A.G. Gancarski, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 349

A.G. Gancarski

JEA, FPL to decommission coal-fired power plant next year

Coal may be coming back as a power source, if President Donald Trump is to be believed. However, as of early 2018, there will be one fewer coal power plant in Florida.

As a JEA press release indicates, the Jacksonville utility and Florida Power and Light intend to decommission the St. Johns River Power Park, located on Jacksonville’s Northside.

The 1,252 MW coal-fired electric generating plant went online in the late 1980s, and has shared ownership; JEA holds an 80 percent share, and FPL holds the balance.

Because of improved efficiency in appliances since the plant went online, the plant produces half the energy it did a decade ago.

As recently as 2009, a $283 million environmental upgrade was made to the plant, via the addition of selective catalytic reactors to reduce emissions.

These changes were implemented on an “aggressive schedule” over a 23 month period.

“This agreement is important for JEA and will allow us to right-size our power generation capabilities while offering, significant environmental benefits to the community,” said JEA CEO Paul McElroy.

“The operational savings we will realize will help us address capital needs and pay down debt to keep rates stable.  We regret that this move will result in job displacements for many dedicated, knowledgeable and skilled employees.  Our team is fully committed to helping them by providing outplacement and training services, as well as a separation benefit package that reflects their years of service and dedication,” McElroy added.

“We’ve been extremely proud to partner with JEA at SJRPP to provide reliable power for both utilities’ customers for three decades. Now, however, it makes financial and environmental sense for all of our customers to close this coal plant,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL.

“Closing the plant early results in enormous value for FPL customers – saving millions of dollars annually as well as continuing to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions for all of Florida – another major step forward in our affordable, reliable and clean energy strategy,” Silagy added.

The JEA Board will have to vote to ratify this move, which could affect 204 plant employees.

Mike Pence, Rick Scott to talk health care reform in Jacksonville Saturday

Vice-President Mike Pence and Gov. Rick Scott will be in Jacksonville Saturday afternoon.

The subject: health care reform, specifically the House version of legislation, and the President’s economic agenda.

The roundtable event will include small businesses, and is invite only.

Pence is slated to begin his remarks at 2:15, though invited guests are urged to be there by noon.

It will be at the MAC Papers location on 8370 Philips Highway.

Pence was last in Jacksonville during the 2016 campaign, when he talked faith, “precious moments with” Donald Trump, and 9/11 at the local First Baptist Church.

Scott, who closed out the news week reprising a familiar call to allow the states to administer Medicaid via block grants, has worked closely with President Donald Trump and his administration on possible alternatives to the Affordable Care Act.

While the GOP line is “repeal and replace Obamacare,” finding bill language that offers comfort to moderate Republicans in the Senate and the Freedom Caucus in the House has proven challenging, making promotional media stops like this one for the vice-president a necessity.

Also speaking at the event: Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and U.S. Congressman John Rutherford.

Jax PFPF slates ‘review and discussion’ of pension surtax for Friday morning

On Wednesday, Jacksonville General Counsel Jason Gabriel informed the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund that it has no voice in the current pension reform package.

And ahead of the PFPF meeting on Friday morning, it appears the trustees have taken his message to heart. After a “break” on the agenda, the trustees have scheduled “review and discussion” of the pension reform surtax.

“Our office has reviewed these issues closely and as described below, from the Florida Constitution on down to the 2015 pension reform agreement (2015 Agreement), such matters are solely within the domain of the City and Unions, and not the Board,” Gabriel asserted in his Wednesday letter.

“Because the 2015 Agreement specifically contemplates that future retirement benefit changes would be negotiated by the City and its police and firefighter unions, and because that is precisely what happened in 2017, the 2015 Agreement does not need to be amended to reflect the 2017 retirement benefit changes,” Gabriel added.

This report comes in the same week that Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry extended the Mar. 15 deadline for a vote out two days, so that the PFPF could weigh in at its Friday meeting. This was In February, the Jacksonville Police and Fire Pension Fund Board of Trustees balked at a Mar. 15 deadline to vote on the city’s latest pension plan.

However, Gabriel’s position seems to make the PFPF input essentially advisory, and with the police and fire unions both on board, the trustees are poorly positioned to make a case aga

The board had worried that there would not be enough time to review the data of the new plan, which offers raises and uniformity of benefits for current employees, while providing a new defined contribution plan for future hires — offering a 25 percent city match and assurances that death and disability benefits would substantially be the same as they are for current employees.

The Curry administration took necessary steps to educate the board on the plan, but it seems that the general counsel’s ultimate position is that the board has no authority on this matter.

General Counsel Gabriel has, since Curry took office, repeatedly reminded the PFPF that it is a subsidiary of the city, and that the ultimate legal authority in Jacksonville rests in the OGC.

This could end up in federal court if the PFPF challenges the OGC position.

“The 2015 agreement is overseen by a federal judge. If the pension fund decides to challenge Gabriel’s position, it will fall to U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard to settle the dispute,” the T-U report notes.

Meanwhile, Gabriel is confident that “the Board does not need to take any further action as the 2017 negotiated agreements are in conformance with the terms of the 2015 Agreement and Florida law.”

He will be at the Friday PFPF board meeting to discuss this further.

However, what is clear: the trustees’ take on the deal means little to him — or the Curry administration.

April foreclosure sale for Kim Daniels’ $800K ‘parsonage’

Readers looking for a deal on a storied home in Davie, FL, may want to keep Apr. 12 open, as that is the date of the foreclosure sale on Rep. Kim Daniels‘ former “parsonage.”

Freedom Mortgage Corporation, the plaintiff, is selling a home once co-owned by Spoken Word Ministries, Rep. Daniels, and her former husband, Ardell Daniels.

The Daniels, who shared a ministry for almost two decades before their relationship fell apart while Rep. Daniels served on the Jacksonville City Council, lived well.

The parsonage is valued at over $800,000.

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Rep. Daniels maintained what seems to have been a part-time residence in Davie until 2014, when her husband locked her out of the parsonage.

In November 2014, Kim Daniels filed a counterpetition alleging that Ardell Daniels changed the locks on the Davie house, locking her out, then called police to say “strangers” were present. She petitioned for “exclusive use and occupancy of the Davie parsonage,” which, because she was an elected official in Jacksonville, seemed curious.

“She was getting into the political thing,” Ardell contended.

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The Davie property was part of an impressive portfolio of parsonages and parson-appropriate vehicles amassed by Spoken Word Ministries.

Beyond that home, the couple acquired other properties, including three Jacksonville homes, a Jacksonville commercial property, and three Central Florida timeshares. The Jacksonville home where Kim Daniels lives was appraised in 2015 at $386,940.

Additionally, Spoken Word Ministries had 13 vehicles, either in the name of the corporation or the husband.

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Meanwhile, the ownership situation of the Davie home was interesting in and of itself.

The Davie home, bought in 2010 by Kim Daniels with a G.I. Bill loan, was quitclaimed to Spoken Word Ministries in October 2010. In April 2011 it was quitclaimed back to Kim and Ardell Daniels, the same time she was running for office in Jacksonville. In November 2011 it was quitclaimed back to Spoken Word Ministries.

All the while, the home carried the same G.I. Bill mortgage. Typically, a mortgaged property can’t be quitclaimed. The filing contends that the quitclaim on the shared property was an “attempt to keep the interest of the property from the Husband” and “avoid paying taxes to the IRS.”

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This is the second piece of news on Daniels, a first-term Democrat in the Florida House, this week.

On Wednesday, we reported on the Florida Elections Commission finding probable cause to charge her with three counts of campaign finance law violations.

In happier news, her bill to institute “religious expression in public schools” is ready for the Senate floor, and got unanimous approval in its first House committee stop.

Jacksonville mulls ‘block party’ moratorium

A bill filed by Reggie Brown in the Jacksonville City Council this week would institute a 90-day moratorium on “block party” gatherings.

The legislation (2017-196) posits “a legitimate public purpose in imposing a temporary moratorium on permitting recreational street closings … ‘block parties’ within the City, to allow the City time to create appropriate local regulations and standards.”

Brown’s motivation for filing the bill came up in a discussion of council funded community events this week, in which he noted the inconsistency between the city allowing block parties on streets, while discouraging similar gatherings in public parks.

In gatherings in parks, Brown noted a double standard. Unorganized groups can congregate in parks, whereas for organized groups that may want to rent a stage and the like, costs and permitting obligations compound.

Brown has had to convince some recalcitrant council members of the need for council-sponsored community events in the past, and this latest bill is part of that continuing education effort, he told us.

“Our policies are not where they need to be in order to ensure public safety. It was never my intent to discontinue block parties,” Brown said, “only to provide a win-win for the community & the applicant. Unfortunately, its easier to block a public street for a party of any type than it is to have that same event in a public park. We have a responsibility to ensure all events on public property is safe from the onset.”

Brown is interested in updates to Section 191 of the city code, which has to do with special events, and Section 664, which deals with parks.

Next week, a meeting is slated between Brown and representatives of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, and from there the future of this bill will be more determined.

Movement in Jacksonville begins to ban tobacco sales to those under 21

The city of Jacksonville’s municipal code has taken a gradualist approach to tobacco prohibition — and it’s not done yet, if a recently-filed bill is any indication.

In 1973, the consolidated city passed an ordinance banning smoking in various places in the city.

Then, a fortnight later, a second ordinance was passed clarifying that prohibition would not apply to private gatherings.

In 1977, the city passed an ordinance prohibiting smoking during city council meetings. Among its co-sponsors: Ander Crenshaw and Jake Godbold.

In 1980, an ordinance was passed prohibiting the sale of smoking materials to minors.

In 1985, smoking in city-owned buildings, including workplaces, was stamped out.

The year 1990 saw new ordinance code designed to restrict children’s access to tobacco.

In 1998, the council passed a resolution seeking to regulate tobacco in a more “stringent” manner than permitted by state law.

And in 2012, a resolution was passed “urging” the elimination of “flavored-tobacco” sales, “by any means other than vendor-assisted sales.”

That latter resolution was co-sponsored by current Jacksonville City Council VP John Crescimbeni.

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Crescimbeni isn’t done with tobacco legislation.

He filed one bill this week, and has another in the hopper, he told FloridaPolitics.com Thursday.

The bill (2017-211) filed this week is in support of twin bills in the Florida Legislature that would urge Florida to become a so-called Tobacco 21 state.

The proposals (SB 1138 and HB 1093) would help lower the number of young adults who become addicted to tobacco and cut down on the state’s leading cause of preventable death.

Crescimbeni has been working with Tobacco 21, representatives of which spoke to a council committee this year.

The councilman’s logic: a ban on sales to those under the age of 21 would help to keep tobacco products out of the hands and lungs of those under the age of 18, as those over 21 aren’t typically “mingling” with minors.

The bill itself cites sobering statistics: 9.5 percent smoked a cigarette in the past month, and 5.2 percent — or 49,200 — high school students smoke in Florida, with 7,400 children under the age of 18 becoming new daily smokers each year.

Crescimbeni’s current bill is not on a fast-track; in fact, it hasn’t been referred to committees as of yet. But 2017-211 isn’t the only potential piece of legislation he has planned to extinguish the embers of youth smoking.

The councilman is also drafting a bill that could impose a local ban on tobacco sales to those under 18, though there are still issues to be resolved with that bill, regarding questions of local ordinance potentially conflicting with the state, and other home rule questions.

Whether with the bill he filed, or the bill he’s yet to file, it’s clear that Crescimbeni is determined to raise the age of legal tobacco sales to young people. As he continues to lead in the pledge count for the Jacksonville City Council president’s race, this issue is worth watching for both policy and political reasons.

Jacksonville leaders’ arguments for state incentives fall on deaf ears in Tallahassee

Jacksonville may be Ground Zero for the debate about economic incentives. Local leaders want them, but the local Florida House delegation does not.

This week, yet another prominent person in Jacksonville’s City Hall sounded the alarm for state incentives via Enterprise Florida.

The Jacksonville Daily Record reports that local OED head Kirk Wendland made the case for Enterprise Florida on Tuesday to local stakeholders.

Wendland’s quotes are so on message with Gov. Rick Scott that they could have come out of his press shop.

“If any of you know any senators and you have any conversations with them, please convey that it’s serious. We are counting on them to save Enterprise Florida,” Wendland said.

To hear him tell it, the merry-go-round of economic development is slowing: “just the discussion of Enterprise Florida not being there, and not having a state economic development agency, has absolutely affected the deal flow that we have seen over the past couple of months.”

Consultants — the kind that handle site visits for companies — aren’t biting, saying “we’ll come talk to you” after the incentive fight wraps.

If Enterprise Florida is cut, it “will have a material impact on us being able to compete for major projects here in Florida, in Jacksonville specifically,” Wendland told the Daily Record.

Wendland’s words echo the positions of two members of the city council, Jim Love and Aaron Bowman (whose day job is with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce).

Bowman and Love are pushing a resolution to affirm support for Enterprise Florida, which they believe is especially important for Jacksonville compared to other major metros in the state.

The salient numbers for Councilman Love: 5,000 jobs and $650M in private capital investment since July 2015.

Even before the council resolution, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry spoke to our Northeast Florida bureau about the need for incentives.

“We use incentives – local incentives and state incentives through Enterprise Florida – and we use them successfully,” Curry contended.

The city’s scorecard, which ensures ROI for taxpayers when incentives are offered, is designed to ensure an “inflow of tax dollars that exceeds that investment.”

“I would say that incentives are important to us. They’re used in a way that respects the taxpayers. Without the state funding,” Curry said, “we would have had trouble closing some of the big deals that we closed.”

Since the beginning of his mayoral administration in July 2015, Curry has evangelized for Enterprise Florida.

“Funding for Enterprise Florida is critical and important for Northeast Florida,” the mayor said in the summer of 2015. “It’s how we get deals done.”

It’s not just government workers who back Enterprise Florida.

It’s also the donor class, as Shad Khan made clear as early as 2015.

“I want to applaud Governor Scott,” Khan said. “If there is one lesson [to be derived] from Florida, it’s that economic development,” when prioritized, “leads to other things down the road.”

Such development can’t happen without Enterprise Florida, he said, and commented that the funding deficit is “disconcerting” because “the returns on funding are phenomenal.”

He urged the Legislature to “loosen the purse strings,” lest opportunity for corporate recruitment be lost.

Khan said, controversially at the time, that “there’s nothing iconic about Jacksonville.”

In that, he’s right.

Economic incentives have been the rising tide that has lifted at least some boats locally.

Companies like Macquarie, KLS Martin, and Deutsche Bank all expanded Jacksonville operations in the last two years.

All of those deals were incentive driven.

Jacksonville is an acquired taste for corporate types, used to the faster pace of life in New York or other traditional hotbeds.

However, it was just this year that Bloomberg reported that Jacksonville’s efforts, aided and abetted by state economic development, are paying off.

“Global financial companies including Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank and Sydney-based Macquarie Group have been moving executives here and hiring locally, even while paring staff elsewhere.

“It’s part of a Wall Street trend known as nearshoring, in which banks are moving operations away from expensive financial centers like New York to places such as Jacksonville and North Carolina’s Research Triangle. Also in Jacksonville are more than 19,000 employees of Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, and Wells Fargo,” Bloomberg notes, adding that Jacksonville is Deutsche Bank’s second largest American location.

In addition, the Bloomberg report notes that jobs in Jacksonville, such as those offered by Macquarie, are filled by “people whose jobs might otherwise have been filled in India. It provides a support staff that’s more convenient for its U.S.-based employees, while its Indian operation continues to focus on the Asia business.”

With two years of successful economic development under the current structure, it’s noteworthy that the Duval Delegation is unmoved by the results on the ground.

During this week’s vote on Enterprise Florida in the House, a grand total of one representative — Jay Fant — represented the position preferred by local policy makers.

Paul Renner, seen as an adjunct local legislator, is key to the battle against incentives.

Meanwhile, other Republicans (Cord ByrdJason FischerClay Yarborough) and both local Democrats (Tracie Davis and Kim Daniels) went with the Speaker and away from the constant drumbeat from locals that Jacksonville’s economic boom will lean toward bust without state incentives.

This has been a session of recalibrated expectations in Jacksonville’s city hall relative to this delegation: consider the aborted Hart Bridge offramp changes as a prime example.

The argument could be made, meanwhile, that the most effective lobbying on any measure by a local legislator has been by Rep. Daniels, on her bill expanding protections of “religious expression” in public schools.

Daniels took the bill over to the Senate, where she got Ocala Republican Dennis Baxley to carry it through committees to the Senate floor.

On the House side, meanwhile, the bill has had one committee hearing.

It was approved unanimously, with applause after the vote.

One can argue the merits of school prayer and other demonstrations of “religious expression” in schools.

What can’t be argued: no amount of “religious expression” in schools will bring a single job to Jacksonville.

Fire union joins other Jax bargaining groups in approving pension deal

Another day, another big win for Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry.

The Jacksonville Association of Firefighters overwhelmingly approved the city’s pension offer, which sees raises for current employees and a defined contribution plan for future hires, Wednesday night.

JAFF head Randy Wyse wrote in an email that “the Jacksonville Association of Firefighters have finished voting on the tentative agreement between the COJ and IAFF.  The firefighters approved the agreement 77% for and 23% against.  The chief officers approved 86% for and 14% against.  The contract passes with a majority vote from the Firefighters.”

Curry wrote that “today represents another step toward solving Jacksonville’s pension crisis once and for all in a way that is good for taxpayers, first responders, and the future of our city. I thank IAFF union leadership and membership for working with me and reaching this historic agreement.”

The fire union joins the local Fraternal Order of Police, AFSCME, and LIUNA in approving the deals, which involve raises across the board and the defined contribution plan with a 25 percent city match.

The remaining bits of drama include a Friday meeting of the Police and Fire Pension Fund, which does not have a right to vote on the deal according to the city’s general counsel.

From there, the city council must vote on the deal — and despite the council’s pliant nature to this administration, individual members have began to balk — even on live mikes — about the lack of specificity from the mayor’s office.

Campaign finance trouble bubbles up for Kim Daniels

Before Rep. Kim Daniels ran for the State House in 2016, she ran for re-election for the Jacksonville City Council.

In that capacity, Daniels had some campaign finance issues, as Jacksonville’s Folio Weekly reported in February 2015.

Daniels used $4,000 of campaign funds to promote her book, The Demon Dictionary, in a religious magazine called Shofar.

Daniels also offered editorials in the magazine, and no disclaimers marking the communiques as campaign communications were on offer.

A local activist/journalist, David Vandygriff of JaxGay.com, filed an FEC complaint, and in March of 2016, staff recommended to the commission that there was probable cause to believe that an election code violation might have occurred.

A year later — Feb. 28, to be exact — it was revealed that the FEC asserts three potential counts of violations of the law.

Count 1 states that on or about March 1, 2014, Daniels used campaign funds to defray normal living expenses.

That violates Statute 106.1405, which asserts that  contributions cannot be used “to defray normal living expenses for the candidate or the candidate’s family, other than expenses actually incurred for transportation, meals, and lodging by the candidate or a family member during travel in the course of the campaign.

Count 2 asserts a prohibited expenditure during the same time frame, violating 106.19(1)(d).

Count 3 asserts a report of false information on or about April 9, 2014, violating 106.19(1)(c) — a date that coincides with when her campaign finance information would have been filed.

Vandygriff notes that the first count was outside the scope of his original complaint.

Daniels’ campaign finance reports were idiosyncratic.

She seeded her re-election campaign with $50,000, then as the campaign progressed, had small dollar donations that were as low as $2.

Her expenditures began in March 2014 with the $4,000 ad in Shofar, continuing on with a lot of less-than-transparent notations for advertisements, payments and refunded payments, and a lot of money spent on canvassers and her campaign manager, Bradford Hall.

Daniels has a number of avenues to resolve this matter, including via consent order, an informal hearing, or a formal hearing.

At press time, it is unknown how she will handle this matter.

Travis Hutson’s redistricting bill moves to Senate 3rd reading calendar

SB 352, a Travis Hutson bill intended to streamline the handling of redistricting cases in state courts, moved from the special order calendar to third reading Wednesday.

The bill is intended to encourage judges to conduct redistricting actions in the sunshine, including public hearings involving potential district maps, keeping minutes of closed-door meetings on the plan, facilitating public comment on maps and plans, and complete records retention of all emails and documents.

The last decade has been fraught with challenges related to post-2010 reapportionment, including four years of litigation and eight separate opinions from the Florida Supreme Court.

Hutson noted that the bill “locks the maps in place on qualification day,” giving clarity to candidates.

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There was just a bit of drama during Senate discussion.

Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami Democrat, introduced an amendment to strike requirements on the course in the bill, saying that while the legislature passes laws, the language of the bill requiring the courts to conduct public hearings is “not their role.”

Rodriguez made the same point regarding records retention.

“Those are the kinds of things that we do,” Rodriguez said.

Hutson called the amendment “unfriendly,” saying that “there are certain things that the voters and … the legislature should know about how they’re reaching their conclusions.”

Sen. Jack Latvala cited the “arrogance” of the judicial branch, crediting Hutson with a “nice try” in terms of holding the courts to the same standards that the legislative branch is compelled to adhere to.

Rodriguez then withdrew the amendment.

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The Florida House version of this bill, HB 953, has three committees to clear ahead of a floor vote.

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