A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 438

A.G. Gancarski

DSCC lambastes ‘pathological swamp creature’ Rick Scott ahead of State of the State

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is still playing coy about the idea of running for Senate; however, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is bashing him like the nominee.

Behold the pre-reaction from spokesman David Bergstein.

“Hardworking Floridians are paying the price for Rick Scott’s self-serving agenda: fewer good-paying jobs, higher health care costs, and funding stripped from public schools. His motivation is and has always been to advance the interests of his wealthy, well-connected cronies and donors at the expense of Floridians who actually work for a living,” Bergstein asserted.

“He is truly a creature of the Tallahassee swamp, and if he decides to run for Senate voters will hold him accountable for his dishonesty and pathological need to put his own interests over what’s right for Florida’s middle-class families,” Bergstein added.

The email went on to provide a laundry list of campaign-friendly talking points.

The DSCC hits Scott’s “self-serving … Johnny-come-lately” objections to offshore oil drilling, with a quote from the Florida Conservation Voters offering buttress.

Jobs, meanwhile, may be one of Scott’s talking points. But the DSCC points out that 36 of 67 Florida counties have lost jobs since 2007, and that jobs in Florida cities have the lowest pay in the nation.

Another hit, this time on the education front: the DSCC notes that per-pupil funding is below the national average, and has declined in the Scott era.

Opposition to Medicaid Expansion is still a talking point for Dems, as is closing the office of Drug Control.

Scott’s Irma response — via the deaths in a Hollywood Hills nursing home during post-Irma power outages in the sultry South Florids heat: yet another talking point.

If Scott wants to run on his record, what’s clear is that national Democrats feel comfortable puncturing what they see as mythology.

As scandal grips Legislature, ‘Guide to a Healthy Marriage’ bill filed in both Houses

Problems with your marriage?

Is it unhealthy?

The Florida Legislature is willing to help future couples avoid such troubles as they traipse into connubial bliss.

Days after Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel filed SB 1580, a bill that would lead to a “guide to a healthy marriage,” a guide that would contain resources addressing “conflict management, communication skills, family expectations, financial responsibilities and management, domestic violence resources, and parenting responsibilities,” the House version was filed.

Monday saw Jacksonville Republican Rep. Clay Yarborough file the House version of the legislation (HB 1323).

The Legislature wouldn’t write this guide on its own (probably for the best given that philandering ended the careers of two Senators in recent months, with another former Senator and current State Representative going through a prolonged high-profile and messy divorce, and two more Senators copping to an in-session affair on Tuesday).

Rather, the guide would be written by the Marriage Education Committee: a panel of six marriage education and family advocates, two picked by the Governor, two by the President of the Senate, and two more by the House Speaker.

In other words, the same formula that has led to a smooth-running Constitutional Revision Commission could be brought to bear on Florida marriages.

The guide will be paid for with private funds, and reading it would be a prerequisite for a marriage license.

Gwen Graham: ‘After 20 years, we don’t have any more time’

“After 20 years, we don’t have any more time.”

This is the stark message in a video prebuttal to Gov. Rick Scott‘s State of the State address from Democratic gubernatorial front-runner Gwen Graham.

Graham rolled out the video in a news release Tuesday morning, noting that the Legislative Session beginning today is the twentieth straight iteration in which the GOP has “complete control” of the state government.

The 80-second spot charges Republicans with having “rigged our economy, polluted our environment, and attacked our public schools.”

The video, said Graham, kicks off her campaign’s focus on the Legislative Session.

The candidate vows to highlight the top 20 ways that “one-party rule has hurt Florida.”

“In November,” Graham said, “we are going to hold them accountable.”

The goal: “to restore our promise to public schools, protect our environment, and create an economy that works for every Floridian.”

That public school hook drives the first of 20 ways that one-party rule has hurt Florida.

“For 20 years Republicans have promoted and expanded high-stakes testing to benefit the education industry at the expense of our students,” Graham said.

“Last year, the education industry forced our kids to take more than 3 million standardized tests and forced our teachers to teach to those tests. The current system of testing in our schools is supposed to be about grading, but it is actually degrading. As governor, I won’t just criticize the current system of high-stakes testing. I will end it,” Graham added.

Jacksonville City Council mulls morgue money Tuesday

2017 ended with bodies piling up in Jacksonville’s morgue.

2018 brings something approaching a solution via Ordinance 2018-005.

A bill slated to be introduced at Tuesday’s City Council meeting on an emergency basis will offer what Medical Examiner Valerie Rao called last week a “proposed space solution,” which includes “office and refrigerator space”: a walk-in cooler that would give 40 spaces, and a “modular office on site.”

$206,000: the cost of the complete proposal.

Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa described the temporary facilities as getting the ME “over the hump” to mitigate the current crisis, with a building in a future capital improvement budget.

There will be an “in and out” bill Tuesday in Jacksonville City Council, Mousa said last week, to encompass the portable refrigerating unit for 40 additional bodies, and a mobile unit for six additional staffers to handle the case load.

Equipment is also needed, Mousa said, “for stacking the bodies in the cooler. They’re referred to as racks, I believe.”

“This will give her sufficient capacity for today,” Mousa said, adding that a new facility may be moved up in the CIP.

The “programming phase” — an antecedent to moving the facility up in the capital improvement plan — would take six or seven months, which would allow the administration to mull hard costs of the facility.

Mousa noted that, though a new facility was originally outside the five-year plan, reports of bodies on the floor spurred the Mayor’s Office into “immediate action.”

The next budget would allow for the programming phase, and before the summer budget hearings, a funding source would likely be identified for this capital need.

Councilman Danny Becton expressed hope for a deep dive into decedent data, so that the Council would have a better understanding of the corpse inflow and output into the extant facility.

“The programmer of the facility will definitely look at all the statistics that are available — trends, capacity, future needs,” Mousa said.

Administration members said in December that a permanent facility build could take two years; a building in Orlando cost $16 million in 2010, and given increases in commodity costs and the ever-weakening dollar, that may be an optimistic estimate for a cost.

Duval’s medical examiner serves 1.3 million people in six counties.

Race for Jacksonville City Council VP begins: Danny Becton, Sam Newby launch runs

An annual tradition in Jacksonville City Council is beginning anew: the race for Jacksonville City Council VP.

Often — but not always — the VP slot is a springboard to the Presidency the next year.

The most interesting iteration of this race in recent memory: 2016, when Democrat John Crescimbeni bested Republican Doyle Carter in a cliffhanger 10-9 vote, with one Councilor reneging on his pledge to support Carter.

2017’s race for VP lacked that drama, with Aaron Bowman winning the race, despite many of his votes not having formally pledged to him as part of the process.

What will 2018 hold? At this writing, it appears a number of ambitious first-term Councilmen are in the mix.

Southside Republican Danny Becton confirmed Monday that he is interested in the spot.

Becton, arguably the most debt-conscious member of the City Council, has often been a solitary voice of caution on issues ranging from spending bond money on stadium improvements to not paying off pension debt as quickly as possible.

While his positions conflicted with those of the Mayor’s Office in the past, there is reason to believe that Becton is more aligned with the priorities of the Lenny Curry administration as time goes on.

At-Large Republican Sam Newby confirmed his interest to us Monday also. And that a letter much like that sent by Becton has been sent out.

Newby, the co-founder and chairman of the Florida Assembly of Black Republicans and a strong ally of Mayor Lenny Curry, has no enemies on Council.

One of his closest legislative allies is Democrat Reggie Brown, and in a multi-candidate race, it follows that Newby would be positioned to get not only the votes of conservative Republicans, but also of African-American Council Democrats, who vowed to — and did — vote as a bloc in the 2017 Council leadership races.

Newby and Becton likely will not close out the field.

Councilman Scott Wilson, the Southside Republican who ran a strong race against Bowman in 2017, is mulling a run.

Wilson, who served eight years as assistant to former Councilman Don Redman, notes the jousting for leadership is happening earlier every year.

And we are hearing that former Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Hazouri, an At-Large Democrat, may also throw in. Hazouri was largely marginalized on Council committees this year, a consequence of going against Anna Brosche in the race for the top job.

And one could envision, as the process winds on, other candidates — such as Finance Chair Garrett Dennis — may see openings.

For now, it’s Becton and Newby.

But the race could get crowded quickly, with as many as five potential candidates at least testing the waters.

As was the case in 2016, when then-VP Lori Boyer faced no opposition for the Presidency, the real action will be for the Veep role in 2018.

Jay Fant files bill to protect Confederate monuments from removal, desecration

Rep. Jay Fant, a Jacksonville Republican running for Attorney General, filed the latest in a series of base-pleasing bills Monday for the 2018 Legislative Session.

Fant’s HB 1359 (the “Soldiers’ and Heroes’ Monuments and Memorials Protection Act”) contends that any wartime monument erected after 1822 on public property may only be moved for its repair or the repair of the property containing it.

If a monument is to be “sold or repurposed,” it is to be placed somewhere of “equal prominence” as the original location. This subjective criterion may be a stumbling block for this measure in committee.

Willful defacement of a monument: a third-degree felony.

The bill’s chief imports: forestalling removal of Confederate monuments, as happened most recently in Memphis. And establishing criminal penalties for tampering, which would supersede the ordinance code or enforcement inclinations of rogue municipalities.

Fant’s hometown Jacksonville dealt with a Confederate monument removal debate in 2017; Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche took a position in favor of moving monuments to museums, as they divided the community

Polling was not in her favor, however, and Council didn’t back her play with any legislation.

Fant’s legislative docket is serving up more red meat than the butcher at Avondale’s renowned Pinegrove market.

If enacted, his “Free Enterprise Protection Act” would: “Ensure that Florida business owners are protected from government sanctions and penalties when they are exercising their first amendment rights.”

Fant was inspired to file FEPA by the case of a Colorado baker who balked at making a wedding cake for a gay couple, as said the baker saw the act of baking as sanctioning their choice to marry. FEPA would protect the free speech rights of businesses.

Fant also is carrying the House version of a Senate bill that would allow people to carry guns to, from, and during events in Florida’s great outdoors; if it clears the governor’s desk, everyone from crabbers to dog-walkers will be protected while packing heat.

Rob Bradley committee reports blockbuster December fundraising

Fleming Island Republican Sen. Rob Bradley saw his political committee raise more money in November than in any other single month.

And in December, Bradley’s Working for Florida’s Families exceeded that sum, setting an internal record level of fundraising for the second straight month.

The committee hauled in $173,000, with significant buy-in from U.S. Sugar, Wal-Mart, Florida Blue, Associated Industries of Florida and the associated Florida Prosperity Fund.

All told, the committee has over $720,000 on hand.

Bradley became Senate Appropriations Chair after the removal of now-resigned Sen. Jack Latvala, his predecessor in the role.

Northeast Florida legislators expect that he will be in a position to ensure that the oft-neglected region gets its fair share in the budget process — one that Bradley is optimistic will go smoothly.

Despite controversy, Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney mounts re-election bid

A number of Jacksonville City Council members will face competitive races should they want to be re-elected.

However, in terms of sheer amount of opponents, no one faces more competition than Jacksonville City Councilman Reggie Gaffney, who has four opponents already filed to face him in 2019.

The Democrat, representing a district that sprawls from Downtown toward the airport, has dealt with legal scrapes in the past ranging from Medicaid overbilling (an issue in the campaign) to double dipping on homestead exemption claims (an issue while in office).

Gaffney, a former close associate of Corrine Brown during her scheme to enrich herself via siphoning contributions from a sham educational charity, is not running a mea culpa campaign, however.

Rather, he is running on his record.

Gaffney is a strong supporter of Jacksonville’s Republican Mayor Lenny Curry, standing by Curry even when many other council members cast aspersions, and the councilman hopes that a record of tangible achievements in his district outweighs negative press.

Gaffney is billing himself as a “strong advocate for Special Needs citizens,” and saying that he “assisted” in bringing 6,420 jobs to Jacksonville.

A recent video, cut with an unseen interviewer, reveals more about Gaffney’s platform.

“District 7 is a very large district,” Gaffney said. “I like to think of District 7 as three different communities all with different needs.”

While there are many “priority projects” he could cite, Gaffney says that Amazon — “because it’s about jobs” — is number one.

Meanwhile, Gaffney takes credit for fixing the collapsed Liberty Street Bridge, calling it his “first project.”

Gaffney also takes credit for compelling Curry to address drainage issues in the flood-prone Lower Eastside.

Gaffney then asserted his key role in getting money for the stadium improvement projects (amphitheater, covered practice field, and club seat renovations) approved in his term.

“The mayor said ‘I need your help’,” Gaffney said, and he was willing to give it — as it meant “jobs” for his district.

“I said ‘let’s make it happen’,” Gaffney related.

Gaffney also credits himself with having “saved the JIA CRA” — the community redevelopment area near the Jacksonville International Airport.

“That’s dollars that I could use for infrastructure improvement for the Dunn Avenue area going to Oceanway,” Gaffney said, noting road improvements and LED lights in the targeted area.

“That’s big,” Gaffney said.

Gaffney is not the most polished legislator on the council, though he is comfortably within the top 20.

That said, his strong working relationship with Curry — who takes Gaffney at his word ahead of a tough vote — has helped him compile a list of tangible improvements.

Perhaps part of the reason Gaffney has launched his active campaign earlier than his colleagues: the sheer number of opponents, which could theoretically preclude him winning outright in March’s first election (essentially an NPA “blanket primary”) and avoiding the May general election.

While Gaffney (with over $13,000 banked at the end of November) isn’t exactly lighting it up in terms of campaign finance, his opponents have done even worse in fundraising.

Recurrent candidate Marc McCullough reported $1,800 raised.

And three other opponents raised nothing.

Jacksonville HRO sponsors to be honored, as fight to keep law commences

Last February, Jacksonville expanded its Human Rights Ordinance, giving protections to the LGBT community in the workplace, public accommodations, and housing markets.

This February 3rd at the Florida Yacht Club, Equality Florida will honor the three sponsors of the legislation: City Council VP Aaron Bowman and Councilman Jim Love (two Republicans), and Councilman Tommy Hazouri (a Democrat).

Unsurprisingly, Equality Florida gives itself credit for passage.

“After a nearly 10-year campaign, Jacksonville ended its reign as the only major city in Florida without an LGBT inclusive Human Rights Ordinance. In February 2017, we saw unprecedented leadership and investment in this battle by Equality Florida, the citizens of Jacksonville, and these three elected leaders – resulting in the updated HRO on Valentine’s Day.”

The citizens of Jacksonville — specifically stakeholders — had a lot of input. Bowman is the VP of a business development and recruitment wing of the JAX Chamber (Jax USA). Groups like the Jacksonville Civic Council were instrumental in leveraging support, as was Jaguars owner Shad Khan — a singularly influential figure who publicly urged passage and lobbied wobbly councilors behind the scenes.

And the passage of the HRO had a salutary effect: Jacksonville’s score of 67 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index puts it on par with Miami, and represents a quantum leap from scores in the 20s a couple of years back.

But this level of protections is under attack.

Though the legislation moved through last February, a ballot challenge may be in the offing, via Christian conservative group Empower Jacksonville.

Empower Jacksonville, a political action committee, brought in $10,100 in November — pushing it to $31,430 raised and just over $23,000 on hand. (December numbers were not posted as of this writing on the morning of January 8).

Empower Jacksonville seeks to have two ballot items next August. The first: a referendum to change the city’s charter to allow citizens to challenge any law via referendum.

The second measure: a straw ballot on whether or not the HRO should be subject to a citizen referendum. The specific area of contention: the additions to the law this February, not the previously extant law.

The group is collecting petitions currently to get ballot access; as one would suspect, churches will be a primary collection point for the roughly 27,000 needed.

And in the context of petition collecting, the Jacksonville Coalition for Equality is pushing back.

The group urges people to “decline to sign,” and then “to note where you saw the petitioner and what was going on and then send a quick e-mail” to the JCE.

As well, JCE asserts that petitions may be collected extralegally (on property that they have no right to be collecting petitions on, including private property that is not their own, and government properties.

Ultimately, the Empower Jacksonville group will seek to put LGBT rights up for referendum; in Houston, where similar legislation was passed, a ballot challenge was successful.

Could a similar fate strike Jacksonville in the end?

Aaron Bean looks ahead to 2018 Session, campaign

State Sen. Aaron Bean represents a big chunk of Duval County and Nassau County. He chairs the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities committee, and serves as Vice Chair of Community Affairs and the Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government, in addition to several other committee postings.

We caught up with him before the start of the 2018 Legislative Session, and got his take on a number of issues, including the electoral landscape and his own campaign, the impact of Sen. Rob Bradley helming Appropriations, and Bean’s own bills –including a sanctuary city measure that may be the proverbial ‘heavy lift.’

The 2018 campaign, of course, is underway already – and the race that will occupy many people in The Process is the GOP three-way-dance for Governor, between Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and President’s Trump favorite, U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.

“I believe the Governor’s race is still wide open. It will be an exciting year for politics as so many seats are up for grabs,” Bean said.  

“I will be focused on my own,” Bean added, “as it will be the last time I will run for the Legislature.”

Bean is in an enviable position for that run. Lacking opposition, he has nearly $175,000 on hand between his campaign account and the account of his political committee: Florida Conservative Alliance.

And in terms of ability to move things through the Senate, Bean – and Northeast Florida – have an important asset in recently-minted Senate Appropriations Chair Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican.

Bean was voluble on what Bradley means, both for the Senate and the region.

“I have known Sen. Bradley for almost 30 years,” Bean asserted, “and he is going to be outstanding as Appropriations Chair. He makes it look easy, but he is always the most prepared member in the room from his constant reading and research.  

“As a sub-chair for the criminal justice and environmental appropriations committees,” Bean added, “members could be sure that Senator Bradley was going to know why funds were being spent, and he would be sure it was a good use of taxpayer dollars.”  

“He is going to be great for Florida. It is a bonus that he is from North Florida. North Florida Legislators are still going to have to work for any requests, because Bradley is not going to give anyone a pass just because they are from our area, but he is going to deliver a budget we can all be proud of,” Bean said.

Bean is also carrying a number of bills this Legislative Session.

“I currently have 23 bills that range from preventing sanctuary practices in Florida, to making our Secretary of State elected directly by the people, to creating a Ducks Unlimited license plate to preserve wetlands,” Bean asserted.   

“Four bills will continue my goal to make it easier and faster to adopt in our state, and another makes permanent a support network to help women who are pregnant, and have nowhere to turn,” Bean continued.

One bill – the Sanctuary Cities bill – has already been guaranteed to pass in its first week in the House; however, Bean recognizes the Senate may be a tougher path.

“Our Sanctuary City bill faces a tough opening as it has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee. We don’t have the votes to get it passed – yet – so we are working hard to get that done.”

Bean is at an interesting place in his political career. He’s approaching the zenith of his influence in the Senate, yet there are those who talk about him as the next Republican Congressman from the area, should John Rutherford decide not to run for re-election.

In many ways, he would fit comfortably among Florida’s Congressional Delegation, where firebrands like Matt Gaetz and DeSantis push a particular brand of conservatism and advocate for a President that doesn’t have a lot of mainstream media allies or advocates.

Could Bean end up in D.C. before it’s all said and done? One thing’s for certain: he has an appetite for politics and serving in office, and as an energetic 50-year-old, he has a couple of acts left in his political life. 

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