Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 125

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster

Florida congressional delegation asks Donald Trump to support Everglades restoration

Congressman Francis Rooney is calling on Donald Trump to support Everglades restoration, with a letter to the president saying that Everglades restoration “has far-ranging impacts to the entire state of Florida and the rest of the country.”

Signed by the entire Florida delegation, the two-page letter was dated Friday.

The letter asks that Trump prepares his fiscal 2018 budget, the “strong support Everglades restoration projects, especially those within the Central Everglades Restoration Program (CERP).”

It also notes the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act of 2016 Act authorized two projects that now needs further action from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Interior.

The projects include the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEEP) and additional authorizations to complete the Picayune Strand project, both which are important to achieving “optimal water flow.”

“The Everglades deserve your attention and support, and we ask that you provide the necessary resources to restore the region,” the delegation wrote.

During a stop in Collier County in October, Trump called attention to the issue, saying he would work to protect the Everglades.

A Naples Republican, Rooney was elected in November, replacing Rep. Curt Clawson, a Bonita Springs Republican. While Clawson served just one term in Congress, he made water quality, Everglades restoration and the environment a priority during his time in office.

Rooney, who served as the ambassador to the Holy See and was a top Republican donor before running for Congress, also said he’ll make the environment a top priority. He joined the Congressional Everglades Caucus, a bipartisan group aimed at restoring the Everglades, often talking about environmental issues while on the campaign trail.

“The Everglades have a far-ranging impact to the entire state of Florida and to the country,” Rooney said in a statement. “Our economy has been decimated. Businesses have closed. We all have a vested interest in the Everglades.”

The entire delegation signed the letter, including Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Alcee Hastings, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Darren Soto, John Rutherford, Al Lawson, and Stephanie Murphy.

Adam Putnam to business leaders: ‘Florida has come too far to turn back now’

Each month, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam looks at the list of top job openings the governor gives him. And each month, the top jobs remains same.

Nursing is usually at the top of the list, tractor-trailer drivers aren’t far behind. And their constant presence at the top of the list tells Putnam this: The state needs to invest in workforce development.

“If you look at all the job vacancies, frequently those vacancies don’t necessarily require a four-year degree,” said Putnam, after brief remarks at Gov. Rick Scott’s 2017 Jobs Summit. “If we want to have manufacturing in the state, that’s industry certifications and trades and training that does not require a university experience. They’re both important, but universities get all the glory.”

Putnam was one of several speakers during the first day of the two-day conference, aimed at bringing business and community leaders together to discuss economic and business development.

While much of the day focused on tax cuts, economic incentives and the need for tourism marketing dollars, Putnam’s remarks focused largely on the importance of keeping talent in Florida.

“We need an education system that prepares a workforce for both STEM degrees and the trades; careers that allow (students) to find their piece of the American dream in Florida,” said Putnam, a likely 2018 gubernatorial candidate. “So the kids that grow up in the Glades, the Suwannee Valley or Northwest Florida don’t need to leave the town they love to find the job they need to feed their families.”

But that means convincing people that workforce education plays an important role in Florida’s future. Putnam said that takes leadership, and said it can be done by focusing on opportunities and wages.

“We create our own luck in business,” he said. “Florida has come too far to turn back now.”

Rick Scott: ‘If we want jobs in this state, our taxes have to be lower’

Gov. Rick Scott made the pitch for an aggressive tax cut plan, saying Florida leaders need to run the state like a business to continue to attract jobs — and job seekers — to the Sunshine State.

The Naples Republican kicked off his 2017 Jobs Summit in Orlando on Thursday. Similar to his 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit, the two-day event is meant to bring together business and community leaders to discuss economic and business development.

But it’s also a chance for Scott to try to build a coalition of support for his fiscal 2017-18 budget proposal. That spending plan, which Scott officially rolled out earlier this week, included $618 million in tax cuts and $8 million in fee reductions.

“If we want jobs in this state, our taxes have to be lower; we have to have to have less regulation; we have to have government at the city, county and state government level that says ‘I want to solve your problems,’” said Scott.

Scott’s tax cut plan includes cutting the tax on commercial leases by 25 percent in 2018. Florida is the only state in the nation that has a tax on commercial leases, and there has been support for a tax cut in years past. According to the Governor’s Office, the cut could save businesses $454 million a year.

His proposal also includes a one-year sales tax exemption on college textbooks and four sales tax holidays, including a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday. His proposal to reduce fees includes reducing the building permit surcharge from 1.5 percent to 1 percent; eliminating sales and use tax registration fees; and reducing fees associated with commercial driving schools.

Those reductions might help businesses down the line, but it could come at a cost to the state’s coffers. While Scott has said there is plenty of money to accommodate his tax cut proposal, state economists project the surplus could be closer to $7.5 million.

“It’s an ambitious tax cut,” said Rep. Jim Boyd, chairman of the House Ways & Means committee. “I don’t know that our numbers are showing the same as his our right now, but certainly I’m interested in cutting taxes.”

Scott, who has also asked for $85 million for economic incentives, called on business leaders to appeal to lawmakers to support his proposal.

“I want to make sure that everyone in the state has a job,” he said.

House to consider proposed committee bill to eliminate Enterprise Florida

The Florida House has fired back, filing a proposed committee bill this week completely eliminate Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private jobs agency.

The proposed committee bill (PCB CCS 17-01) would, among other things, abolish Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, two organizations which have drawn the ire of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

The bill, which is expected to be discussed during Wednesday’s House Careers & Competition Subcommittee meeting, comes as Gov. Rick Scott makes some of his strongest criticisms to date about the House’s position on incentives and Visit Florida.

“If you don’t support Enterprise Florida, if you don’t support Visit Florida, then you don’t care about jobs,” said Scott after Thursday’s Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting. “When somebody gets a job, who gets helped the most? The most disadvantaged in our state gets helped the most. So who ever doesn’t support Enterprise Florida, doesn’t support Visit Florida, doesn’t understand how business works and is not focused on how families in every part of the state get a job.”

Corcoran played a key role in blocking Scott’s proposal for $250 million for Enterprise Florida in 2016, and he’s poised to do the same in 2017. He remains staunchly opposed to incentives, taking the position they are little more than “corporate welfare.”

And on Tuesday, Corcoran said there would be “no (economic) incentives” in his chamber’s proposed 2017-18 budget.

That position could be costing the state jobs in the long run. A few years ago, Scott said the state was in the middle of conversations with GE when the state Legislature decided to cut funding for incentives. Those conversations, Scott said, ended soon after.

“We’re not going to get the leads. You’re not going to do business with someone with no money,” he said. “If the legislature says they don’t want to do deals, then if you’re a site selector you don’t want to waste your time. We’re not the only state out there trying to get them.”

Scott said he is going to “work tirelessly” to get more jobs, and said he believes the Legislature will “fully fund” Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida. He would not say whether he would veto the bill if it makes it his desk.

Rick Scott stresses need for economic incentive dollars during Enterprise Florida meeting

Gov. Rick Scott continued to make the pitch for economic incentives, telling Florida business leaders to call their House members to encourage them to support his request for millions of dollars for Enterprise Florida.

“Here’s my ask: This, in my opinion, is the most important thing we can do for the state,” he said. “Talk to all of your employees. Let them know the importance of these things. Talk to your House members. Session starts in just a month. Let them know (you support this).”

The Naples Republican made his appeal during the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting Thursday morning. The meeting comes just days after Scott officially unveiled his fiscal 2017-18 budget, which included $85 million for economic incentives.

“The way I think about it is if you care about the most disadvantaged family in the state, then fully fund EFI,” said Scott. “People forget, six years ago all across our state homes were being foreclosed on, cars were being repossessed, people were moving out of our state because they couldn’t get a jobs. Now we have thousands of people moving here a year. We are the best melting pot in the world. And I’m going to fight every day to make sure when I finish, this is the No. 1 place for jobs.”

But to say Scott faces a tough sell in the Florida House, might be an understatement. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is staunchly opposed to incentives, taking the position they are little more than “corporate welfare.”

And the Land O’Lakes Republican isn’t budging from that position, saying Tuesday there would be “no (economic) incentives” in his chamber’s proposed 2017-18 budget.

That position, Scott told Enterprise Board members Thursday, sends a message to businesses and site selectors looking to relocate corporate or regional headquarters. A few years ago, Scott said the state was in the middle of conversations with GE when the state Legislature decided to cut funding for incentives. Those conversations, Scott said, ended shortly thereafter.

“We’re not going to get the leads. You’re not going to do business with someone with no money,” said Scott. “If the legislature says they don’t want to do deals, then if you’re a site selector you don’t want to waste your time. We’re not the only state out there trying to get them.”

Enterprise Florida board members expressed frustration with Corcoran’s position Thursday, calling him the “elephant in the room.

It’s unlikely this is the only time business leaders will hear Scott’s appeal for help this week. The board meeting came just hours before the start of Scott’s 2017 “Jobs Summit.”

The two-day event is expected to be similar to Scott’s successful 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit. While that focused largely on preparing Florida’s students for the workforce, the 2017 event appears to focus on economic development development.

Florida families will each spend at least $75 on Super Bowl festivities, retailers say

The average cost of a Super Bowl party is down slightly in 2017, but the Florida Retail Federation doesn’t think that will stop Floridians from going all out this weekend.

Florida families are expected to spend an average of $75 per person to watch Super Bowl LI between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots on Feb. 5. While the average per person cost is down slightly from last year, total spending across the country is expected to reach $14.1 billion.

“Floridians love their football more than just about any other state, and with the Super Bowl being the final game of the year, we expect fans to celebrate the end to great seasons in both professional and college football,” said Randy Miller, the president and CEO of Florida Retail Federation, in a statement. “The Super Bowl is truly a must-see event for Floridians whether they follow the sport closely or not, and we expect local consumers to load up on food, drinks and decorations for their game watching parties.”

In 2015, people spent an average of $82 per person on a Super Bowl party and total spending reached about $15.5 billion.

“As a favorite American past-time, the Super Bowl is a great chance for viewers to reconnect with friends and family after having a nice break after the holiday season,” said Pam Goodfellow, a principal analyst with Prosper Insights & Analytics, which conducted a nationwide survey for the National Retail Federation, in a statement.

“Even though the number of viewers is slightly down this year, plenty are still planning to enjoy the day by watching it at their favorite bar or friend’s place, wearing their lucky jerseys and hoping their favorite team wins.”

An estimated 188.5 million people are expected to watch the Super Bowl this week. The National Retail Federation survey found 43 percent of viewers said the game is the most important part of the Super Bowl; while 24 percent said the commercials were the most important part. About 12 percent of respondents said they tune in for the half-time show.

Nationwide, 45 million people hosting a Super Bowl party should expect a full house. According to a National Retail Federation Survey, 12.4 million people plan to head to their favorite bar or restaurant to watch the game.

 

Denise Grimsley running for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018

Denise Grimsley has made it official, announcing she filed to run for Agriculture Commissioner in 2018.

Grimsley, who told FloridaPolitics.com in January she was eyeing a run, filed her statement of candidacy with the Division of Elections. She is vying to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who can’t run again because of term limits.

“Florida has many challenges in our agriculture industry, yet we have so many more exciting opportunities,” she said in a statement. “We will continue to fight for a smart statewide water policy, we will protect our environment and blessed Florida resources, and we will pursue expansion of the over two million jobs Florida agriculture provides our state. I offer my broad life experience and an optimistic vision to achieve so much for our state.”

A fifth generation Floridian, Grimsley was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, where she served until 2012. Grimsley was elected to the Florida Senate in 2012. She ran unopposed in 2016 and easily won re-election. She served as the Senate’s deputy Majority Leader from 2014-16.

Grimsley served as vice president and chief operating officer of her family business, Grimsley Oil Company. She’s also been involved in the citrus and ranching industry, and is a member of the Peace River Valley and Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, and the Florida Cattlemen’s Association.

A registered nurse, Grimsley has been certified in trauma and pediatric advanced life support. She is currently a hospital administrator for Florida Hospital Wauchula and Lake Placid.

“We are the sum of our experiences, and I offer my candidacy to continue the principles of conservative public service I have followed in my career, both in the private sector and in the Florida Legislature,” she said in a statement Wednesday. “Serving on the Cabinet as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services would be a tremendous honor, and I look forward to earning our Republican Party’s nomination and competing for the general election in November 2018.”

While much of the 2018 chatter has been about the governor’s race, attention turned to the race to replace Putnam in recent weeks after former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli announced he would not run for the office in two years.

Crisafulli, with his deep roots in the state’s agriculture community, was considered a frontrunner to win the Republican nomination.

Grimsley isn’t the only one vying for the spot. Republican Paul Paulson has already filed to run, and Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sen. Greg Steube are both considering a run.

medical marijuana

Jeff Brandes files medical marijuana implementing bill

Sen. Jeff Brandes wants a total overhaul of the state’s medical marijuana laws, filing legislation to repeal current law dealing with low-THC cannabis and replace it with a new regulatory system.

The St. Petersburg Republican filed the legislation (SB 614) Wednesday. A long-time critic of the current medical marijuana system, Brandes’ bill has the potential to open up the market beyond the seven dispensing organizations under law.

“The overwhelming support of Amendment 2 was a strong mandate that Floridians demand fundamental change to the way we regulate medical marijuana,” said Brandes in a statement. “The laws on the books today promote a state-sanctioned cartel system that limits competition, inhibits access, and results in higher prices for patients. This legislation outright repeals Florida’s defective law.”

Under the proposal, vertical integration of medical marijuana treatment centers is not required. Instead, the bill creates four different function licenses — cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail — that a medical marijuana treatment center can obtain. The bill allows treatment centers to get any combination of licenses. That’s a departure from current law, which requires dispensing organizations, similar to a medical marijuana treatment center, to grow, process and sell their own product.

“Florida should focus on what is best for patients,” he said. “The state today artificially limits the number of marijuana providers, promoting regional monopolies and standing in the way of the physician-patient relationship. This legislation removes those barriers, and will provide expanded access to Floridians who could benefit from the use of these products.”

The cultivation license would allow a license holder to grow and harvest marijuana; while a processing license would allow the permit holder to convert marijuana into a medical marijuana product, like oils, creams and food products, for qualifying patients.

Medical marijuana treatment centers with a transportation license would be allowed to deliver products to other treatment centers. It also allows centers to deliver the product directly to qualified patients, which the proposal states may not be restricted by local jurisdictions.

The proposal restricts retail facilities to 1 license per 25,000 residents. It allows local governments to regulate zoning and safety standards, and allows local governments to prohibit stores from opening up in their community. More than 50 cities across the state already have a zoning moratorium in place banning or restricting dispensaries.

Beyond getting rid of vertical integration, Brandes’ bill opens the door for future growth by removing current requirements, like how long a company needs to be in business or how much of the product they can grow.

“Senator Brandes’ implementing bill does an excellent job of establishing a comprehensive, tightly regulated medical marijuana system in Florida. SB 614 respects both the language of the constitution and the mandate that voters delivered on this issue,” said Ben Pollara, the campaign manager for the United for Care campaign, which backed the medical marijuana constitutional amendment. “The two most essential pieces of implementation are maintaining the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship, and expanding the marketplace to serve patient access. SB 614 does both in a well regulated, well thought out manner.”

Brandes is the second Senate Republican in recent weeks to file a bill focused on implementing Amendment 2, the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment.Last month, Sen. Rob Bradley filed a bill that would, among other things, allow for the growth of medical marijuana treatment centers once the number of registered patients hits a certain number.

Under his proposal, the Department of Health is required register five more medical marijuana treatment centers within six months of 250,000 qualified patients registering with the compassionate use registry. It then allows for more five more treatment centers to receive licenses after the 350,000 qualified patients, 400,000 qualified patients, 500,000 qualified patients, and after each additional 100,000 qualified patients register with the state’s compassionate use registry.

The Department of Health also initiated the process of creating rules and regulations governing Amendment 2 in January. The department has until July to put rules in place to implement Amendment 2, which passed with overwhelming support in November.

Under preliminary rules, medical marijuana treatment centers — which under new rules would be the same as a dispensing organization, must go through the same “approval and selection process” outlined in existing law. Those organizations are also “subject to the same limitations and operational requirements” currently outlined in state law.

A spokeswoman for the health department said in an email last month that agency looks forward to “receiving input from all interested stakeholders through the open and transparent rulemaking process.”

Brandes’ bill also:

— Adds paraplegia, quadriplegia, and terminal conditions to the list of debilitating medical conditions as adopted as part of Amendment 2;

— Establishes criteria for caregivers and requires the background screening of caregivers;

— Restricts patients and caregivers from cultivating their own marijuana, and requires patients obtain marijuana from registered medical marijuana treatment centers;

— Grandfathers in existing dispensing organizations; and

— Applies a sales tax to the sales of marijuana and medical marijuana products.

If Brandes’ proposal makes headway in the Senate, that sales tax issue could run into some trouble in the House. While a House bill hasn’t been filed yet, Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues, who is expected to carry the bill, has said the House version won’t include a tax on medical marijuana products.

 

Ballard Partners going national, opens D.C. office

Ballard Partners is extending its reach, announcing it is opening an office in Washington, D.C.

Brian Ballard, the firm’s president, announced this week Ballard Partners has opened an office in the nation’s capital. The announcement comes just weeks after President Donald Trump, who Ballard supported, took the oath of office.

“There is great enthusiasm with President Trump’s new administration in Washington. We are thrilled to be part of this excitement with the opening of our new Ballard Partners office in our nation’s capital,” said Ballard in a statement. “We have assembled a first class team to lead our office in Washington, and we look forward to representing our clients on a path to success at the federal level.”

That top-notch team includes Dan McFaul, a 20-year veteran of Capitol Hill. McFaul served as the chief of staff for newly U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, was a staffer on Trump’s transition team, and was the chief of staff and communications director for former Rep. Jeff Miller. He also served as former Rep. Joe Scarborough’s legislative director and deputy press secretary.

With an expansive client list, it isn’t surprising that Ballard has decided to open up an D.C. office. The firm is regularly one of the top earning lobby firms in the state; and in December, it announced a strategic partnership with Chicago-based All-Circo political consulting firm.

But beyond the expanding the firm’s reach, the decision to open up shop just weeks after Trump’s inauguration might not be that astonishing.

Ballard served as the finance chairman for his campaign in Florida, and was selected to serve as one of the finance vice chairs on the Presidential Inaugural Committee. He was a top adviser to the New York Republican during his presidential bid, and there were rumblings he might be nominated for an ambassadorship.

And their relationship goes beyond politics. Ballard served as the Trump Organization’s lobbyist before the Florida Legislature for several years.

Susie Wiles, who ran Trump’s successful Florida campaign, will also be joining the D.C. office. Wiles, a managing partner at Ballard Partners Jacksonville office, will split her time between Washington, D.C. and Jacksonville.

“Ballard Partners’ Washington, D.C. office will help provide clients critical access to the happenings at the federal level,” she said in a statement. “We are excited to hit the ground running with the powerhouse team we’ve assembled.”

The D.C. team will also include Otto Reich, the former ambassador to Venezuela.

Reich also served as the assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, the Special Envoy for the Western Hemisphere under President George W. Bush, and a senior staff member of the National Security Council. Reich was appointed as ambassador to Venezuela by President Ronald Reagan, where he served from 1986 to 1989.

“I am thrilled to join Ballard Partners in the new Washington, D.C. office at a very exciting time in our country’s history,” said Reich in a statement. “I look forward to helping bring the Ballard Partners standard of first-class government relations to Washington.”

Sylvester “Syl” Lukis has been tapped to lead the D.C. office. Lukis, a senior partner in Ballard Partners, brings more than 40 years of experience in government and representing clients Florida and Washington, D.C. to the position.

Land purchase south of Lake O remains top priority for Joe Negron

Securing funding to purchase land south of Lake Okeechobee remains a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron.

But Negron could face a tough road ahead. Gov. Rick Scott did not include money for a proposed Everglades reservoir in his 2017-18 budget, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran has dismissed the idea of bonding to pay for Negron’s project.

The Stuart Republican appears unfazed, saying it is his obligation to convince people the project is appropriate.

“I’m going to use the time I’m here to say enough is enough. We’ve been talking about southern storage for 20 years,” he said during the annual legislative planning session hosted by the Associated Press in Tallahassee on Tuesday. “It’s not a new idea. It’s not a radical idea. The time for talking is over. The time for action is now.”

In August, Negron announced he would push for funding to add 120 billion gallons of new water storage south of Lake Okeechobee during the 2017 legislative session. The estimated the cost of adding the reservoirs on 60,000 acres of land would cost about $2.4 billion.

At the time, Negron proposed bonding using $100 million a year from Amendment 1 dollars over 20 years to finance the project. And last week, the Senate took the first step in making good on that proposal.

Sen. Rob Bradley on Thursday filed legislation that gives the South Florida Water Management District until Dec. 18 to buy farm land for a water-storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. The funding for the purchase would come from bonding $100 million of Amendment 1 dollars.

During a news conference later that day, Corcoran said he did not support a plan to finance the project. When asked about bonding, the Land O’Lakes Republican said the “House is not prepared to bond at all.”

Funding for the project was notably missing from Scott’s nearly $83.5 billion budget.

The proposed $60 million for the “Indian River Lagoon Caloosahatchee Cleanup Initiative,” which is meant to be a long-term solution for improving water in the area. The initiative would include $40 million in new funding for a 50-50 state matching grant program to help residents impacted by algae blooms move to sewer systems and $20 million in new funding for muck dredging and other capital projects to improve water quality and reduce sources of pollution.

His budget also includes $225 million for Everglades restoration projects; $20 million for the C-51 reservoir, which will provide more than 24 billion gallons of water storage and a water supply source for South Florida; and $4 million for targeted land acquisition.

“We’re doing projects to make the system better,” said Negron. “I appreciate the governor’s incredible track record on environmental issues.”

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