature.

Patronis said the following after the bill cleared both chambers with unanimous votes:

“From day one this has been a life or death issue. Our firefighters are attempting suicide at a rate FIVE TIMES HIGHER than the general population, and they are thinking about suicide at a rate NINE TIMES HIGHER than the general population. We’ve heard horrific stories about loss of life, and the impact tragedy has on our first responders and their families.

“First responders show up for us every day, without hesitation or questioning our politics, and today Florida showed up for them. Last year four states, including Texas, increased mental health benefits for first responders. I’m proud we can now add Florida to that list.

“To those who refused to support this measure from the beginning: we got it done without you.

“Thank you to Senate President Joe Negron, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Sen. Lauren Book, Rep. Matt Willhite, and all of the co-sponsors in both chambers.”

By early evening, the final vote hadn’t come down for the school safety package pieced together in the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting, but the Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence put out a final statement against certain provisions in the bill.

One such measure – the arming of teachers – was watered down in the Senate bill Monday afternoon.

Coalition co-chairs Patricia Brigham and Andy Pelosi, as well as League of Women Voters of Florida President Pamela Goodman, put out the following statement ahead the vote Monday evening:

“As the Senate is poised to vote on SB 7026 (School Safety Bill), we remain opposed to any policy that will arm administrators, teachers, or staff as a way to defend against a mass shooting. While SB 7026 does contain certain important provisions, arming people in our schools that are not School Resource Officers (SROs), whose ONLY job is to protect the school, will not properly protect our schools and will ultimately cost more money in the long run.

“We call on the Senate to strip any plan that will arm administrators, teachers, or staff before sending a bill to the House. If the Senate fails to act as we have outlined, we call on the House to fully debate SB 7026 and fully remove provisions arming teachers, administrators, or staff.

“The issues are too grave and the stakes too high not to fully debate all issues related to school safety in Florida.”

The other K-12 package moving through the Legislature Monday was House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s favored bill, HB 7055. It got approval from the Senate with a 20-17 vote, and the House sent it to the Governor’s desk with a 74-39 vote.

While many teachers have negative things to say about the “union-busting” provisions in the bill, its passage earned praise from Americans for Prosperity-Florida. AFP-FL Director Chris Hudson put out the following statement Monday:

“This bill is a win-win. It stands up for the rights of teachers who don’t want their money going to a union they don’t support and provides Florida’s kids with a better education options. We commend the Senate for passing this bill, and hope the House send it to the Governor for his signature as soon as possible.

“Our activists have worked tirelessly to engage with citizens and lawmakers about the importance of passing these measures into law. Their hard work every session continues to inspire positive outcomes throughout our legislative process.”

Nick DiCeglie hosting March Madness fundraiser

State House candidate Nick DiCeglie is holding a fundraiser during the height of March Madness, and attendees are encouraged to wear some flair for their favorite team, be it an alma mater or a Cinderella.

The fundraiser is slated for 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Angry Pepper Taphouse in Seminole, 9366 Oakhurst Road.

Attendees are encouraged to wear the logo of their favorite tournament team, so those on the bubble may need to wait until after Selection Sunday to pick out their attire.

DiCeglie’s invite didn’t say what logo he’ll be wearing, the invite did list his March Madness team, which includes Carol Bumiller, Diane Blum, Janice Hill, Carol Williams, Ann Muller, Diane Nelson and Mary Erickson-Tweiten.

Those looking to attend can RSVP by emailing rick@politicalcapitalflorida.com.

While aren’t set for March Madness, voters have a little bit better of an idea of who’ll be facing off in the House District 66 race.

DiCeglie, a Republican, is running for the coastal Pinellas County seat currently held by termed out Republican Rep. Larry Ahern.

He faces St. Petersburg attorney Berny Jacques in the GOP primary for HD 66, while Democrat Alex Heeren and Reform Party candidate Paul Bachmann are so far uncontested in the primary.

The winner of the Republican Primary will be the undisputed No. 1 seed in the general election – HD 66 has is a safe Republican seat.

Through the end of January, Jacques held the fundraising lead with nearly $108,000 on hand between his campaign account and political committee, Protect Pinellas.

DiCeglie, who runs Clearwater-based trash removal and recycling company Solar Sanitation, had about $64,000 on hand in his campaign account through the same date.

The invitation is below.

DiCeglie Fundraiser 3.15.18

Conan Gallaty named Tampa Bay Times chief digital officer

Conan Gallaty
Conan Gallaty

The Tampa Bay Times announced Monday that it’s bringing on Conan Gallaty as chief digital officer to oversee and expand upon the paper’s digital presence.

“It is an honor to join the Tampa Bay Times, an organization I have long admired. By pairing its talented staff with new digital products, I see great opportunities for growth,” Gallaty said.

Gallaty, 41, currently works as the president of digital for WEHCO Media, a communications company with interests in newspapers, magazines, cable television, and digital services in six states.

He will join the Tampa Bay Times in April.

“Conan Gallaty has proven himself as a leader in digital publishing and innovation at every chapter of his career, and I am confident he will make a big difference at the Times,” said Paul Tash, the Times chairman and chief executive.

Gallaty graduated from the University of Georgia with a degree in publication management. After starting out as a reporter for the Rome NewsTribune in Rome, GA, he moved on to become the new media director of the Augusta Chronicle, where he developed the award-winning websites AugustaChronicle.com and Augusta.com, which focuses on golf.

In 2006, he joined the New York Times Company as its director of online operations and strategy for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and in 2009 he moved on to WEHCO.

While at the Arkansas-based company he supervised 14 independent publishing markets and oversaw a 107 percent increase in digital revenue. He was named WEHCO’s president of digital in 2017.

René Flowers adds endorsements for Pinellas School Board re-election

Pinellas County School Board Chair René Flowers picked up three endorsements Monday for her re-election campaign to the District 7 seat.

Flowers picked up nods from Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Lisa Wheeler-Bowman and Mt. Zion Primitive Baptist Church Pastor Dr. G. Gregg Murray.

“Students from all over the county are in need of a strong advocate who can adamantly and assertively address concerns related to education and propose solid solutions,” Welch said. “Solutions such as pairing students with mentors, assuring that there is a nurse in every school, recruiting early for the best and brightest teachers, and reducing the suspension rates by embracing Restorative Justice/Restorative Practices into the school system.

“For these reasons and many more, it is my honor to endorse Rene Flowers for the Pinellas County School Board District 7 seat — doing so assures our community that they will have a voice at the table.”

Wheeler-Bowman added she has found Flowers to be “a strong advocate for the community she represents, especially for the students of Pinellas County Schools.”

“As a grandparent of a student attending Melrose Elementary School, I can attest first hand to the forward movement of the district. The partnerships with the City of St. Petersburg for after school programs in the Campbell Park Community, increase in family support services, and the decrease in juvenile arrests are examples of the success of her tenure,” she said.

Murray said Flowers was “a tireless champion in her District 7, the city of St. Petersburg, and throughout Pinellas County.”

“Rene very deservedly presently serves our county as Chairwoman of the School Board. Some may not know this fact, but Rene has volunteered for over the past 13 years to speak to youth in the school system about health education and making positive choices. She has positively impacted our youth far beyond the expectations of a School Board member,” Murray said.

Flowers is running for her second full term on the school board.

She was first elected in 2012 to serve out the remainder of deceased School Board Member Lew Williams’ term.

She won that election with 77 percent of the vote over Glenton Gilzean, and in 2014 she took 96 percent of the vote against a write-in opponent.

School board elections are nonpartisan and will be on the Aug. 28 primary election ballot.

Bill to cut college tuition fees for military clears Legislature

The Senate last week unanimously passed a House bill to help cut fees tacked on to college tuition for students who are active duty service members.

HB 75, sponsored by Destin Republican Rep. Mel Ponder, would give Florida College System institutions, formerly known as community colleges, the option of waiving all or part of their fees for active duty students who are also receiving Military Tuition Assistance.

Panama City Republican Sen. George Gainer shepherded HB 75’s companion bill, SB 460, in the Senate.

“I am optimistic about the opportunity this bill provides for institutions in the Florida College System to have a presence on military installations in Florida,” Ponder said in a news release. “It also promotes the use of our excellent Florida colleges by active duty service members using Military Tuition Assistance to advance their education.”

Gainer added that the proposal “is a great step in ensuring our active duty service members are not financially punished for taking advantage of the Florida College System, which I know to be some of the best colleges in the nation.”

Tuition fees are levied per credit hour for things such as student activities, capital improvement or transportation. Fees at Florida colleges can run up to 50 percent of the cost of the tuition portion, which generally comes in under $100 per credit hour.

The lawmakers said the bill was designed to adhere to new MTA rules that disallowed the payment of such fees and barred institutions that charge them from offering courses on military installations.

The bill would allow colleges who took advantage of the fee break the opportunity to again offer classes on military institution and boost their enrollment.

Northwest Florida State College President Devin Stephenson lauded Ponder and Gainer for carrying the bill and said its passage marked a “historic day for military students in Florida.”

“I cannot think of a more appropriate way to honor them for their service to our country than through this provisional step to outstanding educational opportunities and a better quality of life upon degree or credential attainment,” he said.

Bryan Nelson’s about-face on red-light cameras

Former Republican Rep. Bryan Nelson has shifted positions on red-light cameras now that he’s running for Apopka mayor, but it’s starting to look like the change wasn’t so much an evolution as it was a total 180.

Nelson was an outspoken champion of red-light cameras when he was in the Legislature, often promoting the controversial devices for improving the “safety” of Florida roads in the face of criticism labeling them as money grabs for local governments.

“Folks that’s safety,” Nelson said in 2010. “That’s what we’re looking for.”

While there wasn’t much research on whether red-light cameras tangibly improved road safety back then, a 2016 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety provides a heaping helping of vindication for Nelson and the other lawmakers who cast votes in favor of the devices.

That study found cities with the cameras had a 21 percent lower rate of red-light running fatalities than cities without the cameras.

Fast forward to 2018 and Nelson, the one-time staunch backer of red-light cameras, is putting out ads promising to take down every camera in the city if he gets elected.

He makes a couple points. Apopka is a bit out of control when it comes to red-light cameras. From 2012 through 2013 Apopka raked in over $3.6 million from red-light cameras – $200,000 more than the much larger City of Orlando.

And boy does it sting when that $158 ticket shows up in the mail. Maybe that explains why Nelson changed his mind.

So, one red-light camera enough to flip Bryan Nelson’s mind on cameras. A single $158 dollar ticket made him backflip on years of saying red-light cameras were the price to pay for road safety.

There’s also that study — the same one that vindicated Nelson’s 2010 “safety” claim — which shows cities that have cameras but choose to remove them see their red-light running fatalities spike by a third. Is $158 worth more to him than Apopka lives?

Nelson is running against incumbent Mayor Joe Kilsheimer.

The election is March 13.

Email Insights: Dana Young a no-show on assault weapons vote

Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young got slammed by her Democratic re-election opponent in a Saturday email for not voting on an amendment that would ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Tampa attorney Bob Buesing said the move was “not surprising” given Young’s “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, but still said the lack of a vote was “profoundly disappointing.”

“Last week, we witnessed an incredible outpouring of passionate testimony before the Senate Rules Committee by students, teachers, and others deeply affected by the tragedy at Stoneman Douglas High. Still, the Republicans killed the amendment,” Buesing wrote in the email.

“Today, a similar amendment came before the Senate floor in a special Saturday session, and Dana walked right out of the chamber as the vote was called.

“Dana has made it clear: she will protect the NRA’s priorities at all costs, including the safety of our school children, and she’s not afraid to walk out on her responsibility as a Senator in the process.”

Buesing is currently Young’s only opponent for re-election to Senate District 18, which covers part of Hillsborough County.

Buesing also ran in the 2016 election and lost to Young 48-41, while two NPA candidates – Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove – received more than 10 percent of the vote.

Redner, a Tampa businessman, said he is not running for the seat in 2018 and would instead back Buesing’s candidacy.

FPL announces new solar sites across Sunshine State

Utility company Florida Power & Light announced the sites of four solar power plants expected to be brought online by the middle of next year.

The sites are in Columbia, Miami-Dade, St. Lucie and Volusia counties. Construction is slated to start later this year and will create about 200 jobs per plant, FPL said.

“With the support of communities across the state, we are advancing smart, affordable clean energy infrastructure while keeping customer bills low,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “These plants are another step forward in our ongoing strategy of making smart investments to better serve our customers now and in the future.”

Each of the four facilities will have a power output of 74.5 megawatts. FPL said the combined output of the plants is enough to power about 60,000 homes. The solar plants are also expected to save FPL customers $40 million over their operational lifetime.

FPL announced plans to build several new solar power plants over the next five years and already has 14 in operation. When FPL reaches the end of its announced solar roadmap in 2023, it will have installed 10 million solar panels.

The company said it expects solar energy production to pass the combined output of its coal- and oil-powered plants by 2020.

“It’s very exciting to see FPL’s commitment to invest in solar energy with the addition of four new solar energy centers in Florida,” said Jacqui Sulek, chapter conservation manager for Audubon Florida.

“Clean energy technology is a great way to meet energy demands while reducing emissions and saving water. We at Audubon look forward to continuing our partnering with FPL on stewardship opportunities that will add value for birds, pollinators and other wildlife.”

In addition to the solar announcement, FPL touted approval from the Public Service Commission to proceed with its plans to modernize its plant in Dania Beach.

When  the natural gas-powered Dania Beach Clean Energy Center comes online in 2022 it will cut primary air emissions by 70 percent and save ratepayers an estimated $337 million over its lifetime.

Adam Putnam committee raises $431K in February

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam raised another $431,000 last month for his political committee, Florida Grown, according to records on the committee’s website.

The new numbers show Florida Grown at nearly $20 million in total fundraising since it was formed in early 2015.

Putnam is running for the GOP nomination for Governor. He currently faces Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the Republican Primary, while House Speaker Richard Corcoran is expected to enter the race after the 2018 Legislative Session.

Florida Grown had about $14 million on hand at the end of January. The new haul was balanced out by about $124,000 in spending. The committee had about $14.3 million in the bank at the end of February.

The largest contribution last month was a $97,000 check from beer distributor August A. Busch, followed by $75,000 from a political committee affiliated with the Associated Industries of Florida.

Putnam’s committee also brought in a half-dozen checks for $25,000. Contributors at that level included Wallace Burt, Barbara Carlton, Mel Sembler, Two Rivers Ranch, Phillips and Jordan Inc., and the Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC.

Expenditures last month included $24,748 to Silloh Consulting, $20,800 to Forward Strategies, and $11,166 to Dogwood Communications.

Official campaign finance reports for candidates and committees are due to the Florida Division of Elections by March 12.

At the end of January, Putnam’s campaign account had total fundraising of $4.1 million with nearly $2.8 million on hand.

Matt Caldwell takes issue with retailers ‘caving’ on guns

Lehigh Acres Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell said Thursday that retailers are within their rights to pull guns from their shelves, but consumers who don’t favor such policies can vote with their dollars.

“The Citizens United case confirmed that the 1st Amendment protects everyone’s free speech, both individuals and corporations like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart. If you don’t want to sell a product to someone based on your beliefs, you don’t have to, whether it’s firearms or cakes for same-sex weddings,” said Caldwell, one of three Republicans running for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018.

“I’m a proud lifetime member of the NRA and I’ll be sure to spend my dollars where they are welcome.”

Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart both announced Wednesday that they would limit the sale of firearms to customers aged 21 and up.

The move came two weeks after a 19-year-old gunman killed 17 people, including 14 students, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Grocery conglomerate Kroger, which sells guns through its subsidiary Fred Meyer, said Thursday it would also require gun buyers to be over 21. There are no Fred Meyer locations in Florida.

Dick’s said it would also stop selling assault rifles and high-capacity magazines. Walmart stopped selling assault rifles and related accessories in 2015, but said they would also pull guns, air rifles and toys that resemble them from store shelves.

The 21-and-up rule for rifles is favored by Gov. Rick Scott, who included the provision in his post-Parkland legislative plan released last week. Handguns are already subject to the 21-and-up rule.

The National Rifle Association is against the age restriction.

Caldwell faces Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman in the GOP primary for Agriculture Commissioner. Caldwell’s campaign has touted that he is “the only candidate that has consistently received an A rating from the NRA.”

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