Drew Wilson, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 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.

Bill Galvano adds $500K in committee cash during March

Future Senate President Bill Galvano brought had a monster March, with nearly $500,000 in contributions to his “Innovate Florida” political committee.

The Bradenton Republican brought in $494,200 for his committee the week before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session, including $50,000 each from the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, with the chamber chipping in another $25,000 through an affiliated political committee.

Lawmakers must pause their fundraising efforts during the Legislative Session, which this year started on March 7, though they often bring in large amounts of money during a fundraising sprint in the days leading up to Session.

Other big donors included Florida Power and Light and the Florida Jobs PAC, which each chipped in $25,000, and the Florida Hospital Association and Altria Client Services, which each gave $20,000.

Innovate Florida’s contributions were offset by $405,000 in spending during the month, including a $100,000 contribution to the Free Speech PAC run by Republican consultant Randy Nielsen and $75,000 a piece to the Taxpayers in Action and Citizens First political committees.

Galvano, who is set to take over as Senate President after the 2018 elections, had about $785,000 on hand at the end of the March. He has raised more than $6.8 million for the political committee since 2013.

Richard Corcoran among top donors to RPOF during first quarter

The Republican Party of Florida showed nearly $2.5 million in contributions during their first quarter report, including $100,000 from a committee controlled by House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

RPOF’s report included a slew of high-dollar donors, including $$167,000 from Universal City Development Partners, $125,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee and $100,000 from Fontainebleau Hilton Resort.

Count political committee Florida Roundtable, chaired by Corcoran, among the six-figure donors this time around.

His committee gave nearly all of the $120,500 it raised in March, mainly from the Associated Industries of Florida, over to RPOF, leaving it with about $205,000 in the bank. All of that money came in in the days leading up to the start of the 2017 Legislative Session.

Before becoming House Speaker, Corcoran headed up RPOF’s house campaign efforts, a responsibility that now belongs to Miami Rep. Jose Oliva, the House Speaker in waiting

The party also took in big checks from major businesses operating in the Sunshine State, including $75,000 from AT&T, and $50,000 a piece from Duke Energy, Wal-Mart and the U.S. Sugar Corporation.

Expenditures came in at about $1.2 million for the quarter, with more than a third of that money heading to the groups federal allocation account. RPOF ended the quarter with nearly $16 million in the bank.

Florida Democratic Party chair chips in $100K in first quarter

The Florida Democratic Party got a $100,000 boost from their new chair last month according to new finance documents filed with the Florida Division of Elections.

Stephen Bittel has been in place as the Democratic Party chair since January, when the Miami-Dade Democrat won a five-way race for the position with 55 percent of the vote.

Bittel’s $100,000 infusion was the largest single contribution the party took in for the month, which saw it bring in a little over $840,000.

The Florida Education Association also chipped in a combined $100,000 between its main organization and its FEA Solidarity Fund, and $90,000 came in from political committee New Direction Florida, which is headed by Democrat Edward James who lost out on the state House race to replace former Republican Rep. Ray Pilon.

Other major donors included Charter Communications at $68,000, and $25,000 and from a political committee headed up by Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens.

The party spent about $430,000 during the reporting period, which covered Jan. 1 through the end of March, leaving it with about $4.7 million on hand.

The Republican Party of Florida brought in about $2.5 million in the same time frame, leaving them with nearly $16 million in the bank after expenditures.

David Rivera starts HD 105 campaign with $100K loan

Former state representative and congressman David Rivera kicked off his campaign for House District 105 with a $100,000 loan according to a campaign finance report filed with the Florida Division of Elections.

Rivera’s loan was first reported by Matt Dixon of POLITICO Florida.

Rivera served in the Florida House for four terms before heading to the U.S. House where he served 2 years before losing his re-election bid to former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia.

He attempted to get back into the Florida House last year, but fell 54 votes short in the HD 118 contest against Democratic Rep. Robert Ascensio.

This cycle he’s looking to replace term-limited Rep. Carlos Trujillo in the Republican-leaning HD 105.

Rivera didn’t show any other contributions to his campaign other than the loan, and also spent no money during the reporting period, leaving him with an even $100,000 on hand.

Rivera was the subject of a federal investigation alleging he ran a campaign finance scheme in his 2012 congressional re-election campaign, but the Miami U.S. Attorney’s office has so far declined to indict him.

He could still face an ethics fine if House Speaker Richard Corcoran decides to pursue the case, though Corcoran has dodged questions on the case and shown no interest in going after him.

The only other candidate running for the HD 105 seat is Republican Ana Maria Rodriguez, who filed in December.

Through the end of March, she had raised a little under $15,000 and has all of that money on hand.

According to 2016 data, HD 105 has 25,983 registered Democrats, 25,404 registered Republicans and another 27,393 voters not affiliated with either major party.

Last year, Trujillo cruised into his final term with 52.4 percent of the vote compared to 47.6 percent for Democrat Patricio Moreno.

Home rule advocacy group adds two national organizations to its roster

Home-rule advocates Campaign to Defend Local Solutions announced Monday that it is adding Mayors Against Illegal Guns and the National Black Justice Coalition as official partners.

“The spectrum of voices speaking out for home rule and against heavy-handed state pre-emption continues to grow,” said CDLS campaign manager Michael Alfano. “From protecting equality laws to preventing gun violence, our partner organizations and elected officials know that the government closest to the people governs best, and we’re grateful for their efforts.”

Mayors Against Illegal Guns is a bipartisan group of more than 1,000 current and former mayors that advocates for common-sense gun laws, while the National Black Justice Coalition is the country’s leading black LGBTQ civil rights organization.

CDLS said the new members came on board after CDLS got exposure through a People Magazine web series, and articles in The Nation and The Atlantic’s CityLab. Also last week, 15 local elected officials and CDLS members authored an op-ed on the threat of state pre-emption that was published on FloridaPolitics.com and other outlets.

The Campaign to Defend Local Solutions was launched by Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum in January and include in its membership elected officials from 15 states as well as local and national organizations.

CDLS was formed to fight against local government pre-emption laws passed by state legislatures, which it claims are often pushed through by “shadowy special interests and unaccountable lobbyists.”

“They don’t like when we as a community pass laws to ban smoking, protect our environment, raise wages, ensure local hiring, and prevent gun violence. But we stand with you, the people — not corporate bottom lines,” the group says on its website.

Proposed border adjustment tax would cost Florida importers millions

The border adjustment tax House Republicans are mulling over could cost an average Florida importer hundreds of thousands of dollars in new taxes according to a report released Friday.

The Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce report identified 23,005 importers in the Sunshine State and estimated the average cost of the tax on such businesses to be $624,000.

The plan would tack on a 20 percent tax on imported goods while allowing exported goods to be sold tax free.

A BAT would bring big tax reductions to American exporters, though the retail industry and oil refining industries would be particularly hard hit by the change, which is being tossed around to counteract the large reduction to the corporate income tax being pushed by President Donald Trump.

The tax would bring in an estimated $1.2 trillion in revenue over the next 10 years, but the way the tax works could cost some states much more than that.

The report said three states – California, Texas and Illinois – would be on the hook for a combined $170 billion had the tax been in place in 2014, which far outstrips the net federal government income of about $100 billion a year.

In 2015, the retail industry accounted for more than 1 million Florida jobs, or about 15 percent of private sector jobs, and in order to keep those jobs consumers could see prices on retail goods skyrocket.

“Consider a shoe retailer that imports the shoes it sells from a manufacturer in China. It buys a pair of shoes from the manufacturer for $50 and pays $10 in shipping costs. The retailer sells the shoes for $70, earning a $10 profit. Under the current tax system, the retailer would owe 35 percent in taxes on the $10 profit, because it would get to deduct the $60 it paid in business costs acquiring the shoes. The total tax bill would be $3.50.

“Under the proposed tax reform plan with a border adjustment tax, the retailer would pay a 20 percent (the proposed corporate rate) tax on the $10 profit, or $2. However, the retailer would also pay a 20 percent BAT on the $50 cost of the imported shoes, bringing the total tax bill to $12 — which is more than the retailer’s profit from the sale.”

The report closes out by saying that if a BAT is implemented, the cost to businesses and could be “on par with the Affordable Care Act or former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s plans to reshape the American tax system.”

“Lawmakers who think that the BAT can’t impact their states are mistaken; the risks and costs that would come along with border adjustment are too much for American consumers and businesses to bear,” the report said.

James Buchanan hauls $138K in first month of HD 71 campaign

House District 71 candidate James Buchanan brought in a monstrous $138,000 haul in his first month in the race to replace termed-out Republican Rep. Jim Boyd.

Buchanan’s campaign says more than four-fifths of that money came from inside the district, which covers parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

“One month into our campaign and the amount of support from every corner of our community has not only been encouraging, but overwhelming and humbling,” Buchanan said in a press release.

“I will work each and every day to take our conservative message to every voter in our district and share our vision for how we improve our state for each and every Floridian,” the Republican candidate said. “We will build on the momentum from this historic fundraising month and continue to grow support for our campaign.”

Buchanan, whose father is U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, is going up against Bradenton attorney Will Robinson in the Republican Primary for the right-leaning seat. Robinson loaned his campaign $100,000 in February and has not yet reported March numbers.

Bill backed by supervisors of elections clears its first Senate panel

A bill that would make a long list of election law changes made it through its first Senate panel Tuesday with a unanimous vote.

SB 1160, sponsored by Fleming Island Republican Sen. Rob Bradley, has the approval of many supervisors of elections in the state.

Among the changes it would make are requiring candidates pay qualifying fees by cashier’s check, banning elected officials from serving as poll watchers, and giving supervisors of elections the option to publish sample ballots in a newspaper or mail them to registered voters.

The bill would also allow touch screen voting machines so long as they produce a paper trail for recounts.

The only part of the bill that turned heads was a provision that only allows courts to extend poll hours if there is a “specific showing or finding of fact that extraordinary circumstances exist to justify the extension.”

Bradley mentioned a few extensions in the 2016 election that he thought were unwarranted, and further insinuated that Democrats have used lawsuits to keep polls open in their turf.

“It’s usually done for strategic reasons,” he said.

The bill cleared the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee with a 5-0 vote and now moves on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

There is no identical version of the bill in the House, though HB 1325 by Republican Rep. Paul Renner makes many of the same changes found in Bradley’s bill.

That bill cleared its first panel last week.

FPL to add another 1,500 megawatts of solar over the next seven years

Florida Power & Light announced Monday that it will build another 1,500 megawatts of solar power plants over the next 7 years.

The new power plants are in addition to the eight new solar facilities expected to come online by early 2018 and FPL said the new plants could save customers more than $500 million.

The roadmap for the new facilities was filed with the Public Service Commission Monday as part of the company’s 2017-2026 Ten Year Site Plan, which included the first-ever projection that solar power will outpace coal and oil combined as a percentage of the company’s energy mix by 2020.

Details on where the newly announced plants will be located haven’t been finalized, though the company said a Miami-Dade plant looks promising for 2019.

“We’re currently building some of the lowest-cost solar ever seen in America, and our investments in more efficient natural gas technology are delivering enormous savings and environmental benefits for our customers and our state,” said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy. “Our strategy of making smart, long-term investments in clean energy infrastructure is working, and we’re looking forward to keeping the momentum going with the major advancements announced today – which, combined, are expected to save customers more than half a billion dollars.”

The company said its expanded solar investment will come along with the closing of the coal-fired St. Johns River Power Park at the end of this year, which it says will save customers $165 million as well as eliminate more than 5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually.

The old Lauderdale plant and building is also set to be phased out and replaced by a new Dania Beach Clean Energy Center, which the company said will reduce their natural gas use by 5 billion cubic feet a year.

FPL said it would roll out an average of nearly 300 megawatts of new solar annually from 2017 through at least 2023, for a total of nearly 2,100 megawatts of new solar capacity.

Brian Ballard named regional vice-chair of RNC finance leadership team

Florida mega lobbyist Brian Ballard was added to the Republican National Committee’s finance leadership team, the party announced Monday.

RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and RNC Finance Chair Steve Wynn announced the pick along with a handful of other additions in a Monday press release.

“I am delighted to announce the addition of these longtime friends of the Party and supporters of this administration to our Finance leadership team,” McDaniel said in the announcement.

Wynn added that the new team members will help get more Republican congress members and senators into office, allowing “all Americans will enjoy the benefits of a better future.”

“The challenge of guiding a swollen and overreaching government to a position that serves its citizens in a truly efficient manner will be best served by the leadership our team hopes to achieve,” he said.

Ballard will serve as a regional vice-chair man of the finance leadership team, and the press release noted his role as the chair of Trump Victory in Florida and as a member of the finance committee for the presidential transition.

In that role, Ballard brought in millions of dollars for President Donald Trump’s campaign and his inaugural committee.

The release also pointed to Ballard’s “vast experience in campaigns at both the state and national levels—serving the presidential campaigns of both John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.”

“Working with Steve Wynn has been a true pleasure,” Ballard said of the appointment.

Ballard Partners announced earlier this year that it would expand to Washington and made a slew of new hires, including Reagan-era Ambassador to Venezuela Otto Reich.

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