Drew Wilson – Page 7 – Florida Politics

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.

Airbnb delivers $12 million in South Florida tax revenue

Vacation rental platform Airbnb announced Friday that it has collected and remitted more than $12 million in tax revenue to Miami-Dade and Broward counties over the past year.

Those collections are from separate agreements agreed to by each county’s commission that saw Airbnb start automatically collecting 6 percent bed taxes and remitting the revenue directly to county coffers.

Those deals, which went into effect in May 2017, weren’t expected to be nearly as lucrative when the counties approved them — county officials estimated the Airbnb tax partnerships could bring $6 million to Miami-Dade and $1 million to Broward annually.

The split ended up being $8.4 million to Miami-Dade and $3.7 million to Broward.

Airbnb has since entered into dozens of similar agreements with counties across the state. Airbnb also has a partnership with the Florida Department of Revenue to collect and remit state sales taxes on all taxable bookings throughout the Sunshine State.

The benefits of the vacation rental platform aren’t just for governments. Airbnb announced in April that Florida seniors were able to add $150 million in supplemental via the platform in 2017.

Traditional hotels are doing just fine as well, the company says, pointing to Visit Florida data and asserting that its business model complements, rather than competes with, the hotel industry.

“This all suggests that vacation rentals on Airbnb and other platforms are opening up the state to a new demographic of tourists by catering to travelers who are less able to afford hotels, those who desire to stay in neighborhoods or cities that lack hotels, and families who prefer to vacation together under one roof,” the Airbnb release said.

Report: Tallahassee one of the worst cities in U.S. for property crime

A new report based on FBI data lists Tallahassee as the tenth worst city in the country when it comes to property crime rates.

The FBI defines property crime as burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft, however the Reviews.org report excluded vehicle related crimes in preparing its report. With those out of the mix, it found 52 property crimes per 1,000 residents in Florida’s capital city.

The only other Florida city on the list is Fort Lauderdale, which placed eighth.

The report states that most of the cities on its bottom-10 list “at least aren’t violent,” however that may not be the case for Tallahassee, which last year earned the dubious distinction of “most dangerous city in Florida” based on the FBI violent crime data for 2015.

That report showed Tallahassee had 767 violent crimes for every 100,000 residents in 2015, far more than in any of Florida’s 21 other metro areas observed by the FBI.

Like last year, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is likely feeling nonplussed about his city’s standings. Though at least his campaign already has a template for when Tally earns such distinctions.

As his spox said last year: “People expect that communities will have challenges – what they care about is how you address them, and the Mayor’s taken public safety very seriously.”

Whether Gillum will do anything address this new challenge is yet to be seen.

Holly Raschein

Holly Raschein adds more than $20K for HD 120 re-election bid

Facing challengers in August and November, Key Largo Republican Rep. Holly Raschein tacked on another $21,680 last month for her re-election campaign in House District 120.

Her May campaign finance report, posted Thursday, shows that sum coming in via 42 contributions, about half of which measured in in at $250 or less.

Among the 15 donors topping the report with $1,000 checks were NBC Universal, PepsiCo, lobbyist Patrick Bell, and political committees Floridians for Home Rule, Florida ACRE, Florida Concrete & Products Association and Ocean Reef.

The expenditure report showed just under $5,000 in outflow for the month, with a quarter of that heading to Tolley & Hill for accounting services. Another $930 went toward advertising and $410 went toward fundraising expenses.

The new report brought the Monroe County Republican past the $100,000 mark in cash on hand. To date she has raised was $180,600.

Her $115,000 war chest gives her a big head start against Republican Jose Felix Peixoto, who filed in mid-April, and Democrat Stephen Richard Friedman, who filed in mid-May. Neither candidate has posted their May report, they face a June 11 deadline.

Raschein, currently in her third term, has had little trouble holding onto the seat despite Democrats holding a slim voter registration advantage in the district, which covers all of Monroe and part of southern Miami-Dade.

In 2012, the district sent Raschein to Tallahassee with a 52-48 victory over Democrat Ian Whitney. She went unopposed in 2014 and won her third term with a 14-point victory in 2016 even though HD 120 narrowly voted for Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket.

Daphne Campbell

Daphne Campbell spent more than she raised in May

District 38 Sen. Daphne Campbell brought in a healthy $12,650 for her re-election campaign last month but shelled out even more as she looks to fend off primary challenger Jason Pizzo in the Democratic stronghold.

Her report, filed Thursday, shows 28 contributions including a half-dozen for the campaign maximum of $1,000.

Those donors included telecom company T Mobile, racetrack Gulfstream Park, Miami physician Allan JacobJack Cory of Public Affairs Consultants, and Rudy Moise, a Haitian American businessman and retired Air Force colonel who has twice mounted Democratic primary campaigns for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson. His wife, Mirjam Moise, also showed up as a $1,000 donor.

Further down the list were five Miami law firms: The Law Office of Michael J. Feldman, James D. Payer PA, Goldberg & Hirsh PA, The Deprimo Law Firm and Gregg M Goldfarb LLP.

The Campbell campaign also spent $15,393 for the month. Included in that tally was a $3,300 check to Harry Reese for campaign consulting, $2,500 to The Gospel Truth for advertising and $1,300 to Walter Haas Graphics for signs. A long list of canvassing and phone banking payments made up another $2,600 of the outflow, while payments to campaign staffers totaled $1,600 for the month.

The Miami Democrat has now raised $92,400 since filing for re-election. She started June with $29,800 at the ready.

Pizzo, a former prosecutor, has not yet filed his May report — it’s due to the state on Monday — however his prior month report showed $152,000 in total fundraising since he began campaigning in earnest around New Year’s with more than $78,000 in the bank. That total includes $75,000 in loans.

Campbell and Pizzo were the top two finishers in the six-way primary for SD 38 two years ago. Campbell received 31 percent of the vote compared to a 24 percent share for Pizzo, a difference of 2,129 votes.

If no other candidates enter the race before the qualifying period ends on June 22, their rematch will be a true head-to-head with the winner heading to the Senate without opposition on the November ballot.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Sean Shaw

Teachers union backing Sean Shaw for Attorney General

State Rep. Sean Shaw added another major endorsement Thursday in his campaign to replace termed-out Attorney General Pam Bondi in the fall.

The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, said the Democratic lawmaker had “proven himself a friend of public education” during the two sessions he’s represented his Tampa-based district in the Florida House.

Shaw was one of a dozen House Democrats to earn top marks in the FEA’s recent “report cards” measuring legislators’ support for issues affecting public schools.

“We look forward to lending our support to an individual who believes in public education and will use the office of attorney general to support strong public schools,” FEA President Joanne McCall said

FEA’s endorsement comes a couple days after the Florida Young Democrats named Shaw as their pick in the Cabinet race. He’s also snagged endorsements from three state attorneys and the Florida Police Benevolent Association.

Shaw is the likely Democratic nominee for Attorney General, though he must first defeat Ryan Torrens in the primary before he earns his spot on the November ballot.

Through April, he had more than $300,000 on hand between his campaign and committee, Sean Shaw for Florida. Torrens has yet to post a breakout fundraising report after more than a year in the race. He had raised $100,000 and had less than $5,000 banked at the end of April.

Running on the Republican side are former circuit court judge Ashley Moody and state Reps. Jay Fant and Frank White.

The primary election is Aug. 28.

Ron DeSantis, Matt Gaetz teaming up for two campaign rallies Saturday

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who is running for Governor, and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz are holding a pair of joint campaign rallies Saturday within Gaetz’ Northwest Florida district.

The two Republicans, described as “absolute warriors” by President Donald Trump, will start their day in Pensacola with a 10:30 AM (CT) rally at the Polafox House, 196 N. Palafox St.

They’ll then travel the 50 miles or so to Valparaiso, where they’re scheduled to start rally No. 2 at 2:30 PM (CT). The afternoon event will be held at Compass Rose, 303 E Glen Ave.

Both events are open to the public.

DeSantis, who currently represents Florida’s 6th Congressional District, faces Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican primary for Governor. The Trump-backed candidate will likely find a healthy base of support in the Panhandle region, where the president is very popular.

Gaetz, currently in his first term representing Florida’s 1st Congressional District, faces a two Republicans and two Democrats in his re-election campaign, though none of their campaigns have shown real traction.

Democrat Phillip Ehr has cracked six-figures in the money race, but his party affiliation will be a hinderance in CD 1. Republican Cris Dosev, a military veteran, finished third in the 2016 primary for the seat, however his 2018 bid is looking a little rocky.

The primary election for federal and state offices will be held Aug. 28.

‘Leave us the heck alone’: Beach towns seek meeting with state lawmakers on short-term rentals

The mayors of Pinellas County’s beach communities want to find a way to reclaim their power to restrict short-term rentals in their towns. The first step will be to organize a roundtable discussion involving state legislators and others involved in the short-term rental business.

The mayors who make up the Big-C, the Barrier Islands Government Council, have been railing against the state law that prevents them from having any say in how long or how often a person can rent his or her property in a residential area.

The mayors related story after story of neighbors upset with loud parties, parking problems and strangers wandering around all hours of the night. They want to be able to stop it but Florida law won’t let them.

Also at issue is Senate Bill 1400, sponsored in part by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg. That bill may come before the next sitting of the Legislature.

Brandes, according to the mayors at the Big-C meeting on May 30, has not shown any inclination to back away from the state having control over the municipalities regarding the rentals.

Bill Queen, the mayor of North Redington Beach, said he met with Brandes recently and the senator stuck with the stance he has mentioned in the past.

“He said property rights must be protected and they are residential in nature,” said Queen. “That means in residential neighborhoods.”

Queen also quoted Brandes as saying the grandfather clause can’t go on forever.

The grandfather clause relates to 2011 when the first piece of legislation was passed limiting municipalities’ rights to restrict short-term rentals. From that point on towns could not pass local ordinances which limited the frequency or number of times residents could rent their property. Local laws already on the books would be “grandfathered” in.

In a letter he wrote outlining his stand against short-term rentals, Queen spoke of the negative issues that arise when the rentals cannot be restricted.

“Noise, traffic, parking, garbage and safety,” he wrote. “All of these issues would be handled by local law enforcement. However, unlike a permanent resident that can be communicated with on a continuing basis the weekly or nightly turnover of people would cause repeated violations of the same offenses.”

“Opening up the residential neighborhoods to these issues is counterproductive to the peace, serenity and safety that we currently enjoy in our homes; all things that are not for sale for any amount of tax revenue as touted by the proponents of these bills,” he wrote.

Queen concluded his letter by suggesting the solutions to the problem would be the elimination of the 2011 legislation and the election of state representatives most sympathetic to their cause.

Indian Rocks Beach Mayor Cookie Kennedy added to the discussion by saying there is no middle ground on the issue.

“You can’t be in the middle,” she said. “Short-term rentals pit neighbor against neighbor. We want respect and it doesn’t happen with this. People are having parties all the time.”

Kennedy suggested having a roundtable discussion, which would bring together all the players in the issue.

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos threw a note of caution into the discussion.

“We have to take the emotion out of it,” he said. “We need to talk to our legislators and get them to understand what we’re talking about.”

Queen replied that after meeting with the legislators several times nothing has changed.

“We don’t seem to be getting anywhere,” he said.

“We have to stop throwing stones at them and take the emotion out,” replied Cretekos. “We’re saying the same thing just from a different perspective.”

Kennedy reiterated her desire to have a roundtable discussion and said the beach towns have to enlist allies in their fight.

“The county has a piece in this too and they have said they will revisit their laws,” she said. “We need to branch out and get other towns involved; there is strength in numbers.”

St. Pete Beach Mayor Alan Johnson summed up his feelings in one sentence.

“Leave us the heck alone.”

Johnson told a story of a single woman who was afraid to leave her house at night because of rowdy parties going on next door.

“We have varying degrees of the problem going on all over,” he said.

Brandes was not at the meeting but his representative was.

Melissa Meshil, his legislative assistant, told the group that Brandes wants to get involved with the mayors.

“He wants to advance the discussion,” she said. “There is no pathway to repealing the 2011 law but he wants to hear solutions.”

Further discussion on the issue from the audience included the difficulty of enforcing any regulations that may be on the books.

“Often renters are instructed to say they are friends of the owners,” said Cretekos.

State Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-Treasure Island, commented that the issue won’t stop here.

“They want to take away the nuisance laws, and they might encroach on condo bylaws,” Peters said.

In the end, the mayors voted unanimously to hold a roundtable discussion in Indian Shores with the date to be determined.

Dean Mead tops Pinellas County’s lobbying shortlist

The Pinellas County Commission put out the call that it was looking to ink a new lobbying contract a couple months ago, and three teams have made the short list according to documents received as part of a public records request.

Those top-tier proposals came from some familiar firms, with Dean Mead taking the top spot in the Commission staff’s point-based ranking scale.

The firm has represented Pinellas for years, and its proposal pitching another re-up on that contract makes a compelling case that they and subcontractors Ron Book and Timmins Consulting can keep the legislative and appropriations successes rolling.

“The members of our Team have had the honor of representing Pinellas County since 2002. We know Pinellas County’s issues and history. Over these past 16 years, the Team has developed a day-to-day working familiarity with the full range of projects and activities of Pinellas County,” the proposal said.

The Dean Mead pitch says they’ll tackle two years of work for $200,000.

Second on the list was Southern Strategy Group, which touted its many successes with other county and municipal governments, including the City of Crystal River, the DeSoto County Commission, Hernando County, Sarasota County, Lakeland and Hillsborough County.

SSG also didn’t lack for confidence when pitching its lobby corps as one of the best in the business.

“Southern Strategy Group is a lobbying firm, period. Unlike a law firm with a subordinate lobbying component, Southern Strategy Group dedicates its entire focus to doing one thing exceedingly well: lobbying,” the proposal said. “The firm is not diverted by the distractions of a law practice. Unlike lobbying firms built around a single dominant lobbyist, the power of SSG is the depth of experience and skill found in each member of its large lobbying team.”

The firm said it would add Pinellas to its extensive roster of clients for $158,000 in payments over the next two years.

Rounding out the contenders was Gray Robinson, which came behind SSG by a hair on the point rating scale.

Their pitch covered some of the major wins they’ve landed on the other side of Tampa Bay, including helping to defeat a 19 million dollar claim bill levied against the City of Tampa in the 2018 Legislative Session and their work helping the Hillsborough County Hotel & Motel Association establish a special tourism marketing district in Ybor City.

“With over 300 attorneys and a proud background of serving our public entities, we are confident there is no firm more uniquely qualified and prepared to represent Pinellas County,” the pitch reads.

The firm requested a $144,000 compensation package for the two-year contract.

Jeff Greene pulling votes from Gwen Graham in South Florida, pollster says

The first poll since Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene entered the Democratic primary for Governor may indicate trouble for Gwen Graham’s chances among South Florida Democrats.

The survey, conducted by respected pollster Tom Eldon, polled Broward County and Palm Beach County Democrats and found Greene pulling 6 percent support in his home county, and 3 percent support in Broward.

Overall, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine leads the two-county poll with 39 percent support, followed by Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum at 9, Graham at 8, Winter Park businessman Chris King at 5 and Greene at 4. The remaining third said they were undecided.

Based on those numbers, it looks like Greene’s siphoning supporters from Graham, not Levine as some Democratic onlookers primary have theorized. Of course, the landscape could change substantially if Greene were to actually start campaigning — he’s still radio silent one week after filing his paperwork.

The last regional poll of South Florida Democrats, commissioned by Levine adviser Christian Ulvert in April, showed Levine leading Graham 42-15 on his home turf with Gillum and King in the single digits.

In the new poll, Levine leads No. 2 finisher Andrew Gillum on the Broward side 38-12, followed by Graham at 11 percent and Greene and King with 3 percent support apiece.

The effect is even more pronounced in Palm Beach, where Graham slips into last place in the poll — a rarity for the North Florida Democrat, who generally lands in the top two with Levine.

That half of the poll also showed Levine as the top pick, ahead of his distant second King 40-8. Gillum and Greene tied at 6 percent a piece, while Graham nabbed just 4 percent among Palm Beach Dems.

The new poll also noted a high number of “surge Democrats” — those who reported paying “much more attention” to political and national news since the election of Donald Trump. Among the 60 percent of respondents identified as such, 45 percent were voting for Levine with Graham in second at 10 percent.

The SEA Polling survey was conducted June 3-5 by bilingual accent neutral interviewers reading from a translated script in English and Spanish. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.24 percentage points.

Chris King invests another $400K in gubernatorial bid after raising $78K in May

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King announced Wednesday that he raised $78,661 last month and kicked in another $400,000 of his own money to bring his total fundraising past the $5 million mark.

Nearly $410,000 of the May money went to his official campaign account, while his committee, Rise and Lead Florida, took in the balance. All told, King has now brought in nearly $5.1 million since entering the race for Governor in March 2017.

“After 20 years of one-party Republican rule, Floridians are ready for new leadership,” campaign manager Zach Learner said in the fundraising announcement. “We’re excited to share our progressive message with even more Democrats across the state of Florida.”

Including his $400,000 infusion last month, King has put more than $2.7 million of his own money on the line. The Winter Park businessman didn’t specify whether his May investment was marked down as a loan or a contribution, though he’s marked them down as loans for the past two months.

Neither report is viewable through the Florida Division of Elections, so his on-hand tally is mystery for now — full reports for May are due to the state on Monday. As of April 30, King had just under $2.5 million in the bank.

That total could see a substantial decrease, as the “outsider” candidate put some cash into airing TV ads in a half-dozen Florida markets last month — Gainesville, Jacksonville, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne, Panama City and West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce.

The first of those ads, “New Direction,” saw the candidate publicize his pledge to not take campaign cash from the sugar lobby. The second, “Stand Up,” serves as an indictment of Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled state Legislature for doing “nothing” in the wake of the 2016 Pulse nightclub massacre.

King is the third of the four major Democrats to announce his May financials.

Earlier this week, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said he raised $1.3 million and matched it with another $1.3 million from his personal fortune, putting his overall tally at around $15 million.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum said Wednesday that his campaign and committee raised a combined $361,750 for a to-date total of $3.4 million. He had $1.4 million in the bank at the end of April.

The last of the four majors, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, hasn’t previewed her new reports. She had raised nearly $7.5 million as of April 30 and had $4.7 million banked.

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