Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 121

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster

Joe Negron formally elected as Senate president

Senate President Joe Negron can drop the “designate” from his title.

Florida senators voted unanimously to elect Negron as the 87th president of the Florida Senate during its organizational meeting.

“There’s one thing about Joe Negron, he’s always respectful and kind. He truly cares about those that he represents. While Joe is thoughtful and considerate, he’s also smart and not afraid to take on the tough issues,” said Sen. Denise Grimsley, a Sebring Republican, in her nominating speech. “Joe Negron will lead the Senate to a better tomorrow.”

Senate Republicans designated Negron as their leader in December 2015, ending a bitter battle between Negron and Sen. Jack Latvala for the presidency. Latvala will serve as chairman of the powerful appropriations committee.

Negron used a brief speech Tuesday to once again outline priorities for his presidency. Negron has vowed to focus on higher education and work toward stopping Lake Okeechobee discharges during his two years as president.

Cleaning up the waterways has long been a passion for Negron. During the 2014 legislative session, he was the chairman of the Senate’s Select Committee on the Indian River Lagoon and Lake Okeechobee Basin. And he sponsored the Legacy Florida Act, which sets aside a portion of Amendment 1 dollars to be spent on Everglades restoration projects and springs restoration.

Negron said since Jan. 1, 225 billion gallons of water have been released from Lake Okeechobee east into Treasure Coast waterways. Another 549 billion gallons, Negron said, have been released west into Southwest Florida’s waterways.

“Is this really the best we can do in the United States of America in 2016? When Lake Okeechobee rises to 15.5 or 16 feet, with all the technology, all the brilliance we have, here’s our solution: We’re going to send (the water) east and west to communities where millions of people live,” said Negron. “I refuse to accept that. I think we can do a lot better.”

Negron said the state needs to expedite existing projects, insist the federal government complete strengthening of the Herbert Hoover Dam and increase water storage south of Lake Okeechobee.

But a push to buy more land to increase storage could be met with some pushback. The Legislature will have just $7.5 million in unallocated money to spend during the 2017 legislative session, and could face shortfalls worth $1.3 billion in 2018 and $1.9 billion the following year.

The iffy revenues likely weren’t on the minds of lawmakers, as they took a moment to celebrate their victories after a long election season. The Senate welcomed 20 new members Tuesday, one of the largest turnovers in the recent years.

Members also voted to elect Sen. Anitere Flores as Senate president pro tempore, marking the first time a Hispanic female has held the position in the Senate.

“Sen. Flores is a loyal friend and a trusted ally,” said Negron. “I know she will be a great leader for all of us in the Senate.”

On Monday, Senate Democrats elected Sen. Oscar Braynon to serve as Democratic leader and Sen. Lauren Book to serve as Democratic leader pro tempore. Book, the daughter of lobbyist Ron Book, was just elected for her first term in the Florida Senate.

State leaders certify general election results

It’s official.

The state Elections Canvassing Commission — made up of Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and CFO Jeff Atwater, all participating by phone — certified the results of the Nov. 8 General Election Thursday. The meeting took less than two minutes.

“It was a record year in Florida,” said Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who presided over the meeting. “We had more people early voting and voting by mail in the history of Florida. I’m very pleased about that.”

Turnout was around 74 percent, which was on par with the 2004 presidential election. It isn’t the highest turnout the state has experienced; that happened during the 1992 general, when the state experienced 83 percent turnout.

Detzner said there were no major issues during the voting process, and called it a “very successful election.”

“We showed the world, we showed Florida, we showed the nation that Florida knows how to conduct elections,” he said. “We’re proud of the voters, proud of their initiative, their passion to vote. But I think the year and the history of 2000 are past us now, and the election of 2016 proved that.”

The certified results include the results of House District 118, which underwent a recount. The race between Republican David Rivera and Democrat Robert Asencio was hotly contested, and was forced to go through both a machine and manual recount.

Election records show Asencio received 31,412 votes, or 50 percent of the vote. Rivera received 31,359 votes, or 49.96 percent of the vote.

“The votes have been counted and the certification has occurred,” said Detzner. “We certified the election, and he had more votes in the election.”

Personnel note: Dave Murzin joins Liberty Partners of Tallahassee as NW Florida director

Former state Rep. Dave Murzin has joined Liberty Partners of Tallahassee as the firm’s Northwest Florida Director.

“We are honored to have Dave join forces with the Liberty Partners team.” said firm owner and President Jennifer Green in a statement. “This strategic partnership gives us the opportunity to continue to work with a longtime friend and colleague in a region of the state where we all have a strong connection.”

A former state legislator and longtime legislative staffer, Murzin has experience in both the public and private sector. Murzin served in the Florida House from 2002 until 2010.

While in the House, Murzin was appointed by former House Speaker Larry Cretul to the Florida Council on Military Base and Mission Support.

He also served on the Florida Public Service Commission Nominating Council, was appointed by former Gov. Jeb Bush to both the Joint Select Committee on Hurricane Insurance and the Property Tax Reform Committee, was appointed by former House Speaker and current U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio to the Joint Property Tax Reform Committee, and served on the Escambia County Utilities Authority Administrative Advisory Committee.

Before serving in the Florida House, he served as a top staffer to Jeff Miller, a former congressman and member of the Florida House, and former House Majority Leader Jerry Maygarden.

“I appreciate the opportunity to join the Liberty Partners team,” said Murzin in a statement. “This team and their clients represent the conservative philosophies and policies that I have supported my entire legislative career. I look forward to working on issues important to the Northwest Florida area and especially my hometown of Pensacola.”

Murzin and his son, Benjamin, live in Pensacola.

Senate Democrats elect Oscar Braynon as Democratic leader

Senate Democrats have a new leader, voting unanimously Monday to name Sen. Oscar Braynon as the Minority Leader for the 2016-2018 term.

“I want you, and others, to know that my greatest joy of being leader was the fact that you were the leader pro tempore and the leader designate,” said former Senate Minority Leader Arthenia Joyner. “There was not one day during the two years that I served as leader that I had any doubt that you did not have my back. You were the wind beneath my wings.”

First elected to the Florida Senate in 2011, Braynon has spent more than a decade in public service. He was first elected to public office in 2003 as a member of the Miami Gardens City Council. The Miami Gardens Democrat was elected to the Florida House in 2008.

“We, as the Democratic caucus, will still fight for our core principles, making sure the middle class and working class people still have a voice in Florida; making sure the environment they love is protected; making sure those who cannot protect themselves are protected and the helpless receive help,” he said.

Braynon faced criticism following 2016 election. Although new political lines were more favorable to Senate Democrats than in years past, the Democrats saw few gains. The Senate is now split 25-15.

But Braynon told members he hopes to grow their ranks in 2018 and 2020.

“When I started in the Senate, we were 12. And now we’re 15. We’re heading in the right direction,” he said. “The work of the leaders before us is what led us to move in the right direction, and we will continue that movement. The work that we do today is the work that will allow us to see that horizon.”

Senate Democrats also unanimously approved the selection of incoming Sen. Lauren Book as the Democratic Leader Pro Tempore. While Book is a freshman lawmaker, she is no stranger to the political process. As founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids, she pushed for legislation to help child victims of abuse. And she is also the daughter of Ron Book, a well-known lobbyist.

“Standing here is almost surreal to me,” she said Monday. “I have had great respect to this process my entire life.”

Braynon also unveiled the rest of his leadership team. Sen. Jeff Clemens will serve as Democratic Whip, incoming Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez will serve as Deputy Whip, and incoming Sen. Perry Thurston will serve as the Democratic Caucus Rules Chair.


Cost of Thanksgiving Day meal down in 2016

If you still need to pick up the fixings for Thanksgiving dinner, here’s a bit of good news: This year’s feast will cost you a bit less.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual price survey, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people is $49.87. That’s a 24-cent decrease from the 2015 average of $50.11.

The survey found a 16-pound turkey will cost $22.74, or about $1.42 per pound. That’s a two-cent-per-pound decrease from 2015. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates consumers will pay about 30 cents less per whole turkey this year compared to last year.

The America Farm Bureau Federation’s shopping list includes turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk. All of the quantities will serve a family of 10, with leftovers.

While the cost of turkey is down, a few dinner table staples did increase. The price of a dozen brown-and-serve rolls increased to $2.46; while 12 ounces of fresh cranberries will cost an estimated $2.39. The Farm Bureau also found the cost of a half-pint of whipping cream is $2 and a three-pound bag of fresh sweet potatoes is $3.60.

“We have seen farm prices for many foods — including turkeys — fall from the higher levels of recent years,” said John Newton, the director of market intelligence at the American Farm Bureau Federation. “This translates into lower retail prices for a number of items as we prepare for Thanksgiving and confirms that U.S. consumers benefit from an abundant, high-quality, and affordable food supply.”

The American Farm Bureau Federation started its Thanksgiving dinner survey in 1986. This year, 148 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 40 states for the survey.


Dozens of state lawmakers file to run for re-election in 2018

They haven’t been sworn into office yet, but that isn’t stopping a few newly elected state lawmakers from thinking about 2018.

State elections records show about more than two dozen members of the state House and Senate filed have filed to run for re-election. Many of those lawmakers are incumbents who faced little-to-no opposition this cycle, while others just came off hard-fought battles to secure their spot in the Florida Legislature.

Incoming Reps. Jayer Williamson and Byron Donalds are among the new members who have already filed to run in 2018.

A Pace Republican, Williamson won his House District 3 race in the primary, defeating J. Hutson Walters 64 percent to 37 percent. Donalds, a Naples Republican, handily defeated Republican Joe Davidow in the Aug. 30 primary, 64 percent to 36 percent. Donalds only faced a write-in candidate in House District 80 in November.

State records show Reps. Colleen Burton, Dane Eagle, Katie Edwards, and Evan Jenne were also among the more than 20 members of the state House who filed to run in 2018.

In the Senate, records show incoming state Sens. Lauren Book, George Gainer, and Kathleen Passidomo have already filed to run. Book and Gainer won their seats unopposed, while Passidomo battled it out for her seat.

Passidomo faced Rep. Matt Hudson in Senate District 28. She defeated the Naples Republican and outgoing House speaker pro tempore, 58 percent to 43 percent.

Election Day is on Nov. 6 in 2018. That’s 718 days away, in case you’re keeping track.

For the Governor? John Morgan says he has ‘much to think about’ before making decision

John Morgan isn’t closing the door on a 2018 gubernatorial bid.

Morgan said he has been overwhelmed by calls for him to run for governor in 2018, but said he needs “a lot of time to think about it” before going down that road.

“I greatly appreciate the outpouring of support and love this week,” he wrote in a lengthy post on Medium. “But I have much to think about and do before I jump into a decision of this magnitude.”

The push to draft Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney, to run for governor began earlier this week. In an email to United for Care supporters earlier this week, Ben Pollara, the campaign manager and a Miami-based political consultant, encouraged Floridians encourage Morgan to run.

“I don’t care whether he runs as a Democrat, Republican, Communist, or Klingon, I want John Morgan to be Florida’s next governor. I want John Morgan to be MY next governor,” said Pollara in the email. “Tell John: We need you in Tallahassee. We need a governor who is truly, For The People.”

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. He also said he’d like to see the positions of lieutenant governor and agriculture commissioner abolished.

And Morgan said there’s no rush for him to jump in the race. While other candidates might need to announce their intentions early to raise money and build name recognition, Morgan is well-known throughout the state and would be able to “largely self-fund any campaign.”

“These campaigns begin too early and drag on too long,” he wrote. “I could start in 2018 with plenty of time to make my case to The People of Florida.”

The 2018 field is expected to be crowded. Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham, has expressed interest, and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to throw his hat in the race.

Morgan was one of the main backers of Amendment 2, the medical marijuana amendment, pouring millions of dollars into the campaign. Floridians voted overwhelmingly in support of the amendment earlier this month.

“Passing Amendment 2 will be part of my life story. It was a singular moment for me. Hundreds of thousands will see relief. That is written,” he wrote. “The next chapter, I’m not sure of.”

Florida sees greatest annual increase in population since 2006

Florida is going through a growth spurt.

The Sunshine State’s population grew by 333,471 between April 1, 2015 and April 1, 2016. That marks the greatest annual increase in residents since 2006, according to a report by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

The state’s population was more than 20.1 million as of April 1. The estimate is slightly lower than a recent estimate from the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported Florida’s population was about 20.2 million as of July 1, 2015.

Florida’s population has been driven largely by net migration, with more people moving into the state than leaving. But net migration fell to record lows during 2008 and into 2009, accounting for just shy of 26 percent of population growth in fiscal 2008-09.

Those low levels of net migration were “largely due to national economic conditions.” More simply: The Great Recession meant folks just weren’t moving to Florida.

That didn’t mean Florida wasn’t growing. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2014 that the state’s population was about 19.9 million, stealing the No. 3 spot from New York, which that year reported a population of 19.7 million.

And don’t expect the streets to get any less crowded. The Office of Economic and Demographic Research estimates annual population change will remain above 300,000 net new residents each year for the next five years.

The state estimates the population will grow to more than 20.4 million by April 1, 2017, an increase of about 330,000. That steady growth is expected to continue, with more than 21.7 million expected to be living in Florida by April 1, 2021.

Joe Negron picks Anitere Flores to serve as Senate President Pro Tempore

Senate President-designate Joe Negron has picked a longtime ally to be his right hand woman in the Senate.

The Stuart Republican announced Thursday he selected Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, to serve as Senate president pro tempore. The appointment is effective Nov. 22, when the Legislature convenes for its organizational session.

“The role of Senate president pro tempore is a significant position of trust and authority. Anitere is a loyal friend and trusted ally. She also has longstanding relationships with many new and returning senators,” said Negron in a statement. “She has a proven ability to work in a bipartisan manner without compromising her own unwavering principles. I have complete confidence in her ability to represent the Senate in this important leadership position.”

Flores was first elected to the Florida House in 2004, serving three terms before being elected to the Florida Senate in 2010. She handily won re-election Tuesday, defeating Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in the newly drawn Senate District 39.

Negron’s announcement comes one day after House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced his leadership team and committee chairs. Corcoran tapped Rep. Jeanette Nunez to serve as House speaker pro tempore.

Richard Corcoran to lobbyists: Cool your jets

Florida House members better get used to flying commercial.

House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran is expected to announce new rules Thursday, including one that would prohibit members from flying on planes owned, leased, or paid for by lobbyists. The proposed rule change is meant to end a common practice among lawmakers and the influence industry, according to a sources close to the incoming House speaker.

The practice of hopping a ride on a lobbyist’s plane is considered fairly common. Lawmakers often pay for their ride, but it could create the appearance of impropriety.

The prohibition is expected to billed as a commonsense measure toward a good government. Corcoran is expected to make the argument that lobbyists and their clients shouldn’t be covering the cost of travel for members to do their jobs.

But Tallahassee could be one of the most difficult state capitals to get to in the country, especially from South Florida. It would take you about eight hours to drive from the House District 120 office in Key Largo to Tallahassee.

Want to fly? According to Expedia there are four nonstop flights to Tallahassee from Miami International Airport, where many members of the South Florida delegation would fly from, on Monday, Dec. 5, the first day of the committee weeks in the Florida House. Most of the other flights have a layover in Atlanta.

And just in case you were wondering: It takes less than four hours to drive from Land O’Lakes, Corcoran’s hometown, to Tallahassee.

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