Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 121

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster

Frank Artiles files to run for re-election in 2018

Add Frank Artiles to the list of lawmakers running for re-election in 2018.

State elections records show more than 50 members of the House and Senate have already filed to run for re-election in two years. While many of those are incumbents who faced little-to-no opposition in 2016, some came off hard-fought battles to secure their spot in the Florida Legislature.

Artiles won his Senate District 40 seat in November, defeating Democratic Sen. Dwight Bullard, a long-time Miami-Dade lawmaker. Artiles received 51 percent of the vote, compared to Bullard’s 41 percent.

The Miami Republican will serve as the chairman of the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities committee during the 2016-18 term. He’s also the vice-chairman of the Government Oversight and Accountability committee, and scored a seat on two appropriations subcommittees.

In the Florida House, Reps. Cord Byrd, Jason Fischer, David Silvers, Nicholas Xavier Duran, Daisy Baez, and Robert Asencio have all filed for re-election.

Email Insights: Republican Governors Association takes aim at Gwen Graham

The 2018 gubernatorial race has officially begun — even though none of the likely candidates have filed paperwork to run.

In an email Thursday, the Republican Governors Association blasted outgoing Rep. Gwen Graham, one of several Democrats considering a 2018 run. The association said Graham’s office hasn’t responded to Freedom of Information Act requests made by the Republican Governors Association.

According to documents provided by the Republican Governors Association, the organization requested all documents related to Graham Companies, real estate and development projects in Florida, and the “American Dream Project” in Miami. The request was made in October; and in an email Thursday, the RGA said the documents would “give voters valuable insight into how she conducts her congressional office.”

“When it comes to transparency, Gwen Graham says one thing, but does another. Graham says she believes that Florida families deserve full transparency, but as her actions have demonstrated, she only believes in full transparency until it could impact her quest for political power,” said Jon Thompson, the director of communications for the Republican Governors Association, in a statement. “Graham should immediately release her congressional records so that Florida voters know exactly how she was using her influence as a Washington politician to benefit her political ambitions.”

Graham has resigned from the board and said Thursday she has no involvement in the project mentioned in the FOIA request.

“As the RGA probably already knows, I voluntarily resigned from the company’s board when I was elected to Congress, and I have no involvement with this project,” she said in a statement. “We are 23 months away from the Governor’s election in Florida, and there will be plenty of time for the RGA to engage in this petty nonsense and partisan attacks. For the rest of 2016, I’m focused on finishing the job I was elected to do and then enjoying the holiday season with my family. I recommend the folks at the RGA do the same.”

She continued: “So here’s some advice for the DC crowd from a mother: Turn off your Twitter accounts and your press release machines for a few weeks; go spend time with your family, visit friends, check out some museums, read a book, and join the rest of our great nation in spending a few weeks without the nonstop vitriolic back and forth of Washington type politics.”

The Freedom of Information Act doesn’t apply to Congress. According to a March 2016 article in Government Executive, correspondence between members of Congress and individuals, and draft bills are protected and considered private.

Thompson acknowledged in an email to on Thursday that the “law does not require” Graham to release the records the RGA is requesting. However, he said the group feels that “as someone running for governor, who consistently talks a big game on transparency, she would want to release these records so that FL voters know exactly what she was communicating to her colleagues and business interests.”

Graham is one of several Democrats believed to be pondering a run for governor in 2018. The North Florida congresswoman did not run for re-election, and is wrapping up her first term in the U.S. House. Earlier this week, WFSU reported that, during her final floor speech recently, Graham said she was fortunate to grow up in a “family dedicated to public service.”

According to WFSU, she went on to say she “never planned to follow in my father’s footsteps into politics. But as, as our country became more divided, my thoughts began to change.” Graham is the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham.

In April, she told Florida Politics that she realized her heart and her head are leading her “toward running for governor.” She stopped short of actually announcing, though has dropped hints about her intentions along the way. In October, she told a packed crowd at the weekly “Café Con Tampa” lecture series that she will “run a 67-county strategy” if she runs.

If she does decide to run, she could face a crowded field Democratic field. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine are all believed to be considering a run. John Morgan has said he is weighing his options, after a group of South Florida politicos started a petition drive to draft him for governor. And a group of Democratic college students recently started their own petition in hopes of convincing Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum to throw his hat in the race.

On the Republican side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is believed to be gearing up for his own gubernatorial bid.

__Tallahassee-based reporter Jim Rosica contributed to this report.


Marco Rubio endorses Blaise Ingoglia for Florida GOP chair

Add Sen. Marco Rubio to the growing list of Republicans backing Blaise Ingoglia for Florida GOP chair.

Ingoglia, a Spring Hill Republican state representative, announced Tuesday that Rubio has thrown his support behind his re-election bid. In an email to Republican Party of Florida executive committee members, Ingoglia said Rubio has “been a great friend to the RPOF” and thanked him for his leadership.

“We look forward to seeing him shine in the U.S. Senate with Republicans now in control of all three branches of the federal government,” he said in his email.

Ingoglia was elected chairman in 2015, after Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman. He had served as the party vice chairman, and was backed by grassroots leaders throughout the state.

“The Republican Party’s performance in Florida under Blaise’s leadership speaks for itself. We won tough races across the board in the nation’s biggest swing state, and Blaise’s leadership in the GOP’s get-out-the-vote ground operation this past year was decisive,” said Rubio in a statement. “He has worked tirelessly the past two years traveling the state, meeting with activists, and growing our party. Blaise has my full support for reelection as Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.”

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.

Dana Young, Randy Fine, others file to run for re-election in 2018

Count them in for 2018.

Dozens of state lawmakers have already filed to run for the state House and Senate in 2018. For some, their decision comes before their first bills get a hearing. Others have their eye on the higher office as they embark on their final term in the House.

State elections records show more than 50 members of the House and Senate have filed to run in two years. While many of those are incumbents who faced little-to-no opposition in 2016, many just came off hard-fought battles to secure their spot in the Florida Legislature.

Sen. Dana Young is one of those. Young, a Tampa Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 18 on Dec. 2. While the former House Majority Leader easily won her seat over Democrat Bob Buesing, it was far from an easy campaign. Buesing and Joe Redner, an independent candidate, attacked Young over her voting record.

Senate President Joe Negron announced last week that Young will serve as the chairwoman of the Senate’s Health Care Policy committee during the 2016-18 Legislative Session. She’ll also serve as the vice chairwoman of the Higher Education Appropriations subcommittee.

Records show Sen. Debbie Mayfield, a Vero Beach Republican, filed to run for re-election in Senate District 17 on Dec. 1. Mayfield defeated former Rep. Ritch Workman, a Melbourne Republican and the former chairman of the House Rules committee, in one of the nastiest primary elections of the cycle.

Mayfield will serve as the vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee during the 2016-18 Legislative Session. She’s also scored a spot on the general government appropriations subcommittee, and the environmental and natural resources appropriations subcommittee.

Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, also filed to run for re-election in Senate District 8 on Dec. 1. Perry defeated Democrat Rod Smith in the November general election. He’ll serve as chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

And while Rep. Manny Diaz still has two years left in his House career, he’s already eyeing his next step. The Hialeah Republican filed to run in Senate District 36 on Nov. 21. He’s hoping to replace Sen. Rene Garcia, a Hialeah Republican, who can’t run again in 2018 because of term limits.

In the Florida House, Reps. Randy Fine, Emily Slosberg, Tom Leek, Amber Mariano, Carlos Guillermo Smith, Chris Latvala, and Kathleen Peters are among those who have filed for re-election.

Fine, a Brevard County Republican, is one of at least three House members believed to be in the running for House Speaker in 2022-24, after winning his House District 53 seat earlier in November.

Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat and daughter of former Rep. Irv Slosberg, filed to run for re-election in House District 91; while Leek, an Ormond Beach Republican, filed to run again in House District 25. Both are freshmen lawmakers, as are Mariano, a Hudson Republican and the youngest member of the Florida House, and Smith, an Orlando Democrat.

Mariano will run for re-election in House District 36, while Smith will run for re-election in House District 49.

Latvala, a Clearwater Republican and son of Sen. Jack Latvala, will seek a third term representing House District 67. First elected in 2012, Peters, a Treasure Island Republican, has filed to run for her final term representing House District 69.

medical marijuana

Knox Medical to begin dispensing medical marijuana this week

Knox Medical will soon begin dispensing medical marijuana to qualified patients.

The company announced Tuesday it recently received approval from the Florida Department of Health to begin dispensing low-THC and medical cannabis this week. The company is set to begin initial deliveries to qualified patients Friday.

Knox Medical is one of six organizations in the state approved to cultivate, process and dispense low-THC cannabis and medical marijuana. The Orange County organization received the highest score out of all the nurseries that applied for permission to cultivate, process and dispense medical marijuana.

“Ever since Knox Medical was awarded the highest score in Florida to produce medical cannabis, our team of growers, engineers, researchers, and experts have prepared for this exact moment to produce industry leading medicines for patients and their families,” said Bruce Knox, co-founder and chief operating officer of Knox Medical, in a statement. “We are honored to have this privilege to serve our fellow Floridians who require compassionate medical relief.”

The company is set to open five state-of-the-art dispensaries in Orlando, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Lake Worth and Tallahassee in early 2017. The company plans to announce another round of dispensary locations in 2017.

“Knox Medical is producing superior quality medicinal cannabis, and our mission is focused on putting the needs and interests of patients first,” said Jose J. Hidalgo, the founder and CEO of Knox Medical, in a statement. “At every stage in this process, from cultivation to dispensing at our medical facility, from engaging physicians and guiding patients throughout this process to building first-in-class dispensaries throughout Florida, our objective at Knox Medical is to exceed the definition of excellence at every level.”

Low-THC cannabis was authorized under the 2014 Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act. Legal challenges marred implementation of the law, but at least two other dispensing organizations have begun distributing the product.

In 2015, lawmakers expanded the Right to Try Act to allow terminally ill patients to use medical marijuana. And under a newly approved constitutional amendment, more patients could have access to full-strength medical marijuana.

Charlie Crist calls on Congress to extend tax breaks before adjourning for the year

Charlie Crist is calling on the 114th Congress to extend tax breaks benefiting students and seniors before it adjourns for the year.

The congressman-elect on Tuesday asked Congress to extend several soon-to-expire tax breaks, including a medical expense deduction for seniors, and a tuition and fees deduction. Congress is expected to adjourn for the year later this week.

“These tax breaks are important to seniors, students and homeowners struggling to make ends meet,” said Crist, Florida’s former governor, in a statement. “Congress can and should extend them before the end of session.”

Crist has honed in on five tax breaks that help seniors, students, and middle class homeowners. The breaks are:

— A medical expense deduction for seniors, which allows seniors to write off health care costs once they’ve spent 7.5 percent of their gross income on health care. If the tax break isn’t extended, the threshold is expected to increase to 25 percent.

— A tuition and fees deduction for higher education costs, which provides middle and lower income students with a $4,000 tax credit annually.

— A mortgage insurance deduction for homeowners making under $100,000 a year — $50,000 for married couples filing separately — that allows them to write off their mortgage insurance premium or private mortgage insurance.

— A home debt forgiveness program for homeowners underwater on their mortgages. Currently the discharge of the debt is excluded from being considered as income. Without the extension, the debt could be considered income and would be fully taxed.

— Energy efficient tax credits for homeowners that purchase qualified energy efficient windows, doors, insulation, heating and air conditioning units, water heats, and other environmentally home improvements. Under current law, homeowners can write off 10 percent of the purchase price of the items, up to $500 in credit.

“The Majority in Congress wants to delay consideration of these tax breaks until next year, when they hope to overhaul the tax code,” said Crist in a written statement. “The better way forward would be to do what’s right for our seniors, students and middle class homeowners and extend these tax breaks now!”

Crist defeated Republican Rep. David Jolly to become the Democratic representative from Florida’s 13th Congressional District.

Jeff Brandes files computer coding as foreign language bill

Florida lawmakers could once again consider whether computer coding classes should be counted as a foreign language credit.

Sen. Jeff Brandes filed legislation Monday to allow Florida high schools to offer computer coding classes that “along with the earning of a related industry certification satisfies two credits of sequential foreign language instruction.”

Senate Bill 104 also requires the state college and university system to recognize the credits as foreign language credits.

“Software development and coding is one of the largest skill gaps we have in Florida, said Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican. “We believe there is now, and will continue to be, an incredible demand for coders. My goal is to ensure that Florida students have the skills employers value.

When it comes to computer coding, Brandes is picking up where former Sen. Jeremy Ring left off. Ring, a Margate Democrat and former Yahoo executive, filed a bill during the 2016 legislative session that would have allowed computer coding courses to satisfy two credits in sequential foreign language instruction beginning in 2018-19 school year.

Brandes was listed as a co-introducer on the 2016 bill.

The Senate overwhelmingly supported the bill, voting 35-5 to approve it. But the bill died when the Florida House decided not to take up the issue.

According to the Miami Herald, critics said they were worried the bill would place additional burdens on schools that are already struggling with sufficient technology resources. Sen. Anitere Flores, the current Senate President pro tempore, and Sen. Jeff Clemens were among the lawmakers who voted against the bill.

Under Brandes’ measure, the schools may begin offering the courses beginning in the 2019-20 school year. According to the bill, “high schools may, but will not be required to,” provide students the opportunity to take the course.

The 2017 measure also requires students and parents to sign a statement acknowledging and accepting that “a computer coding course taken as a foreign language may not meet out-of-state college and university foreign language requirements.”

It also allows the Florida Virtual School to offer computer coding courses, and says districts that don’t offer courses “may provide students with access to the courses through the Florida virtual school or through other means.”

As of Monday afternoon, no House companion to Brandes’ 2017 measure had been filed.

Susie Wiles backs Blaise Ingoglia for Florida GOP chair

A top Republican strategist has thrown her support behind Blaise Ingoglia in his re-election bid for chairman of the Florida GOP.

Susie Wiles, a Jacksonville political consultant and an early supporter of President-elect Donald Trump, endorsed has Ingoglia’s re-election campaign, Ingoglia announced Monday. Wiles was Trump’s top political strategist in Florida, and helped deliver a Florida victory.

“Susie Wiles and Trump Florida Team did an amazing job harnessing the passion and the enthusiasm of the voters this election cycle and we are honored to have her support as we continue our campaign for re-election as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida,” said Ingoglia in an email to supporters.

Ingoglia was elected chairman in 2015, after Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman. He had served as the party vice chairman, and was backed by grassroots leaders throughout the state.

“As Florida’s Chief Strategist for President-Elect Trump’s Presidential campaign, I can say that the organization built under Chairman Ingoglia’s leadership was a crucial element to our success as we worked together with the Republican National Committee to deliver Florida,” said Wiles in a statement. “To continue that success in the future, we need a steady hand and consistent leadership who will continue to focus on the grassroots.”

“I can’t think of anyone to better serve in that role than Blaise Ingoglia,” she continued. “I am proud to support him in his bid for re-election and am excited to see the new levels of success our party will find with him at the helm again”.

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.

Chris Hart IV selected as Enterprise Florida CEO

A former state lawmaker has been selected to lead Enterprise Florida, a decision that comes as proponents gear up for what could be another difficult year for the public-private economic development agency.

The Enterprise Florida Board of Directors on Wednesday voted unanimously to hire Chris Hart IV as the CEO of Enterprise Florida. Hart, the president and CEO of CareerSource Florida, will start on Jan. 3, and will be paid between $175,000 and $200,000 a year.

“Thank you for your trust. I’ve had the opportunity over the last several weeks to speak to many of you, and it’s been evident the quality of individual we have on the Enterprise Florida board,” said Hart, a former state representative. “I’ve found people are deeply committed to the state of Florida and deeply committed to the prosperity of Floridians.”

In March, Gov. Rick Scott announced then-CEO Bill Johnson was leaving the organization. Johnson was appointed to head the organization in May 2015, after spending 35 years with Miami-Dade County government.

More than 100 people applied for the job. The board narrowed the list to two finalists — Richard Biter, the former assistant secretary of the Department of Transportation, and Mike Finney, the former president of the Michigan Economic Development Corp. — and were poised to appoint a new CEO during the September meeting. But the board suspended the search when Scott postponed individual meetings with candidates because he needed to monitor Hurricane Matthew.

Hart was a late applicant, applying for the job earlier this month. He emerged as the top contender after Finney withdrew from the search, choosing instead to seek a teaching job at the University of Michigan.

“Chris understands the incredible impact a job can have on a family and the need for EFI to make job creation the number one priority,” said Scott in a statement Wednesday. “Every decision EFI makes has to focus on making Florida more competitive so we can continue to create new opportunities in our state. As President and CEO, I know Chris will immediately get to work to return EFI back to its core mission of creating jobs for our families.”

Enterprise Florida has been under a microscope in recent years. A push to set aside $250 million to create the Enterprise Florida trust fund failed during the 2016 legislative session.

In September, Scott announced he would include $85 million in his 2016-17 budget for Enterprise Florida for economic incentives. He also said he plans to push for legislation to restructure the public-private jobs organization.

The decision to once again pursue money for economic incentives puts him at odds with House leadership, which blocked his 2016 attempt to set aside millions for incentives. In June, House Speaker Richard Corcoran said he would lead the charge to end taxpayer funding to the state organization.

Scott noted Hart’s time in the Legislature could be beneficial in the months to come. The governor said Hart has “the knowledge, understanding and relationships with the Florida Legislature- an important partner to growing Florida jobs.”

Blaise Ingoglia rolls out more endorsements in Florida GOP Chair re-election bid

Blaise Ingoglia has received the backing of nearly a dozen Republican members of Congress in his re-election campaign for GOP chairman.

The Spring Hill Republican announced Wednesday that 11 Republican members of Florida’s congressional delegation have endorsed his re-election bid.

“The organization Chairman Blaise Ingoglia put in place this past election cycle was crucial in delivering big wins from President-Elect (Donald) Trump and Senator (Marco) Rubio, our Congressional delegation, and the State Senate and State House,” said Rep. Ted Yoho in a statement. “I am proud to support his bid for re-election and with his continued leadership our party will be more than prepared for the 2018 cycle”

The announcement comes just days after Ingoglia, the current chairman of the Republican Party of Florida and a state representative, formally launched his re-election campaign. On Monday, he also rolled out a list of more than 100 grassroots leaders backing his re-election.

In addition to Yoho, Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Carlos Curbelo, Ron DeSantis, Tom Rooney, Dennis Ross, and Dan Webster endorsed Ingoglia. He also received the backing of incoming Reps. Neal Dunn, Matt Gaetz, Brian Mast, and John Rutherford.

“The operation that was built in Northwest Florida, under Chairman Blaise Ingoglia’s leadership, was crucial in helping my team as well as delivering the State of Florida for President-Elect Trump,” said Gaetz, who was elected in November in Florida’s 1st Congressional District and a former state representative. “We are grateful for his leadership and I am proud to support him for re-election as RPOF Chairman.”

Ingoglia was elected chairman in 2015, after Republican activists rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s hand-picked chairman. He had served as the party vice chairman, and was backed by grassroots leaders throughout the state.

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

Ziegler, 33, announced his candidacy earlier this month.


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