Emma Collum is jumping into the race to replace Rep. George Moraitis.
Collum, the founder of Women’s March FL and the national head of field operations for the National Committee of Women’s March, announced Thursday she was running in House District 93.
“Over the last year, my work on both Women’s March FL and the National Committee of Women’s Marches has brought a new sense of purpose and resolve to fight for the things I believe in,” said Collum in a statement. “Part of the lesson of those marches is to channel our anger and disappointment about government into movements and change. I’m excited to take this straight to Tallahassee.”
An early organizer of the Women’s March, Collum played a key role in getting thousands upon thousands of Floridians to Washington, D.C. and regional marches. She is currently the executive director of the twenty-chapter statewide group, as well as a field director for the national organization.
“Activism has been a part of my entire life. I know what it means to be broke, where you are one health scare or car repair away from catastrophe,” she said. “Now, as an attorney, I also know the challenges of small to medium sized businesses that need good policies to survive. Our platform can’t simply be anti-Trump or anti-Scott. It has to be rooted in the specific things affecting our communities and local businesses.”
Collum currently serves as in-house counsel for JL Audio, a family owned business in South Florida. Prior to joining JL Audio, she worked at an attorney at a New York City law firm.
Collum is the third Democrat to throw her hat in the race to replace Moriatis, a Fort Lauderdale Republican who can’t run again because of term limits. Jonathon May and Stephanie April Myers have also announced their runs.
Senate President Joe Negron sent 13 bills, including the 2017-18 spending plan, to Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday. Scott now has until June 15 to act on the $82.4 billion spending plan, but exactly how he plans to proceed remains unclear.
“I’m going to do what I do every year,” he said. “I’ll look through the budget and make sure the dollars are allocated in a manner that I think is good for the state.”
Scott has spent the past few weeks traveling the state criticizing lawmakers for their decision to cut funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. The fiscal 2017-18 budget includes $25 million in it for Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency. The budget includes some funding for Enterprise Florida operations, but does not include the money Scott requested for business development incentives
The governor did not receive as large of a tax cut he had requested; and state lawmakers didn’t include money in the budget for the Herbert Hoover Dike, a late-in-the-game request made by Scott.
Scott has criticized lawmakers for the lack of transparency, saying Floridians didn’t know what was in the budget until the last minute.
“This is my seventh budget and every year, I have a team that works with me,” he said Tuesday. “But what’s different or frustrating is we knew nothing about the budget until right at the end, because it was done all behind closed doors.”
Scott vetoed more than $256.1 million in spending lawmakers presented him with the 2016-17 budget last year. According to data compiled by LobbyTools, the governor has vetoed more than $1.9 billion during his first six years in office.
There are currently 108 bills on the governor’s desk. He must act on more than a dozen of those bills by the end of the day today.
Sen. Jeff Brandes said he plans to continue his push for criminal justice reform, advancing a multi-year process to take a closer look at the state’s criminal justice system.
Brandes, who has made criminal justice reform a top priority, was in Washington, D.C. last week for the Right on Crime annual summit. The conservative-leaning organization has been working on criminal justice issues in Texas, Louisiana, and Florida.
Brandes said the key takeaway from the summit was that “many states are struggling with criminal justice reform at the same time.”
“They’re all realizing that the current trajectory they’re on isn’t working,” said Brandes, who sits on the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. “I think one of the things is we’re learning from each other’s experiences. Texas started this years ago, and we’re learning from their experience. We know what is palatable and we know what the outcomes are.”
Brandes said Florida can learn from other states, including Texas, about “what works and what doesn’t.”
“We don’t have to go out and reinvent the wheel,” he said. “They’ve been able to have a meaningful impact and still reduce recidivism and overall crime.”
Gov. Rick Scott announced in 2016 the state’s crime rate was at a 45-year low, dropping to 3.1 percent in 2015. However, the state saw an increase in the number of murders, rapes and motor vehicle thefts during that same time period.
But Brandes said while crime is falling, the number of people in prisons remains static. And Brandes said the state needs to look at issues like sentencing, education, life skills and how to deal with addiction and mental health problems.
“What we know is that most people in jail today are going to get out. Are they going to get out as productive members of society or are they going to get out as better criminals,” said Brandes. “What are we doing (to address) education, life skills, addiction. Are we dealing with those appropriately?”
Brandes proposed a bill (SB 458) to create a 28-member task force to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s criminal justice, courts and correction system. While the bill received unanimous support in early committee meetings, it didn’t get a vote of the full Senate before the end of the 2017 Legislative Session.
The St. Petersburg Republican has said he plans to make criminal justice reform a top priority during his term. He told the Florida Association of Professional Lobbyists last year that while it wasn’t something his constituents were clamoring for; it was an issue that needs to be addressed.
Brandes didn’t just focus on criminal justice during his trip to D.C. last week. He also met with Rep. Dennis Ross to talk about flood insurance; as well as Uber and Tesla to talk about bills passed during the 2017 Legislative Session.
Gov. Rick Scott did not close the door entirely on a special session on medical marijuana, telling reporters his office was reviewing his options.
“I know there’s a lot of people involved and interested in the issue,” said Scott, following a stop in Fort Myers on Tuesday morning.
Scott said a special session was “something we’re reviewing.”
The comments come as calls for a special session to pass rules governing medical marijuana implementation continue to mount. More than a dozen state lawmakers have sent letters to the Department of State asking for a special session, and others have taken to social media to show their support for a special session.
Lawmakers couldn’t agree on an implementing bill before the end of the 2017 Legislative Session earlier this month. One of the main sticking points between the House and Senate was whether to limit the number of retail facilities licensed growers could have. The Senate supported caps; the House did not.
Calls for a special session to address medical marijuana began almost as soon as the 2017 Legislative Session ended. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has said he supported a special session on the issue; while Senate President Joe Negron has asked members for their input on how they think the they should proceed.
Lawmakers could head back to Tallahassee if Scott were to decide to call a special session; or if Corcoran and Negron issue a call for a special session. There is also a process for rank-and-file members to trigger a special session, something some members are trying to do.
As of last week, 16 members of the House and Senate had sent letters to the Department of State asking for a special session. The department received 11 letters from House members, including Rep. Kathleen Peters and Rep. Katie Edwards, and five from senators, including Sen. Darryl Rouson and Sen. Greg Steube.
“It is with great urgency that I write this letter to you requesting that the State of Florida properly and efficiently convene a Special Session that serves the purpose of ensuring that the 71% of Floridians that voted for the legalization of medical marijuana are heard,” wrote Rep. Shevrin Jones in a May 24 letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “It is our duty to ensure that the usage of medical marijuana serves its purpose here in the great state of Florida to enervate medical conditions.”
If 32 lawmakers formally request a special session, the department must poll the Legislature. Three-fifths of each chamber need to agree before a call is issued.
Gov. Rick Scott hammered state lawmakers over reduced funding for two of his top priorities, but once again declined to say whether he’ll veto the budget when it gets to his desk in the coming days.
“I’ve been in business all my life and I love to see people succeed, to take risks, and when they do that they hire more people,” said Scott during a stop in Fort Myers on Tuesday. “So the most important thing for me to do is create an economy where everybody can get a job.”
While the Naples Republican highlighted job growth during his stop at Fish Tale Boats in Fort Myers, he also took a swipe at state lawmakers, who cut funding for both Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida in the fiscal 2017-18 budget.
“We have to keep fighting for jobs,” he said. “We are on a roll right now, but unfortunately the politicians in Tallahassee turned their back on two agencies that create jobs.”
The fiscal 2017-18 budget includes $25 million in it for Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing agency. The budget includes some funding for Enterprise Florida operations, but does not include the money Scott requested for business development incentives.
Scott said the reason the state has been doing so well in recent years is because “we’ve marketed our state well.”
While the governor has been critical of the budget, he has avoided saying whether he will veto the entire spending plan when it reaches his desk. That could happen any day now; the Tampa Bay Times reported the Senate could send the budget to Scott as early as Tuesday.
“I’m going to do what I do every year,” said Scott when asked by reporters Tuesday about budget vetoes. “I’ll look through the budget and make sure the dollars are allocated in a manner that I think is good for the state.”
The governor went on to say he expected to receive the budget “sometime this week” and will have 15 days to review it.
“I can veto the entire budget, I can veto a portion of the budget or I can veto a line in the budget,” said Scott. “This is my seventh budget and every year, I have a team that works with me. But what’s different or frustrating is we knew nothing about the budget until right at the end, because it was done all behind closed doors.”
Scott vetoed more than $256.1 million in spending lawmakers presented him with the 2016-17 budget last year. According to data compiled by LobbyTools, the governor has vetoed more than $1.9 billion during his first six years in office.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the 2017-18 budget had not yet been sent to Scott.
The First Amendment Foundation is weighing in on a wide-sweeping education bill, asking Gov. Rick Scott to veto the measure when it gets to his desk.
In a letter to Scott on Tuesday, Barbara Petersen, the president of the First Amendment Foundation, said the organization’s concerns “relate only to the lack of transparency in the process by which major policy decisions regarding Florida’s education system were decided.”
Lawmakers narrowly approved the bill (HB 7069) on the final day of the 2017 Legislative Session. The proposal, which is tied to the state budget, was a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and, among other things, steers more money to privately run charter schools, requires recess in elementary schools and tinkers with the state’s standardized testing system.
While the measure includes several education changes legislators had been considering, the final bill was negotiated largely in private and wasn’t seen by the public until the final days of the session.
“The secretive process precluded any opportunity for public oversight or input on major changes to Florida’s education policy,” said Petersen in her letter to Scott. “Alarmingly, local school officials were also shut out of the process, as were many legislators who were ultimately asked to approve this voluminous and complicated legislation decided in a manner closed even to them.”
Petersen said Floridians deserve “the respect and the commitment of our elected leaders to uphold our Florida Sunshine laws, a 33 years old tradition and benchmark of good government.”
One of the major provisions of the bill creates the “Schools of Hope” program, which would offer financial incentive to charter school operators who would agree to take students attending chronically failing schools, many in poor areas and urban neighborhoods.
The bill has been criticized by state’s teacher unions, parent groups, and superintendents of some of the state’s largest school districts.
The First Amendment Foundation has also called on Scott to veto the entire fiscal 2017-18 budget once it reaches his desk. Much like the organization’s request to veto the education bill, the group said its concerns relate “only to the lack of transparency in the process” and it wasn’t “objecting to any of the substantive programs and issues.”
Neither the budget nor the education bill have been sent to Scott.
Graduation season means big business for Florida businesses.
The National Retail Federation estimates total spending is expected to reach $5.6 billion this graduation season, a nearly 4 percent increase over last year when consumers spent $5.4 billion buying gifts for graduates.
The 2017 estimate is expected to be the highest amount spent in the 11 years the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insight & Analytics have surveyed consumers about their spending habits for graduates.
“Graduation is a significant achievement in someone’s life as they end one chapter and begin a new one and recognizing this is important for a graduate’s family and friends,” said R. Scott Shalley, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation. “With loved ones eager to celebrate this important milestone, we expect the gifts to Sunshine State graduates to reach record numbers this year, which is great news for Florida retailers.”
The survey asked 7,335 consumers across the nation about the graduations gifting plans.
Cash was the most popular gift, with 53 percent of respondents saying they planned to give graduates money as a graduation present this year.
The appeal of cash seems to have waned over the years. A 2007 survey of graduation gifting habits by Prosper Insights & Analytics found 59 percent of respondents planned to give the graduates cash. By 2013, the percentage of people giving cash as a gift had dropped to 57 percent.
Women tend to give cash more than men, with 57 percent saying they planned give money as a gift; while 48 percent of men said they were giving cash. The report found 63 percent of Americans over the age of 65 are planning to give cash this year; compared to just 44 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 will give their money as a graduation present.
Interest in giving graduates gift cards appears to be holding steady, if not increasing slightly, since 2007.
According to report, 33 percent of respondents said they planned to give graduates gift cards this year as part of a gift to celebrate their graduation. That’s up from 2007, when 31 percent of respondents said they planned to give a card, and is on par with 2012 when about 33 percent of respondents said they were giving gift cards.
The survey found 41 percent of people planned to give graduates a card; 16 percent planned to give the gift of apparel; and 11 percent planned to give electronics as a present.
“As students mark the end of one chapter in their lives and start the next, friends and family will help prepare them for this new journey,” said Matthew Shay, the president and CEO of the National Retail Federation in a statement. “From gift cards to clothing and electronics, retailers will have their shelves stocked with a variety of options.”
Consumers, the report found, will buy for an average of two graduates this year, which is similar to previous years. However, while consumers aren’t buying for more graduates on average, they do appear to be poise to spend more money.
Consumers will spend an average of $104.92, or $53.29 per person, on graduates this year. That’s up from 5 percent from 2007, when consumers spent an average of $99.91, or $51.05, on graduates.
The report found the biggest spenders will likely be adults between the ages of 45 and 54, who said they planned to spend $119.84 on presents. Adults over the age of 65 said they planned to spend $112.34; while 18- to 24 year olds, most likely gifting to their peers, said they would spend an average of $78.42.
The survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics from May 2 through May 9, has a margin of error of 1.2 percent.
Florida will reduce the tax pay on business pay on rent, have two, three-day sales tax holidays, and eliminate the so-called tampon tax under a $180 million tax cut package signed by Gov. Rick Scott.
Scott signed the measure (HB 7109) during an event at 3C Interactive in Boca Raton on Thursday. While the tax cut package is significantly smaller than the $618 million tax cut plan Scott proposed in January, the Naples Republican said he was proud to sign legislation that continues to cut “taxes for Florida families and businesses.”
“Since I’ve been in office, I’ve fought to cut taxes and reduce burdensome regulations to help boost Florida’s economy and ensure our children and grandchildren have the opportunity to succeed in our great state,” said Scott in a prepared statement. “Every time we cut taxes, we are encouraging businesses of all sizes to create opportunities for families across the state and more money is put back in taxpayers’ pockets.”
Approved on the final day of the 2017 Legislative Session, the tax cut package reduces the tax on commercial leases by 0.2 percent in 2018. Florida is the only state that has a tax on commercial leases, and the reduction is expected to save Florida businesses $61 million a year.
“Cutting this business tax will help the small, local businesses in our communities that lease property,” said Sen. Anitere Flores, who carried a bill (SB 378) in the Senate to lower the business rent tax. “This legislation is a great step towards reducing and hopefully one day eliminating this burdensome tax on business.”
The Florida Retail Federation, a proponent of reducing the tax on business leases, said it was pleased the governor decided to sign the tax cut package, saying it would allow business owners to keep more of their money.
“We are grateful to Governor Scott for signing these important tax measures that will allow retailers, consumers, and other businesses to see their money stretch farther and help grow this economy,” said R. Scott Shalley, the president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation in a statement. “The .2 percent reduction in the business rent tax will allow small businesses to keep more of their own revenue, allowing them to reinvest those funds and create jobs.”
The tax cut package also includes a three-day, disaster preparedness sales tax holiday and a three-day, back-to-school sales tax holiday, which runs from Aug. 4 through Aug. 6.
The 2017 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday runs from June 2 through June 4. During the three-day window, items like flashlights, batteries, coolers, and portable generators are tax-exempt. The sales tax holiday is estimated to save Floridians $4.5 million.
“The 2017 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday is an opportunity for Floridians to purchase supplies in preparation for a variety of storm-related activity,” said Leon Biegalski, executive director of the Florida Department of Revenue, in a statement. “From powerful thunderstorms and tornados, to tropical storms and hurricanes, Florida experiences a range of potentially dangerous weather throughout summer and fall. We encourage Floridians to participate in this sales tax holiday as being proactive is in the best interest of their safety.”
Scott’s decision to sign the bill also means Florida will join 13 other states and the District of Columbia in exempting taxes on the sale of feminine hygiene products or have enacted laws to exempt these products in the future.
Advocates for the change have said these items are a necessity for women, and should be considered a “common household remedy.” In Florida, the push to make feminine hygiene products tax exempt was pushed by Rep. Katie Edwards and Sen. Kathleen Passidomo.
“This common sense legislation will result in a tax savings for women all over the state who purchase these necessary products,” said Passidomo in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.
Sen. Rene Garcia is weighing in on a multi-million dollar bridge project planned for South Florida, telling the Florida Department of Transportation that the Miami-Dade community can’t wait any longer.
In a letter to FDOT Secretary Rachel Cone this week, Garcia said he was confident the procurement process established by the state transportation agency “followed the spirit and the letter of the law put forth by the 2013 settlement agreement between the city of Miami and the state.” His letter to transportation officials comes less than a week after Miami-Dade commissioners voted to ask the state to hold off awarding an $800 million contract to redo Interstate 395 so elected officials and residents could weigh in on proposals.
The Miami Herald reported last week that Miami-Dade commissioners voted unanimously to ask the state to stop the awarding of the contract, which includes building a “signature bridge” near the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County. Some local officials argue that FDOT might not have adhered to a 2013 settlement agreement, that allowed local leaders to help pick the design.
On May 12, the state Department of Transportation announced it intended to award the project to Archer Western-de Moya Joint Venture. The Miami Herald reported Archer Western received a score of 88.4 and was the group preferred by a committee transportation administrators. However, the Herald reported a second group — Fluor Enterprises and Munilla Construction Management — was favored by a local advisory council, which included the head of the Miami downtown business authority and County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, and received a score of 87.8.
Some local officials have said the state agency’s decision to go with Archer ignored agreements to give design aspects more weight in the process.
In his letter, Garcia said he was “in firm support of the way that the state has handled balancing local interests and its responsibility to the state taxpayers.”
“Through establishing an inclusive Aesthetics Review Committee including local leaders and interested parties, the public had numerous occasions to provide input and to review the aesthetic qualities each project brought to the table using a pass/fail grading system,” wrote Garcia in his letter, which he posted on Twitter on Wednesday. “Additionally the rules of engagement for procurement were established in advance according to standard operating procedures within the department. All parties seeking procurement were aware of the criteria of evaluation, and were held to the same standards.”
Garcia went on to say that he hopes the department can “commit to the residents, families and drivers of Miami-Dade County that a bridge will be built according to the strictest timeliness put forth by the selection plan.” He also encouraged the state to make sure the project and contracts include the same “accountability measures that may include penalties to venders who cannot hold up their end of the bargain in order to prevent further delay over-runs.”
“This bridge is twenty years in the making, and the people of Miami-Dade County as well as the millions of visitors to our community cannot wait any longer,” he wrote.
Blaise Ingoglia was part of a small group of state party heads who met with President Donald Trump earlier this month to talk about issues important to their communities.
Ingoglia, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a state representative, was one of 10 Republican party leaders, primarily from swing states to meet with Trump and Reince Priebus, the president’s chief of staff, during a meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. The Spring Hill Republican said the president was interested in discussing issues that were important to the states, and wanted to know how the government could help states and local communities.
Ingoglia said the chairs of the Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan Republican parties also attended.
Ingoglia said he talked with Priebus about the Temporary Protected Status for Haitians, which the Trump administration announced Monday it would extend for another six months.
Temporary Protected Status was given to Haitians living in the United States after a 2010 earthquake devastated parts of that country. Haitians granted the protection can live and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation. Haitian participation in the program has been regularly renewed for 18-month intervals and the latest extension expires in July.
The Associated Press reported Haitians nervously anticipated the Trump administration’s decision given the president’s tough stance on immigration, both legal and illegal. Immigration was a top campaign issue and one that’s important to his political base.
Ingoglia said the group also spoke to Trump about economic issues, and the president and Priebus asked questions about how the federal government could do to help communities within the states. Ingoglia said what was impressive is they didn’t care if the issues were Democratic or Republican issues, they just “wanted to reach out to (as many) community leaders as possible.”
Ingoglia helped deliver Florida, a critical swing state, to Trump during the 2016 election. He said the visit to the Oval Office last week was the first time he had spoken to the president since Trump took office.
“It was a little surreal,” he said of his Oval Office meeting. “If you know the president, he’s very welcoming. He likes to talk; he likes to get feedback. It was a very humbling experience.”
__The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.