Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 125

Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster

Personnel note: Rob Johnson exits AG’s office for The Mayernick Group

Photo credit: Michael B. Johnston

Rob Johnson, a long-time, respected policy advisor and legislative affairs director, has left the Attorney General’s Office to join The Mayernick Group.

“The Mayernick Group is excited that Rob is joining as a partner in our firm,” said Frank Mayernick in a statement. “We have experienced significant growth and know that as a well-respected professional, Rob has strong relationships and knowledge of the process that will help us continue to serve our current and future clients.

Long on the wish list for private sector recruiters, Johnson served as the Director of Legislative and Cabinet Affairs in the Florida Attorney General’s Office since 2007. He began his time there under Attorney General Bill McCollum, and stayed on after Bondi was elected in 2010.

“I want to thank Rob for his 16 years of service to the State of Florida as a policy advisor, cabinet aide and legislative affairs director,” said Attorney General Pam Bondi in a statement. “Rob had a great opportunity in the private sector that he couldn’t pass up and he will be greatly missed.”

Before joining the Attorney General’s Office, Johnson served as Gov. Jeb Bush’s deputy director of Cabinet affairs. He was also extensively involved in the 2003 workers’ compensation overhaul during his time working as legislative advisor to the state’s first Chief Financial Officer.

Started by Mayernick and his wife, Tracy Mayernick, The Mayernick Group is one of the leading boutique government relations firms in the state.

Often ranked among the Top 20 firms earning more than $250,000 in the state, the firm saw steady growth in the first three quarters of 2016. According to an analysis by LobbyTools, the firm brought in an estimated $430,000 in the third quarter of 2016.

Among The Mayernick Group’s roster of clients are heavyweights like HCA Healthcare, Florida Power & Light and U.S. Sugar.

The husband-and-wife duo with deep connections in the Florida Senate also does work for several “white hat” clients including maternity and infant health charity March of Dimes, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Florida, Lutheran Services and the PACE Center for Girls as well as industry-centric “food fighters” such as AT&T, Alkermes Plc and Dredging Contractors of America.

Johnson’s years of public sector experience will likely mesh well with the team at The Mayernick Group. Before striking out on his own, Frank Mayernick served as the legislative affairs director for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

He also served under the Speaker’s Legislative Fellowship Program, working in the House Rules Committee, and worked as an aide to both Sen. Charlie Clary, a Destin Republican, and Rep. Jerry Melvin, a Fort Walton Beach Republican.

Tracy Mayernick, meanwhile, boasts a strong appropriations background, as well as a history of working on healthcare, telecommunications, environmental, agriculture, economic development, transportation and criminal justice issues.

Johnson’s last day at the Attorney General’s Office was Tuesday. His first day at The Mayernick Group is Wednesday.

I look forward to working with professionals like Frank and Tracy and am committed to providing the firm’s clients with sound strategic counsel as we move into the 2017 Legislative Session,” said Johnson in a statement Wednesday.

A Florida State University graduate, Johnson is married to Alia Faraj-Johnson, the senior vice president and Florida public affairs leader at Hill+Knowlton Strategies. The couple lives in Tallahassee with their 8-year-old daughter.

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More than a dozen lawmakers file for re-election in 2018

The number of lawmakers prepping for another run keeps on growing.

State elections records show dozens of members of the state House and Senate have filed to run for re-election in 2018. Many of those are incumbents who faced little-to-no opposition in 2016, while others ran hard fought battles to win their spot in the Florida Legislature.

Sen. Tom Lee filed to run for re-election in Senate District 20 on Dec. 29. The Brandon Republican was re-elected in June 2016, after no one else qualified to run in his district.

Lee was first elected to the Florida Senate in 1996. He served in the upper chamber until 2006, serving as Senate President during the 2004-06 term. Voters sent Lee back to the Florida Senate in 2012.

Lee is set to serve as chairman of the Senate Community Affairs Committee during the 2016-18 term.

Sen. Kelli Stargel also appears to be vying for another term in the Florida Senate, filing the initial paperwork to run in 2018 on Dec. 16. First elected to the Florida Senate in 2012, Stargel was re-elected in Senate District 22 in November. Stargel will serve as the chairwoman of the Senate Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee.

Over in the Florida House, Reps. Loranne Ausley, Paul Renner, Neil Combee, Bob Cortes, Mike La Rosa, Erin Grall, Sean Michael Shaw, Alexandra Miller, Julio Gonzalez, Michael Grant, Rick Roth, Bob Rommel, and Jose Oliva have filed to run for re-election in 2018.

The election in 2018 isn’t the only one on the minds of Florida lawmakers. Several state legislators have already filed to run for re-election in 2020, including Sens. Travis Hutson, Debbie Mayfield and Kevin Rader.

Infamous dates: The moments that shaped Florida politics in 2016

Everyone expected Florida to play an important role in politics this year.

And why wouldn’t they? Presidential hopefuls hailed from here; the state’s electoral votes were coveted; and its Senate race could have determined control of the U.S. Senate.

But just like many predictions in 2016, some of the prophecies for Florida’s outsized role on the national stage fell flat. Many believed a Sunshine state politico would be a presidential nominee (not quite right) or that the election would hinge on its 29 electoral votes (close but no cigar). And that much anticipated battle for the U.S. Senate? It fizzled out before the first vote was even cast.

Here are the dates that really mattered in Florida politics this year. And some of them might just surprise you.

Jan. 20Florida Senate says it won’t appeal redistricting decision — A years-long battle over the state’s political lines came to an end in January, when Senate leadership announced it planned to let the court-ordered maps go into effect. The Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald reported the four-year legal battle cost Florida taxpayers more than $11 million. The new maps threw a wrench in the 2016 election cycle, with all 40 of Florida’s state Senate seats on the ballots. While many believed the new maps could boost Democrats chances in 2016, that didn’t quite pan out.

Feb. 20 — Jeb Bush ends 2016 presidential bid —  All signs pointed to Jeb Bush being the front-runner for the GOP nomination. The son and brother of two presidents, the former Florida governor racked up a massive war chest and plenty of big-name endorsements. But Bush couldn’t make headway in a crowded field of Republican hopefuls and was often on the receiving end of then-candidate Donald Trump’s attacks. After a sixth place finish in Iowa and a fourth place finish in New Hampshire, Bush hung his hopes on South Carolina. He spent days on end campaigning in the Palmetto state, but it was just too late. He came in third, and ended his campaign that night.

March 15Donald Trump triumphs in Florida primary — Was it the turning point for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign? Maybe. The New York Republican was already on a winning streak by the time the March 15 primary rolled around, but the Sunshine State contest was the biggest one to date. And Trump was up Sen. Marco Rubio, who was believed to be a hometown favorite. Turns out, Florida voters weren’t keen on sending Rubio to the White House. Trump trounced Rubio, winning every county except for Miami-Dade County. Rubio ended his presidential campaign that night, saying America was in “the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami. And we should have seen this coming.”

April 21Gwen Graham hints at 2018 plans — When the dust settled on new congressional districts, one thing was clear: Florida’s 2nd Congressional District was solidly Republican. What wasn’t entirely clear was whether Rep. Gwen Graham would run for re-election or follow in her father’s footsteps and run for governor in 2018. She put the rumors to rest in April, announcing she was dropping her re-election bid and was “seriously considering running for governor in 2018.” In the months since, Graham has continued to fuel speculation about her plans for 2018, most recently telling reporters every part of her “wants to run for governor,” but that her husband’s battle with cancer will play a significant role in her decision.

April 28Workers’ compensation decision rocks business community — A Florida Supreme Court decision striking down the state law limiting attorney’s fees in workers’ compensation cases might have been a victory for injured workers, but it also set the wheels in motion for what would become significant workers’ compensation rate hikes. The 5-2 ruling in Castellanos v. Next Door Company was just one of the decisions striking down workers’ compensation laws this year. Those rulings prompted the National Council on Compensation to ask state regulators to approve a nearly 20 percent rate hike. That rate, which was eventually lowed to 14.5 percent, went into effect Dec. 1. The state’s business community has said the rate hikes could have a dramatic impact on business, and are pushing lawmakers to tackle workers’ compensation reform in 2017.

June 1249 killed in an attack on Pulse nightclub — In the wee hours of the morning on June 12, a gunman entered the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 people and injuring more than 50. It was the deadliest mass shooting in recent history, and sent shockwaves through the state and country. Gov. Rick Scott spent several weeks in Orlando, visiting with the victims and their families, attending funeral services, and meeting with members of the community. In the weeks and months that followed, the community came together to support the victims and their families. Spearheaded by Mayor Buddy Dyer, the city set up the OneOrlando Fund to assist victims of the attack. As of Dec. 2, the fund distributed $27.4 million for 299 claims, or 98 percent of all eligible claims filed.

June 17David Jolly drops out of U.S. Senate race, announces re-election bid — When Rep. David Jolly announced he was forgoing a re-election bid to run for the U.S. Senate, all signs indicated former Gov. Charlie Crist would sail to an easy victory. But after more and more politicos pushed encouraged Sen. Rubio to run for re-election, Jolly ended his U.S. Senate bid and announced a re-election bid, challenging Crist in an effort to keep his seat in a newly drawn district that favored Democrats. He had the support of many local Republicans, but Jolly’s push to end the practice of lawmakers dialing for dollars soured many congressional Republicans. When Election Day rolled around, Crist defeated Jolly, 52 percent to 48 percent.

June 22 — Marco Rubio reverses course, decides to run for re-election — After a devastating loss in his home state’s presidential primary, Sen. Rubio swore he wouldn’t run for re-election. The Miami Republican said multiple times that was going to serve out the remainder of his term and then go back to being a private citizen. And, as he mentioned on more than one occasion, a close friend — Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera – was already running for his seat. But in the days after the Pulse shooting, Lopez-Cantera encouraged his friend to run for re-election. Rubio ultimately announced his re-election bid just days before the qualifying deadline, effectively clearing the Republican field. He walloped Carlos Beruff in the Republican primary, and led in nearly every poll between him and Democrat Patrick Murphy. Rubio sailed to victory, winning a second term with 52 percent of the vote.

June 29 — Gov. Rick Scott declares state of emergency after algae clogs waterways — The Army Corps of Engineers began releasing Lake Okeechobee discharges down the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers after record rainfalls earlier in the year. While those discharges sparked outrage in both communities, the appearance of algae blooms on the state’s east coast prompted action from the governor. Scott declared a state of emergency in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Palm Beach counties in June, and called on the federal government to quickly approve permits for dispersed water management projects. The declaration helped push the issue of water quality to the forefront of many campaigns.

July 8Corrine Brown indicted — It was a no good, very bad year for former Rep. Corrine Brown. Florida’s 5th Congressional District, which she represented since 1993, was redrawn as part of the state’s ongoing redistricting case. She and several other political operatives were served with subpoenas at a BBQ joint in Jacksonville. And in July, Brown and her chief of staff were indicted on federal corruption and fraud charges. The charges stem from her involvement in an allegedly fraudulent charity scheme. Brown was defiant, saying “just because someone accuses you, doesn’t mean they have the facts.” To add insult to injury, Brown was lost her primary in the newly drawn district.

July 29 — Zika comes to Florida — The first reported cases Zika virus in the Sunshine State began popping up in February, when state health officials confirmed there were nine travel-related cases of the mosquito-borne virus. Gov. Scott declared a public health emergency in four Florida counties, a number which would grow as the months wore on. As concerns about the illness spread, officials called on the federal government to assist Florida in combatting the disease and minimize the chances of homegrown cases. But in July, health officials announced the first cases of locally acquired Zika had been reported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly issued a travel warning for the Wynwood neighborhood, where the first cases were found. The state eventually identified several Miami-Dade communities, including a portion of Miami Beach, where local people had contracted the illness. The state cleared the final Miami-Dade Zika zone in early December. According to the Department of Health, there were more than 250 cases of locally acquired infections reported this year.

Aug. 30The Grayson era comes to an end — Rep. Alan Grayson was known throughout Florida — and beyond — as a bombastic, no holds bar congressman. And he lived up to that reputation when he ran for U.S. Senate. Grayson made headlines after his ex-wife claimed domestic abuse over two decades, a claim he refuted (but not before getting physical with a reporter). Grayson gave up seat in Florida’s 9th Congressional District to run for office, but convinced his second wife to run. That pitted Dena Grayson against Susannah Randolph, a former aide to the congressman, both of whom tried to carry the banner for the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. And there was no party at the Grayson house when primary night rolled around. Rep. Murphy crushed Rep. Grayson in the U.S. Senate primary; while former state Sen. Darren Soto defeated both Dena Grayson and Randolph (Dena Grayson came in third). The hits kept coming for the Grayson political dynasty. In November, Star Grayson, the former congressman’s daughter, finished a distant third in a three-person race for the Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors.

Sept. 2Hurricane Hermine ends Florida’s hurricane-free streak — The Category 1 hurricane was the first storm to make landfall in Florida since Hurricane Wilma in 2005. And boy, did it leave an impression. The storm smacked the Panhandle, knocking out power to thousands upon thousands of customers. While power was restored in some communities relatively quickly, Tallahassee struggled to get up and running. That led to a tussle between Democratic Mayor Andrew Gillum and Gov. Scott. In a testy press release, the governor said the city was declining help from other utility companies and expressed frustration over how long it was taking to get the power back on. Gillum shot back, saying Scott was just trying to undermine a cooperative process. But politicos across the state noted the way Gillum, a rising star in the Democratic Party, handled the situation might come back to haunt him in future political runs.

Sept. 26 Water contamination concerns prompt rule changes — Days of rain leading up to, and following, Hurricane Hermine overwhelmed St. Petersburg’s sewer system. City officials opted to release millions of gallons of partially treated sewage into Tampa Bay, marking the first time in about a year the city did that. Combine that with news that a Mosaic Fertilizer sinkhole released 215 million gallons of toxic, radioactive water into the water supplies, and it’s no wonder concerns about Florida’s water supply ran rampant this fall. After many people raised questions about when the spills were reported, Gov. Scott ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to establish new reporting requirements. Those requirements are meant to guarantee local governments and the DEP are notified within 24 hours of a pollution incident. The state in October reached a deal with Mosaic over the sinkhole, which held the company accountable for fixing the sinkhole and rehabilitating the impacts of the spill.

Oct. 7 — Deadly storm threatens Florida’s east coast — One month after Hurricane Hermine made landfall near Tallahassee, Floridians were faced with another hurricane barreling toward their shores. What started as destructive tropical cyclone morphed into Hurricane Matthew, the first Category 5 Atlantic hurricane since Hurricane Felix in 2007. Gov. Scott and other officials throughout the state encouraged Floridians to evacuate and warned of days without power. The storm sideswiped the entirety of the East Coast, causing damage up and down the coast. The storm tore apart A1A in Flagler Beach, forcing it closed and requiring significant restoration.

Nov. 8Medical pot becomes legal — The second time was the charm for a medical marijuana ballot initiative. The constitutional amendment which allows people with debilitating medical conditions to use medical marijuana, easily passed with 71 percent of the vote. Supporters of the amendment, led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, were able to fend off opposition attacks. Florida was one of six states that legalized marijuana for either medicinal or recreational purposes on Election Day, marking one of the biggest electoral victories for marijuana reforms in years.

Nov. 10Richard Corcoran era brings new rules to Florida House — Calling for a new culture of transparency in the Florida House, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced new rules aimed at getting tough with with the capital’s lobby corps. The rules prohibit representatives from flying on planes owned, leased or paid for by lobbyists; require lobbyists to filed individual disclosures for each bill, amendment and appropriation they’re working on; and increased the lobbying ban on former members from two to six years. Corcoran also created the Committee on Integrity and Ethics, an oversight committee.

Dec. 22Will Weatherford rules out 2018 gubernatorial bid — Considered a likely 2018 gubernatorial contender since he left office in 2014, former House Speaker Will Weatherford ended the year (and helped officially kick off the 2018 election cycle) by saying he would not run for governor in two years. “I have decided that my role in the 2018 gubernatorial election should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate,” he said in a statement. “My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business.” Weatherford was the first candidate to formally say whether they were running. But even without Weatherford in the race, Floridians can expect a crowded field. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is expected to run, and Speaker Corcoran has been mentioned as a possible candidate. On the Democratic side, Rep. Graham has already expressed her interest, as has trial attorney Morgan. And Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all believed to be pondering a run.

Farewell, 2016: Report takes a look at New Year’s Eve traditions

Spaniards try to gobble up 12 grapes at midnight. The Danes break dishes on their friends’ front doors. And here in the United States, we ring in the new year by drinking lots and lots of bubbly.

According to WalletHub, Americans will drink more than 360 million glasses of sparkling wine on New Year’s Eve. And where they drink it — and other holiday traditions — are part of a new report looking at how Americans “understand and enjoy the occasion.”

The report found 83 percent of Americans spend less than $200, on New Year Eve’s celebrations. An estimated 48 percent of Americans will celebrate New Year’s Eve at home, while 20 percent will head over to a friend’s house. According to WalletHub, just 9 percent of Americans plan to be “at a bar, restaurant or organized event.”

No matter the celebration, it’s very likely the ball drop in Times Square will be a part of it. An estimated 175 million people in the United States — and 1 billion people worldwide —are expected to watch the ball giant crystal ball drop at midnight. Only about 1 million of those people will be in Times Square for the event.

The price of admission is steep: The price of a ball drop pass is $229. And the average cost of dinner and a show in New York on New Year’s Eve is $1,160. Want a cheaper option? The nation’s capital might be the best bet, with the average cost of dinner and a show costing $480.

The Times Square ball drop tradition began in 1907 when a time ball was dropped as part of a celebration hosted by The New York Times at its building in Times Square. The ball has been redesigned several times over the years. The ball was originally made of iron, wood and 25-watt lightbulbs.

The ball that will drop Saturday night is made from Waterford crystal triangle and will be illuminated by thousands of LED lights. According to WalletHub, the Times Square Ball weighs about as much as three pickup trucks.

Not in New York, no problem. WalletHub ranked Orlando as the best place to celebrate New Year’s Eve. The town the Mouse built earned the No. 1 spot on the company’s list of 100 biggest cities. It also came in second in the organization’s entertainment and food category.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Orlando is the most popular travel destination over the holiday, followed by New York City and Honolulu. WalletHub estimates more than 100.5 million people will travel at least 30 miles from home for New Year’s.

More than 91 million of those people will travel by car, while 5.76 million are expected to fly to their destination.

Be careful when you head out on the roads this weekend. According to WalletHub, New Year’s Eve is the “most drunken night of the year.” The company estimates more than 40,000 people get hurt in car crashes and more than 340 traffic fatalities occur each New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

Here’s a few more statistics to wow your friends with this holiday weekend:

— There are on average 7,792 births on New Year’s Day;

— New Year’s Eve is the second most popular day for car thefts in the United States. The most popular day is Halloween, while New Year’s Day is the sixth most popular day for car thefts;

— New Year’s eve is the busiest night of the year for illegal “celebratory” gunfire;

— 44 percent of Americans plan to kiss someone at midnight, and 20 percent of all charitable donations are made in the final 48 hours of the year;

— 67 percent of Americans make a New Year’s resolution, but only 8 percent of Americans are successful in achieving their resolution. The most popular resolution? 49 percent of people say they want to lose weight and exercise more.

__The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

 

Orlando, Miami ranked among top places for New Year’s Eve celebrations

If you can’t make it to Times Square to ring in 2017, have no fear: The nation’s best place to party might be closer than you think.

A new WalletHub report ranked Orlando as the best place to celebrate New Year’s Eve. And the Central Florida city wasn’t the only Sunshine State city on the best list. Miami ranked No. 7, while Tampa landed in the No. 13 spot on the WalletHub list.

The company compared the 100 biggest cities “based on 20 key indicators of an epic New Year’s Eve.” Analysts compared the cities across three areas — entertainment and food, costs, and safety and accessibility — and complied 20 metrics, including luxury shopping, average cost of a New Year’s Eve party ticket, and walkability.

Orlando ranked No. 1 overall, with a total score of 76.96 points. It ranked eighth in costs and 82nd in the safety and accountability category. The town the Mouse built came in second in the entertainment and food category.

The City Beautiful fared well in several other categories, including where to find the lowest average price of a New Year’s Eve party ticket and one of the communities with the most nightlife options per capita. When it comes to nightlife options, Orlando was tied for first with San Francisco, Portland, Las Vegas, Atlanta and New Orleans.

Orlando also ranked high in the number of restaurants per capita, sharing the top spot with Miami.

Miami ranked No. 7 in WalletHub’s overall list of the best place to for New Year’s Eve, with a total score of 66.96. It landed in the No. 7 spot in the entertainment and food category, and was ranked 48th in the safety and accessibility category. The South Florida city was ranked 65th when it comes to costs.

Tampa was in the No. 13 spot, with a score of 62.71. It was ranked 20th when it comes to entertainment and food, and earned the No. 14 spot in the safety and accessibility category. It landed in the No. 37 spot in the costs category.

Jacksonville (No. 53), St. Petersburg (No. 63), and Hialeah (No. 90) also earned a spot on WalletHub’s list.

And in case you were wondering, North Las Vegas was ranked No. 100 on WalletHub’s list of the “Best Places for New Year’s Eve Celebrations.”

Source: WalletHub

Doug Holder registers to lobby Legislature

Doug Holder has entered the government affairs sector.

Holder recently registered as a lobbyist, representing the Martin County Sheriff’s Office and Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System on behalf of The Legis Group. Holder founded the firm with former Rep. Robert Schenck.

A former state representative, Holder served in the Florida House from 2006 until 2014. During his time in office, the 50-year-old Venice Republican served as chairman of the House economic development subcommittee.

He was forced to leave office in 2014 because of term limits, but had hoped to make a political comeback earlier this year when he ran for the Florida Senate in District 23. Holder was one of several Republicans vying to fill the vacant state Senate seat and was backed by the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Holder came in second behind Greg Steube, who later went on to win the general election in November.

Schenck, a 41-year-old Spring Hill Republican, served in the Florida House from 2006 to 2014. Schneck served as chairman of the House health and human services committee during the 2010-12 term. During the 2012-14 term, he served as the chairman of both the House rules and calendar committee and the select committee on gaming.

That healthcare experience will go a long way in his new role as a lobbyist. Schenck recently registered as a lobbyist representing MCNA Dental Plans and Ultimate Health Plans. He’ll also represent the Martin County Sheriff’s Office.

Adam Putnam political committee brings in more than $2.3 million in 2016

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam raised more than $2 million in 2016, boosting his war chest ahead of a likely 2018 gubernatorial bid.

State records show Florida Grown, Putnam’s political committee, raised more than $2.3 million through Nov. 30. The committee has raised more than $6.3 million since February 2015, according to state campaign finance records.

Records show Florida Grown spent nearly $1.4 million in 2016, including at least $240,000 for political consulting and $51,450 for advertising and advertising design work.

Putnam is one of several Republicans pondering a 2018 gubernatorial bid. While he hasn’t formally announced his plans for 2018, many consider Putnam to be the man-to-beat in what will likely be a crowded Republican field.

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford announced on Dec. 22 he decided against a 2018 bid, saying his role in the 2018 gubernatorial election “should be as a private citizen and not as a candidate.”

“My focus right now is on raising my family, living out my faith, and growing my family’s business,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to supporting Republican candidates that share my conservative convictions and can keep Florida headed in the right direction.”

But Weatherford is far from the only Republican considering hoping in the race. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is believed to be considering a run, and a recent Gravis Marketing poll conducted for the Orlando Political Observer tested how Attorney General Pam Bondi, CFO Jeff Atwater and former Rep. David Jolly would fare on the ballot.

The field is expected to be just as crowded on the Democratic side. Former Rep. Gwen Graham, the daughter of former governor and Sen. Bob Graham; John Morgan, an Orlando trial attorney and top Democratic donor; Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine; Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn; and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer are all considering a run.

Rick Scott’s political committee raises more than $2.9M in 2016

Gov. Rick Scott continued to grow his war chest in 2016, raising millions of dollars amid speculation he plans to mount a U.S. Senate bid in two years.

State records show Let’s Get to Work — the political committee that fueled Scott’s 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial races — raised more than $2.9 million in 2016. And that sum will likely rise, since the most recent campaign finance data does not include money raised in December.

The committee spent more than $2.5 million this year, including $227,666 for political consulting and $76,264 on surveys and research.

Scott can’t run for re-election in 2018 because of term limits, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be on the ballot. In November, Scott told reporters he was considering challenging U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

“It’s an option,” he said at the time, according to POLITICO Florida. “It’s an option I have. But right now, my whole focus is how do I do my best job as governor.”

He could face a tough race if he decides to challenge Nelson. The Orlando Democrat has served in the U.S. Senate since 2001. A recent poll from the Florida Chamber Political Institute showed 48 percent of Floridians approve of the job Nelson is doing in the U.S. Senate. The same survey showed 53 percent of Floridians approve of the job Scott is doing as governor.

But a recent Gravis Marketing poll conducted for the Orlando Political Observer indicated Nelson is the early favorite in 2018. The poll of 3,250 registered Florida voters showed the Orlando Democrat had a double-digit lead over Scott.

In a head-to-head match-up between Nelson and Scott, the poll showed Nelson would receive 51 percent compared to Scott’s 38 percent.

Blaise Ingoglia touts support from state senators in Florida GOP chair re-election bid

Nearly a dozen state senators are throwing their support behind Blaise Ingoglia’s bid to keep his job as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

The Spring Hill Republican announced Wednesday the support of 10 state senators, including former Majority Leader Bill Galvano and former House Majority Leader and newly elected Sen. Dana Young.

“Over this past election cycle, there has been a lot of rhetoric from the Florida Democrat Party, the media and those who wanted the grassroots to fail, by trying to give the appearance that the Republican Party of Florida and the Florida Senate have not been unified in our shared goals,” said Ingoglia, the current chairman of the Florida GOP and a state representative “Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that I, as well as the RPOF, have a great working relationship with our Florida Senators and their leadership. Florida Senators have attended all our major events, donated and helped raise money to help us succeed.”

In an email to state executive committee members, Ingoglia said he was committed to working “collaboratively with the Florida Senate, the Florida House, our Congressional delegation, the Governor and the cabinet to advance our shared goals of making Florida the best state in the nation.”

Aside from Galvano and Young, Ingoglia was endorsed by:

— Sen. Kelli Stargel

— Sen. Rob Bradley

— Sen. Frank Artiles

— Sen. Dennis Baxley

— Sen. Travis Hutson

— Sen. Debbie Mayfield

— Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, and

— Sen. Greg Steube.

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.

 

Legislation would allow lawmakers to override judges’ rulings

Lawmakers could override court decisions they don’t like under bills filed Tuesday.

State Rep. Julio Gonzalez, a Venice Republican, filed two pieces of legislation, one aimed at state judges and another at federal judges who interpret state laws.

The first measure (HJR 121) would allow the Legislature to review judicial rulings that declare legislative acts void. If approved in the 2017 Legislative Session, it would allow lawmakers to put the issue on the ballot and amend the state Constitution.

That means that if “the Supreme Court, (any) district court of appeal, circuit court, or county court” overturns a law, the Legislature could salvage it with a two-thirds vote within five years of the ruling.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has made judicial reform a top priority during the next two years.

He has called for the state to impose a term limit for judges; in a November speech on the House floor, Corcoran said the state needs “judges who respect the Constitution and separation of powers; who will reject the temptation to turn themselves into some unelected, super-legislature.”

Gonzalez, an orthopedic surgeon by trade, also is taking aim at the feds, filing what’s known as a House memorial (HM 125).

“It is my concerted view that such provisions, if enacted by the people would curtail the tendency of activist judges to manipulate the law to suit their political views and agendas,” said Gonzalez in a statement on his website explaining his decision to file the measures. “Equally as importantly, this would force the people to engage the legislature in enacting rectifications to current laws that they see as objectionable or flawed, restoring the natural relationship between the people and their legislative bodies. This would also force the electorate to more carefully look at their candidates and their actions during times of reelection.”

It urges Congress to propose a constitutional amendment to “deem a law that has been declared void by certain federal courts active and operational.” Such measures, if passed, are non-binding.

It says the judicial branch has taken “an increasingly activist role aimed at molding legislation according to the political beliefs of its members.”

The U.S. Supreme Court “currently possesses ultimate and unchecked authority on matters of the constitutionality of the United States’ laws such that its opinion on such matters has the same effect as amending the United States Constitution,” the measure says.

“Thomas Jefferson foresaw the dangers of ‘allowing judges to be the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questions,’ calling this ‘a very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of oligarchy,’ ” it continues.

“And … the presence of such unchecked and plenary authority on determining the constitutionality validity of a law of the United States must be dismantled for the sake of our republic and for the continued empowerment of its people.”

__Tallahassee-based reporter Jim Rosica contributed to this report.

 

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