Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 121

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster

Florida Chamber poll: Floridians would prefer business person over trial attorney in Governor’s Mansion

John Morgan may be mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid, but a new Florida Chamber survey indicates Floridians might not be keen on having a trial attorney in the Governor’s Mansion.

According to a Florida Chamber Political Institute survey released Monday, 67 percent of Florida voters polled said they would rather “a business person be governor” than a trial attorney. The poll showed 9 percent of Florida voters said they “would rather see a personal injury trial lawyer” serve as governor.

Democratic consultants in November began a push to draft Morgan, a well-known trial attorney, to run for governor in 2018. In a message to supporters later in the month, the Orlando Democrat said he appreciated the outpouring of support, but has “much to think about and do before (he jumps) into a decision of this magnitude.”

At the time, Morgan said he has a “pretty clear vision of what Florida’s next governor should do,” and outlined a series of issues — including decriminalizing marijuana and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour — he’d like to see tackled.

It’s not surprising participants in the Florida Chamber survey weren’t thrilled with the idea of a trial attorney as governor. Recent surveys conducted by the Florida Chamber Political Institute showed Floridians had an unfavorable view of plaintiff trial lawyers.

According to a September poll by the Florida Chamber, 35 percent of Floridians had an unfavorable opinion of trial lawyers. The survey found 14 percent had a favorable view, while 24 percent said they “never heard of” them.

Emily Slosberg at odds with Palm Beach legislative delegation over local texting while driving bills

Rep. Emily Slosberg is following in her father’s footsteps, and that might not be a good thing.

Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat, appears to already be at odds with members of the Palm Beach County legislative delegation after a kerfuffle during the recent delegation meeting. At issue: Local bills that would have allowed Palm Beach County Commission to institute stricter texting while driving laws than elsewhere in the state.

Slosberg, who said she was denied the chance to put her local bills on the agenda, fired off a news release after the meeting taking aim at Sen. Bobby Powell, the Riviera Beach Democrat and chairman of the delegation.

In that release, she said she was “forced to present her bill during public testimony” and that the delegation tried to adjourn before her testimony. She also claimed Powell “refused to hear the bill because (she) had the votes to pass the bill.”

In a message Wednesday, Powell said the local bills were taken off the “agenda after a discussion with Slosberg last Thursday.” The delegation meeting was Dec. 19.

“It’s not a legal local bill, and there shouldn’t ever be any vote held on it. It doesn’t fit the category of what a local bill should be,” said Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat. “This is simply an attempt to garner publicity for a pet cause in a way that allows them to appear they’re doing the right thing, when actually they’re unnecessarily dragging Bobby’s name through the mud.”

Two bills have already been filed in the Florida House aimed at strengthening the state’s texting while driving ban.

The first — House Bill 47, sponsored by Rep. Richard Stark and Slosberg — removes language from state law that makes texting while driving a secondary offense, and increase penalties for someone caught using their device in a school zone. The second bill — House Bill 69, sponsored by Slosberg — would texting while driving a primary offense for juvenile drivers.

Slosberg wanted to take it one step further, drafting local bills to give the county commission the authority to pass an ordinance prohibiting texting and driving in school zones and making it a primary offense. It is currently a secondary offense.

There’s just one problem: Local bills can’t substantially alter a law of general application throughout the state. And according to an opinion issued by the Palm Beach County county attorney, Slosberg’s local bills would do just that.

“According to statute, traffic laws shall be uniform throughout the state, including all political subdivisions and municipalities therein, and no local authority shall enact an ordinance on a matter covered by this statute unless expressly authorized,” wrote Dawn Wynn, the senior assistant county attorney, in an opinion issued Wednesday. “The local bills which were submitted on this subject would create an exception to the statute and would be a major change in state uniform traffic control policy.”

But Slosberg’s decision to propose the local bills isn’t what seems to be bothering members. Instead, it appears to be the way she handled herself — feigning ignorance when many believe she knew the bill wouldn’t be heard and choosing to go after Powell — that’s rubbing them the wrong way.

“Anyone could make mistakes, but she was informed it was improper and still chose to make a big deal about it,” said Clemens.

Traffic safety has been a personal issue for Slosberg and her family. In 1996, she was in a car accident that killed five teenagers, including her twin sister. Her father, Irv Slosberg, ran for office a few years after the accident, serving in the House from 2000 until 2006 and again from 2010 to 2016.

The elder Slosberg challenged Clemens in Senate District 31 earlier this year, but lost when he received just 32 percent of the vote.

The former state representative earned a reputation during his time in the House as a prickly member who could be difficult to work with. He occasionally railed against members during floor debates, and his bills often stalled early in the process.

During the 2016 legislative session, just one bill cleared the House floor before dying in the Florida Senate. Records show his remaining bills didn’t make it out of committee. And that pattern was similar to prior years; in 2015, for example, all but one his bills died in its first committee of reference.

While it’s too early to say whether Rep. Emily Slosberg’s legislation will face the same fate, her actions appear to some of her colleagues questioning how well she can work with others.

“She’s effectively killed her ability to work with anyone in the Legislature,” said Clemens.

Erin Gaetz launches her own digital content firm

Erin Gaetz is paving her own way, but don’t expect her to veer too far from the family business.

Gaetz, the 31-year-old daughter of former Senate President Don Gaetz and sister of Congressman-elect Matt Gaetz, recently launched her own digital content firm, Southpaw Content. The firm specializes in producing faster, more engaging and less expensive social media and digital content.

Or, as she puts it: No dopey ads of candidates standing around a factory and pointing.

“After the experience on the Jeb campaign, I thought a lot about video,” she said. “It’s great if you’re in a big presidential campaign or (statewide) race, and you have a ton of money and can hire (a team) for a shoot. But I started to think about the scalability of video. Can you make something just as professional without 20 sound guys and the consultant (costs)?”

That’s exactly what she’s trying to do.

As the director of digital content for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential bid, she wrote, produced and created digital content for the campaign. That included those quirky “#JebNoFilter” videos and a 2-minute documentary-style video highlighting the former governor’s connection to a Charlotte County community devastated by Hurricane Charley.

When her brother ran in Florida’s 1st Congressional District earlier this year, she grabbed her camera and MacBook and started producing videos for his campaign. While there were more traditional political ads, she also produced several untraditional digital segments, like the “Open Gaetz” feature.

“I think you need hooks and you need more fun,” she said.

One of the benefits Southpaw Content can offer clients is the quick turnaround time, she said. Since she’s handling every step of the process, the firm can help clients quickly turn over a new ad, react to a hot issue, or send a message to supporters.

As for those clients, she’s already lining them up. She’s already doing work for Republican Reps. Neal Dunn and Dan Webster.

“I’m working with everyone from current governors to just elected members of the House to universities that really want to build out digital projects and do it in a way that’s cost effective and fun,” she said.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering where the name came from: She’s a lefty.

Anitere Flores files bill aimed at decriminalizing youth

Sen. Anitere Flores has filed a bill to decriminalize youthful transgressions, a top priority for Senate President Joe Negron.

Flores, a Miami Republican and the Senate President Pro Tempore, filed Senate Bill 196 on Tuesday. The measure allows law enforcement officers to issue juveniles who admit to committing a first-time misdemeanor a civil citation or require the child to participate in a diversion program.

Under the proposal, law enforcement officers could issue civil citations or require a juvenile to participate in a diversion program for several misdemeanor offenses, including possession of alcohol, criminal mischief, and disorderly conduct.

According to a draft of the bill, juveniles who participate in civil citation or similar diversion programs would have to spend a “minimum of 5 hours per week completing” a community service assignment.

Flores’ proposal doesn’t apply to juveniles currently charged with a crime or those who have entered a plea or have been found guilty of an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult.

The push to decriminalize adolescence is a top priority for Negron. The Stuart Republican mentioned the issue during his designation speech last year and again in November when he formally took over as Senate President.

During his designation speech, Negron said he and his brothers threw water balloons at cars passing by. He celebrated when a balloon hit one of the cars, but said the moment of fun turned somber when his target stopped in the middle of the road.

The man, he told his colleagues, looked him in the eye, flipped down his badge and told him he “hit the wrong car.”

“He marched us up to my father, told him what happened and suffice it to say, that never happened again,” he said during his designation speech.

“Now, take that same factual circumstance in fact pattern and transport it to today. It’s a virtual certainty that we would have been arrested and charged with throwing a deadly missile of conveyance, which I’m sure the Legislature’s turned into a second-degree felony with enhanced penalties,” he continued, only partially joking. “We would have been thrown into the juvenile justice system, our family would have been declared dysfunctional. … I would still be explaining this on my Florida Bar application, trying to get a license to practice law from the Board of Bar Examiners.”

Negron said there is “a delicate balance” and the state will not tolerate serious wrongdoing by young people. But, he said the state should not criminalize adolescence.

Flores’ bill also calls on counties to establish diversion programs, with the concurrence of the chief judge of the circuit court, the state attorney, public defender, and the head of each local law enforcement agency.

A House companion has not yet been filed.

Blaise Ingoglia announces more grassroots support in Florida GOP chair re-election bid

Blaise Ingoglia is rolling out more endorsements from grassroots supporters in his re-election bid for Republican Party of Florida chair.

The Spring Hill Republican announced Tuesday another two-dozen local Republican leaders have thrown their support behind his re-election bid. The endorsements signal continued grassroots support for Ingoglia as Florida GOP chair.

“The grassroots of the Republican Party of Florida is literally the lifeblood of our organization,” he said in an email to members of the state party’s executive committee. “You are the ones who knock on the doors, make the phone calls, organize the precincts and most importantly … get good Republicans elected.”

The latest round of endorsements includes:

Tony Ledbetter, Chair, Volusia Co.
Kevin Brown, Chair, Escambia Co.
Chuck Brannan, Chair, Baker Co.
John Black, SCM, Sumter Co.
Sherri Ortega, Chair, Suwanee Co.
Earl Claire, SCM, Highlands Co.
Sally Claire, SCW, Highlands Co.
Barry Jolette, Chair, Charlotte Co.
Toby Overdorf, Chair, Martin Co.
Karyn Morton, Chair, Duval Co.
Paul Deering, SCM, Volusia Co.
Stacey Hetherington, SCW, Martin Co.
George Gasparini, Chair, Citrus Co.
Bob Sutton, Chair, Broward Co.
Randy Evans, Chair, Pasco Co.
John Allocco, Chair, Hernando Co.
J.C. Martin, Chair, Polk Co.
Bob Bezick, Chair, Madison Co.
James Campo, SCM, Martin Co.
Chris Norton, SCW, Baker Co.
Marina Woolcock, SCW, Sumter Co.
Joanne Updegrave, Chair, Flagler Co.
Chris Summerlin, SCW, Suwanee Co.

“Each grassroots endorsement is special to me, and your friendship and support mean more than you would ever know,” said Ingoglia. “I look forward to continuing our discussion on our shared goals as we prepare for another successful election in 2018.”

Ingoglia was elected chairman in 2015, after Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman. He previously served as the vice chairman on the state party.

Ingoglia will face Christian Ziegler, a Sarasota Republican committeeman, in the race to serve as the RPOF chair.

Ziegler, 33, announced his candidacy in November.


New Florida Chamber poll finds jobs remain top concern for Florida voters

The No. 1 issue facing Florida continues to be jobs, according to a new Florida Chamber of Commerce survey.

The Florida Chamber Political Institute released a new statewide survey Monday aimed at “checking the political pulse of Floridians on how they feel about elected officials as well as the issue impacting them.”

Jobs and the economy remain a big issue for Floridians, with 19 percent of respondents saying it was a top concern. The survey found 10 percent of Floridians said healthcare and the Affordable Care Act were a top concern, while 9 percent said education was a big issue facing Florida.

About 20 percent of men said jobs and the economy were the most important issue, compared to 17 percent of women polled. Ten percent of men said education was important, compared to 9 percent of women. About 11 percent of women said healthcare was a top issue, compared to 8 percent of men.

Floridians continue to be concerned about global warming and immigration, with 8 percent choosing global warming. Seven percent picked immigration, according to an analysis by Marian Johnson, the executive director of the Florida Chamber Political Institute.

More than half (52 percent) of Floridians said they believe the state is heading in the right direction, while 27 percent believe things are heading in the wrong direction.

“Voters are more optimistic than they have been,” wrote Johnson. “In fact, for the first time since the Great Recession began in 2007, the Florida Chamber Political Institute poll shows more than 50 percent of Floridians are more optimistic about Florida’s direction.”

And that appears to bode well for Gov. Rick Scott. According to the Chamber analysis, Scott’s favorability ratings “are more positive than negative as voters have a positive outlook on the state.” The survey found 44 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Scott, compared to 42 percent that have an unfavorable opinion.

“Governor Scott, throughout his term as Governor, has mostly been seen as doing a good job even if voters sometimes do not have a favorable opinion of him,” wrote Johnson. “In the Florida Chamber’s eighth statewide poll of 2016, Governor Scott’s job approval numbers continue to grow.”

The survey showed 53 percent of Florida voters approve of the job Scott is doing as governor, compared to 40 percent who disapprove.

Helmets would be required for motorcyclists under proposed bill

A Villages Republican has filed legislation that would require motorcyclists to wear helmets.

Rep. Don Hahnfeldt filed a bill (HB 6009) Monday to require all riders to wear helmets when operating a motorcycle. The bill strikes the section of the law that current allows riders to operate a motorcycle without a helmet.

Under current law, a “person over 21 … may operate or ride upon a motorcycle without wearing protective headgear” as long as the person is covered by an insurance policy that provides at least $10,000 in medical benefits for “injuries incurred as result of a crash while operating or riding a motorcycle.”

Florida Today reported in May that 450 motorcycle drivers or passengers died in accidents. The newspaper reported that 210 of those were confirmed to not be wearing a helmet.

According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws on the books requiring motorcyclists to wear a helmet. Twenty-eight states have laws that require some motorcyclists to wear a helmet, while three states — Illinois, Iowa and New Hampshire — have no laws mandating helmet use.

States were required to put helmet use laws in place in the 1960s in order to qualify for some federal safety programs and highway construction funds. According to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, the requirement worked and by the early 1970s nearly all of the states had universal helmet laws. In 1976, states lobbied Congress to stop the transportation department from assessing fines on states without helmet laws.

Under Hahnfeldt’s proposal, riding without a helmet would be a “noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation.”

A Senate companion has not yet been filed.


Debuting today: The Winter 2016 edition of INFLUENCE Magazine

The latest issue of INFLUENCE Magazine is out.

From the rise of legal-lobbying firms to the next generation of influencers and power brokers, the winter edition looks at all aspects of the governmental affairs industry.

In recent years, major legal firms have emerged as major players in the government affairs industry. For the first time in a while, one of these firms (Greenberg Traurig) was in the Top 5 for compensation, while several others — such as GrayRobinson and Gunster — are seeing increased revenues.

In this issue of INFLUENCE, Jim Rosica explores why law firms are staking their claim in the Sunshine State’s influence industry. The feature takes a look at two of these firms — such as Foley & Lardner and Greenberg Traurig — to show how lobbying sets the firms apart.

The magazine also gives Liz Dudek a chance to reintroduce herself to readers. The former secretary of Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration retired in November, and immediately joined Greenberg Traurig’s lobbying practice as the director of health care affairs.

We’re also debuting the 2016 class of Rising Stars in the governmental affairs industry. Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster profiles the next generation of influencers and power brokers in the spread.

This year’s crop of rising stars includes Carol Bowen, Emily Duda Buckley, Melanie Brown, Katie Crofoot, Jose Diaz, Eric Edwards, Josh Gabel, Bianca Garza, Whitney Harris, Jasmyne Henderson, Brittney Hunt, Andrew Ketchel, Kristen McDonald, Drew Messer, Jo Morris, Drew Piers, Tara Reid, Joe Salzverg, Kelly Schmidt, Samantha Sexton, Kelsey Swithers and Jared Torres.

Need an explainer on upcoming workers’ compensation food fight? Michael Moline and Peter Schorsch have you covered. We look at what recent Supreme Court decisions mean for Floridians, and what to expect when lawmakers head back to Tallahassee this legislative session.

We also crown the 2016 politician of the year (and the very deserving runners-up), take a look at some of the winners and losers of the year, and run down what the new House rules mean for the industry.

With the holidays right around the corner, we take a look at some “bipartisan swag” to give to the political aficionado in your life. If gadgets are your style, check out the profile of Sally Bradshaw’s new Tallahassee bookstore, Midtown Reader, and find a few recommendations from her friends.

Want to check it out? The digital version of the 2016 winter edition of INFLUENCE Magazine is available now.

Florida lawmakers could tackle “tampon tax” in 2017

Florida could be the latest state to consider repealing the “tampon tax.”

Rep. Katie Edwards filed a bill in November that would exempt tampons and other feminine hygiene products from Florida’s sales tax. The Plantation Democrat said she began thinking about the filing a bill last year, after listening to a debate about a wide-ranging tax cut package and receiving “periods are not luxury emails.”

“The more I listened to the debate and the questions … (I thought) this is a worthy issue,” she said. “It’s not something you choose. It’s just something that a lot of consumers and taxpayers need and purchase.”

The majority of states currently tax feminine hygiene products, according to a June report by the Council of State Governments. Only a handful — including Maryland, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania — have exempted these products from sales tax.

The report noted the push to exempt tampons and other feminine hygiene products comes “amid criticism the tax unfairly affects women.” Supporters of the exemption have argued the products should “be treated like other medical necessities, which are currently tax exempt in most states.”

There could be another reason for the push to repeal the tax: More women are getting elected to state office each year.

A July report from the Council of State Governments found women now hold 76 statewide elected executive offices, representing 24 percent of available positions. When it comes to the legislative branch, the report found women hold 1,815 of 7,383 state legislative seats nationwide. That’s about 25 percent of available legislative seats.

For Edwards, this isn’t a man versus woman issue. Her male colleagues all have wives, mothers, daughters, or sisters who could benefit from the exemption. She’s hopeful that instead of it becoming a battle of the sexes, it becomes part of any conversation about tax cuts this year.

“Maybe this initiative saves the average person 30 bucks a year. That means a lot to people,” she said. “I hope people will agree with me and say this makes sense. People don’t choose to deal (with this).”

While Edwards said she’s had a couple of people snicker at her when she tells them about the proposal, she isn’t the only lawmaker pondering the tax exemption.

The Tallahassee Democrat in July reported Majority Leader Wilton Simpson asked staff to begin drafting a bill to repeal the tax after he got hundreds of emails from people on the topic. According to the report, Simpson had was unaware of the issue until constituents brought it up, but felt the products shouldn’t be taxed because they are a necessity.

Repealing the tax could cost the state as much as $15 million a year, the Tampa Bay Times reported in July.

While Simpson is supportive of the repeal, it is unlikely he will sponsor the bill himself. Back in July, Rachel Perrin Rogers, his chief legislative assistant, told the Tallahassee Democrat he was more than willing to do so, but “recognizes it might be better handled by someone with a familiarity with the products in question.”

Edwards said colleagues in the Senate have reached out and expressed interest in filing the companion bill. As of Friday, no companion bill had been filed.

Emily Slosberg files bill to strengthen texting while driving law

State lawmakers will once again try to strengthen the state’s texting while driving during the 2017 Legislative Session.

Two bills have already been filed in the Florida House aimed at beefing up the state’s texting while driving ban. The first — House Bill 47, sponsored by Reps. Richard Stark and Emily Slosberg — removes language from state law that makes texting while driving a secondary offense, and increase penalties for someone caught using their device in a school zone.

The second bill — House Bill 69, sponsored by Slosberg — makes texting while driving a primary offense for juvenile drivers.

The state OK’d legislation in 2013 making it illegal to read or type text messages while driving. There were exceptions of course: Wireless devices could be used for GPS or reporting criminal behavior. And you can use them when the vehicle is stopped.

But lawmakers made texting while driving a secondary offense, making it difficult for law enforcement officers to ticket offenders. That’s because someone first needs to be pulled over for a different traffic infraction, like speeding or not wearing a seat belt, before they can issue a citation for texting and driving.

“It’s like the seat belt law used to be,” said Lt. Eddie Elmore, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. “As technology advances, sometimes … laws lag a couple of years behind the technology.”

And that’s why Slosberg is hopeful her bill to make texting while driving a primary offense will gain traction. She said by passing the measure, it would put the state’s texting while driving law on the same trajectory as the seat belt law.

“That’s how the seat belt law evolved,” she said. “First it was a secondary (offense). Then it became a primary for juveniles. Then it became a primary for everyone.”

Traffic safety is a deeply personal issue for Slosberg and her family. In 1996, Slosberg was in a car accident that killed five teenagers, including her twin sister, Dori. Emily Slosberg suffered serious injuries, including a punctured lung and broken bones.

Her father, Irv Slosberg, ran for the House a few years after the accident. He served in the Florida House from 2000 until 2006 and again from 2010 to 2016, making traffic safety his top priority. Emily Slosberg won the race to replace her father in the House District 91 earlier this year.

According to the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, law enforcement officers issued 3,488 distracted driving texting citations between Oct. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2015. The state agency reported in April that were more than 45,700 distracted driving crashes in 2015, resulting in more than 39,000 injuries and more than 200 deaths.

About 12 percent of drivers involved in distracted driving crashes were between the ages of 15 and 19, according to the agency.

Slosberg might be optimistic her bill will gain traction, but there’s still plenty of obstacles that could derail her effort. She’ll need the yet-to-be named House transportation chair to give it a hearing, something that has been a challenge in recent years.

“It’s really going to depend on the chairman of the transportation committee to take the bill out of the draw,” she said. “I can’t see why he wouldn’t. There’s an epidemic on these roads.”

A Senate companion to Slosberg’s bill hadn’t been filed as of Dec. 9, but Slosberg said she has been in discussions with members of the upper chamber about being a sponsor.

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