Jacob Ogles, Author at Florida Politics - Page 3 of 41

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.
Ashley Moody

Ashley Moody to crack down on Chinese fentanyl

Attorney General-elect Ashley Moody signaled she will crack down on fentanyl distribution after a decision by China to label the synthetic drug as a controlled substance.

“Chinese companies are the largest fentanyl suppliers directly and indirectly to the US,” Moody tweeted Sunday.

“I will aggressively fight our opioid epidemic and am glad to see more positive action from the federal government. Together we can end this epidemic.”

Moody linked online to an Associated Press article reporting Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to re-classify fentanyl after a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the G20 Summit in Argentina.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders told the AP that “people selling fentanyl to the United States will be subject to China’s maximum penalty under the law.”

While tariff negotiations became the big headline from the meeting between Trump and Jinping, the most important news for Moody’s office had to do with the narcotics discussion.

Florida experienced a spike in opioid overdoses in recent years, with 2,798 fatal overdoses in 2016, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. That’s a higher per capita fatality rate than the nation as a whole.

That includes 1,566 synthetic opioid-related deaths in Florida, up from 200 as recently as 2013. Fatal overdoses from synthetics in 2016 for the first time ever outnumbered those from prescription opioids, which were responsible for 1,183 deaths in Florida the same year.

Outgoing Attorney General Pam Bondi made fighting fentanyl a priority, earlier this year signing onto a letter encouraging Congress to pass the top Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act, or SOFA Act.

Moody made fentanyl abuse a central part of her campaign for Attorney General this year. She said during a panel discussion in Sarasota early this year that the synthetic was “much more dangerous and deadly” than heroin, as reported by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Moody in November defeated Democrat Sean Shaw for the Attorney General post and will be sworn into office in January.

Ross Spano

Ross Spano cops to having used personal loans for campaign

U.S. Rep.-elect Ross Spano admitted in a letter to the Federal Elections Commission that he financed his congressional run with personal loans, a clear violation of campaign finance regulations.

The admission comes weeks after the Riverview Republican won an election over Democrat Kristen Carlson for an open seat representing Florida’s 15th Congressional District. It also comes days after Carlson publicly called on the FBI to investigate Spano’s campaign contributions.

Spano borrowed $70,000 from Karen Hunt and $110,000 from Cary Carreno through four personal loans, then contributed the money to Ross Spano for Congress through installments between May 3 and Oct. 29.

Spano’s legal team sent a letter (below) to the FEC stating the candidate received bad advice on the legality of using the funds.

“When Representative-Elect Spano took out the personal four loans and when Representative-Elect Spano made the four loans to the Committee, he believed he was acting in full compliance with the law,” reads a letter by attorney Elliot Farah.

“Respondents now recognize that some of the proceeds from the personal loans made to Representative-Elect Spano and the personal loans he made to the Committee may have been in violation of the Federal Campaign Finance Act.”

Spano campaign spokesperson Sandi Poreda said Spano proactively wanted to inform the FEC of the problem and said the campaign has not been informed of any investigation or formal complaint.

But Carlson just this week told The Ledger the FBI should investigate personal loans totaling $174,500 that appeared on Spano’s financial disclosure forms before his heavy contributions to his Congressional campaign.

Carlson told the newspaper she sent a letter to the FBI on Nov. 15, saying she went to the law enforcement agency because the FEC cannot bring criminal charges.

“I made it clear that I had lost the election and I’m good with that, but I thought there was so much that was out there in the public domain as to whether or not there were violations of fed law that I thought it deserved to be investigated,” Carlson told the newspaper.

“I think Ross Spano would want it looked as if he’s innocent. I would think he would want some resolution; otherwise, it’s just sitting there clouding his being the representative of the 15th District.”

Poreda noted Spano did not try to hide his personal loans, including the information on FEC disclosure forms, and believed it legal to use money received through the loans from individuals to self-finance his campaign. Federal law puts a cap on contributions individuals may donate but none of how much a candidate’s personal money can go toward their own election.

The letter to the FEC said all the personal loans Spano received carry a 5-percent annual interest rate and will be repaid in full by the close of next week. Berke stresses in the letter that Spano, Hunt and Carreno all believed they operated within the law at the time of the loans.

“Upon such recognition, the respondents have taken several proactive steps to address this matter, including but not limited to engaging our firm as counsel, terminating prior accountancy, compliance, and relevant consultancy representations, and engaging new accountancy, compliance, and consultancy representations,” Berke writes.

Poreda said Spano worked on bad advice from a campaign treasurer no longer connected to the campaign. The campaign used the St. Petersburg firm Spoor Bunch Franz. as treasurer when the loans and contributions were reported. Jamie Jodoin served as treasurer when the loans and contributions were reported.

Spano filed his financial disclosures on Nov. 3, and the Tampa Bay Times on Nov. 5 wrote an article questioning the source of Spano’s loans to his campaign.

The race in CD 15 became one of the top-tier Congressional races in the Sunshine State this year after incumbent Rep. Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican, announced his retirement.

 

AT&T survey: Most teens engage in risky online behavior

A new survey likely to startle parents finds two-thirds of teenagers engaged in at least one kind of “risky behavior” while online, whether that means sending dirty pictures, encountering cyberbullies or meeting up with strangers.

Teenage girls, the poll finds, place themselves at greater risk.

The poll, done in partnership with the No Bully and the Tyler Clementi Foundation, comes as AT&T promotes a ScreenReady program, in pilot stage, to help users manage parental controls through in-store education program.

And the new statistics show reason to take advantage. The survey found 72 percent of teens admit to regularly accessing inappropriate materials online, despite 75 percent of parents believing they took the steps to limit access to such material.

Among teenagers, 98 percent of whom have access to their own device and 85 percent of whom spend at least three hours a day online, the poll find 57 percent know how to hide content from their parents.

The survey shows more than half of teenagers experienced some form on online bullying.

More alarming, the poll finds 19 percent of teenagers girls sent sexually explicit photos, and 9 percent of boys did the same.

Teenagers also use social apps to meet people online. The poll finds 17 percent of girls met a stranger they first encountered through an app, and so have 12 percent of boys. More than a quarter of those surveyed lied about their age online.

Connections may be happening in ways in which parents remain largely unaware—or at least which they don’t consciously consider. While just 4 percent of millennial parents believe their young children interact with strangers online, 71 percent of parents know their pre-teens play online games that involve interacting with others and 37 percent of children ages 3 to 7 play those games.

Parents of teenagers seem less aware how many games involve stranger interactions. More than 70 percent of teenagers say they play such games, but only 57 percent of parents of teenagers knew that.

The news comes as a higher percentage of children enjoy constant online access. The poll finds 84 percent of children ages 3-7, 96 percent of children ages 8-12, and 98 percent of teenagers have sole access to an internet-connected device.

And while 80 percent of young parents worry their children spend too much time on line, the vast majority still admit they will give kids a device just to keep them busy.

The survey sees more naiveté among adults than children when it comes to how devices get used. Some 70 percent of parents believe they sufficiently monitor their children’s internet habits, but most teens say they can easily hide their activity.

Pollsters surveyed 500 teenagers in New York City, 500 parents of teenagers and 500 millennials with younger children.

Ron DeSantis names economic advisers for transition

Newly appointed economic advisers for Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis will meet next week in a public session at the University of South Florida.

The Transition Advisory Committee on the Economy, led by former state Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, will gather at the university’s Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation at 1 p, m, on Wednesday, Dec. 5. The public may attend.

DeSantis’ economic committee includes 46 members from the corporate and political worlds.

Members coming from prominent public sector posts include former Senate President Allen Bense, former state Sen. Locke Burt, Florida Transportation Commissioner Ron Howse, Undersecretary of Defense John Rood, Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lapano and Jaxport CEO Eric Green.

But top executives also boast a solid showing on the committee.

Those include Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, Total Military Management co-founder Matt Connell, Calder Casino and Racecourse President Maureen Adams, Barron Collier Companies CEO Blake Gable, Danny G Hospitality Management founder Danny Gaekwad, Tampa Bay Buccaneers chief operating officer Brian Ford, Hamlin and Associates president John Hamlin, SUNZ Insurance President Steve Herrig and Golden Corral owner Eric Holm.

And prominent business advocates will also play a major role, including Council of 100 CEO John Ward, Florida Harbor Pilots Association president Capt. Sam Stephenson, incoming Florida Transportation Builders Association president Ananth Prasad and JAX Chamber CEO Daniel Davis.

The lengthy adviser list includes a diversity of businesses from such companies as Sunshine Gasoline Distributors, Home Depot, AT&T and Dosal Tobacco.

A full list of advisers appears below:

Maureen Adams; President and General Manager, Calder Casino and Racecourse
Kumar Allady; Founder & CEO, Radise International
Max Alvarez; Owner, Founder & President, Sunshine Gasoline Distributors
Joe Anderson; President, Anderson Columbia
The Honorable Locke Burt; Chairman and President, Security First
Tom Barry; Senior Vice President, Atkins
The Honorable Allan Bense; President, Partner, GAC Contractors
Matt Connell; Co-Founder & CEO, Total Military Management
Chris Corr; Senior Vice President, Real Estate, Public Affairs and President of Raydient, Rayonier
Daniel Davis; President & CEO, JAX Chamber
Susan Fernandez; Director of Corporate Communications and Government Relations, Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas
Bob Flowers; President, CW Roberts Contracting
Brian Ford; COO, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Blake Gable; CEO, Barron Collier Companies
Danny Gaekwad; Founder & CEO, NDS USA and Founder, Danny G Hospitality Management
Eric Green; CEO, JAXPORT
Tony Grippa; Former Senior Vice President, Brown and Brown
John Hamlin; President, Hamlin and Associates
Steve Herrig; CEO, SUNZ Insurance
Chuck Hinson; Vice President State and Community Relations, TECO Energy
Eric Holm; Owner, Golden Corral
Capt. Keith Hoskins, USN (Ret); West District General Manager, Gulf Power
Commissioner Ron Howse; President, Real Deal Development Group
Manny Kadre; Chairman & CEO, MBB Auto, and Director, Home Depot
Benny Klepach; Founder, Chairman & CEO, DFASS Group
David Kulik; Retired former CEO, CEVA Logistics
Tom Kuntz; Former CEO, SunTrust Banks, Florida
Robert “Bob” Lloyd; Executive Vice President, Brown and Brown
Joe Lopano; CEO, Tampa International Airport
Rick Murrell; CEO, Tropical Shipping
Yolanda Nader; CEO, Dosal Tobacco Corporation
Lauren Oakley; Co-Owner, Cassidy Development and Homes
Ananth Prasad; President-Designate, Florida Transportation Builders Association
John Ritenour; Co-Founder and Chairman, Insurance Office of America
Fmr. Amb. John Rood; Chairman, The Vestcor Companies
Joel Schleicher; Executive Chairman and Founder, Focal Point Data Risk
Eric Silagy; President and CEO, Florida Power and Light
Rick Sontag; President, Spring Bay Ventures
Jamal Sowell; Chief of Staff, Port Tampa Bay
Bill Spivey; Executive Director, Florida Development Finance Corporation
Capt. Sam Stephenson; President, Florida Harbor Pilots Association
Jeremy Susac; Vice President of Government Affairs, Lennar Homes and SunStreet
Jeff Vinik; Owner, Tampa Bay Lightning and Owner, Strategic Property Partners
Bob Ward; President and CEO, Florida Council of 100
Lenny Wolfe; Owner, Cornerstone Group
Joe York; President, AT&T Florida, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands

Jeb Bush, Florida remember George H.W. Bush

Tributes poured in overnight to President George H.W. Bush.

The Republican leader boasted a strong connection to Florida, and leaders in the Sunshine State paid their respects along with the nation.

Most notably, former Gov. Jeb Bush, who released kind words about his father:

“I already miss the greatest human being that I will ever know. Love you Dad!”

Erin Gaetz, founder of Southpaw Content, also shared with Florida Politics video of Jeb Bush talking about his father. The clip was filmed while the younger Bush he ran for president in 2018. In it, he reiterates his deep respect for his father, including as a veteran.

“My dad would never consider himself a war hero,” Jeb Bush said.

“At the age of 18, he enlisted in the Navy. He was the youngest Navy pilot in World War II. His mission was to hit the towers on Chichi Jima Island. And he completed the mission. He got shot down and he crashed into the Pacific and was unconscious in a raft and was almost taken as a prisoner of war. Thankfully, a reconnaissance flight saw him there and there was a submarine in the vicinity and they got to him first. Thank God for our family that my Dad survived that. This guy is the real deal.”

Other Florida leaders chimed in on news of the elder Bush’s death as well:

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio:

“When any public figure passes away, it causes us to pause and reflect on the life they lived. I came of age during the presidency of George H.W. Bush. He was our President when I graduated from high school in 1989. He was the first presidential candidate I ever voted for in 1992. I even dressed as him for Halloween in 1991! It is difficult to fully appreciate a great man in the middle of their time of service, but both then and in hindsight, President Bush was an example of true public service. As a young student and later as an elected official starting out in public life, President Bush’s intellect, leadership, and moral courage influenced me greatly.

“He was an American hero of a kind we may never see again.

“His record of service to our nation has no contemporary parallel. He volunteered for service in World War II, becoming the youngest aviator in the Navy at the time of his enlistment. Then, he went on to serve our nation as a Congressman from Texas, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, chief diplomat in China, Director of the CIA, Vice President of the United States, and President of the United States.

“But beyond his extraordinary record of service, George H.W. Bush deserves to be remembered for the profound personal example he set for all Americans. He was a dedicated husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. He instilled in his family a drive for serving others and giving back to the American people. He continued to show his quality in the latter years of his life, when he devoted himself to charity, befriended his once adversary in President Clinton, and even shaved his head in solidarity with a young cancer patient whose father served in his Secret Service detail. From beginning to end, George Bush’s life was a life well lived.

“George H.W. Bush once pledged that he would, ‘keep America moving forward, always forward — for a better America, for an endless enduring dream and a thousand points of light.’ President Bush wasn’t just one of those points of light himself, he was among the brightest of them. He has already heard his creator say to him ‘Well done my good and faithful servant.’ May he rest in eternal peace.”

Gov. and U.S. Sen.-elect Rick Scott:

“Today, the world lost a statesman who was the symbol of the highest level of civil commitment and who helped weave the fabric of an America that represents freedom and prosperity. The contributions of George H.W. Bush to our country were beyond that of his presidency. As a Naval aviator and fighter pilot, Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, Director of the CIA, Vice President and President, George H.W. Bush dedicated his life to service to our nation and vowed to use his presidency and the power of our nation as “a force for good.” I have had the privilege of knowing the Bush family for years and am incredibly grateful to have met such a genuine, gracious and kind man. The United States of America is stronger today because of the selfless service of 41. Ann and I send our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers to the Bush family as they mourn the loss and celebrate the amazing life of George H.W. Bush.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson: 

“George H.W. Bush modeled the best of public service. He was a servant leader. And that’s why the nation unanimously mourns for him.”

Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis:

“Few Americans have served our country in as many different and important capacities as George H.W. Bush. As a naval aviator, as a legislator, as an intelligence chief, as a diplomat and, of course, as Vice President and President of the United States, President Bush amassed prodigious accomplishments and he did it all with uncommon grace, class and honor.

“Appreciation of his achievements will only continue to grow as the years go by. President Bush was an American hero, a faithful servant and the greatest Yalie of them all.”

U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz:

“George H.W. Bush was a man of strong conviction who led our nation with dignity and grace. He was a steady hand in tumultuous times and a powerful advocate for freedom on the world stage.

“I am grieved to learn of his passing. My prayers are with the entire Bush family.”

U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn:

“Our nation grieves today for the entire Bush family with the loss of President George H.W. Bush.

“From Naval aviator, to congressman, ambassador, CIA Director, Vice President, and President of the United States, George H.W. Bush dedicated his life to humbly serving our country. In every aspect of his life, he worked to create a kind and greater nation. We should all strive to live like George H.W. Bush.

“He put it best in saying, ‘be bold in your caring, be bold in your dreaming and above all else, always do your best.’ Fair winds and following seas — may he rest in peace.”

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, Florida Delegation co-chair:

“George H.W. Bush was an American patriot, a man of tremendous character and a devoted husband and father. He was the very definition of a public servant.

“My condolences go out to the Bush family.”

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster:

“I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of President George H W Bush. An American hero, he loved his family and country and dedicated his entire life to serving both. His legacy of integrity, patriotism, kindness, and servant leadership is an example for us all. My heart goes out to my friend Jeb and the entire Bush family.

“Thank you for sharing your dad with us. Sandy and I are praying for you all.”

U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz:

“With the passing of President George Herbert Walker Bush, America has lost a veteran, patriot and true public servant. The 41st President made life better for the disabled and immigrants, and he nobly urged each of us to be part of a ‘thousand points of light’ for others.

“This Cold Warrior, who aspired to ‘peaceful skies,’ was the epitome of humility and respect for the high office he held, and was a model for every president to follow. His dedication to family, country and a greater cause are the true legacies that he and the love of his life Barbara leave behind for future generations. My thoughts and condolences are with the entire Bush family as the nation mourns his loss.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen:

“President George H.W. Bush was an inspiration to all of us. A president, father, husband, friend & American hero. He was a compassionate & determined leader.

“Although he has passed, his memory will continue to inspire our cmnty for decades to come. My condolences to the Bush family.”

U.S. Rep. Al Lawson:

“I’m deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. His life was defined by an inspiring commitment to public service.

“I admired his steadfast to the causes he believed in. I am grateful to his family for having shared him with all of us.”

U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy:

“George H.W. Bush was the epitome of a statesman — WW2 pilot, ambassador, CIA director, VP, and the 41st President. He was beloved by his family, exuded grace and integrity, and will be deeply missed by the nation he served so well.

“RIP, Mr. President.”

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto:

“Rest In Peace President George H.W. Bush. Thank you for your service to our country and for signing these key initiatives into law: Americans w Disabilities Act of 1990; Civil Rights Act of 1991; Clean Air Act (Reauthorization); Immigration Act of 1990.”

U.S. Rep. Val Demings:

“Pilot, veteran, congressman, ambassador, president, statesman. George H.W. Bush always put the American people first. His duty, loyalty, honor, and integrity were unquestionable.

“Thank you for your service, President Bush. Rest In peace.”

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist:

“‘When the word moderation becomes a dirty word, we have some soul searching to do.’ — President George H.W. Bush. Remembering a true public servant’s words of wisdom as we mourn the loss of an American patriot, leader, and statesman. Praying for the Bush family during this difficult time.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor:

“Sending condolences from Tampa Bay area to Bush family and friends during this sad time. President George H.W. Bush was an honorable man who loved America and devoted his life to service.”

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross:

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of President George H.W. Bush. He was a patriot and statesmen in every sense. Cindy and I convey our sincerest condolences to the Bush family. During this difficult time, we find solace that President Bush is reunited with his beloved wife, Barbara, for eternity.

“May God continue to bless the Bush family and this great nation.”

U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel:

“Sending my deepest condolences to the Bush family as the nation mourns with them the loss of George H.W. Bush. May he Rest In Peace.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch:

“I join in mourning President George HW Bush & remember his fierce commitment to service & boldly optimistic view of our nation & world. From his Inaugural: ‘America today is a proud, free nation, decent and civil — a place we cannot help but love.’ RIP.”

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson:

“Condolences to the Bush family on the loss of their beloved patriarch. President George H.W. Bush gave a lifetime of service to our nation and is an American treasure. May he Rest In Peace.”

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart:

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of President George H.W. Bush. President Bush was an American patriot who dedicated himself to our country through decades of public service.

“With grace and honor, he led the United States during a time of war, the collapsing of communism in much of Eastern Europe, and ultimately through a difficult transfer of power at home. Though we have lost this legendary man on earth, I am comforted knowing that he is reunited with his wife Barbara and daughter Robin.

“Tia and I send our condolences to his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who shared their loving parents and grandparents with a grateful nation.”

U.S. Rep.-elect Donna Shalala:

“I would like to express my deepest condolences and sympathies to the Bush Family on the passing of their patriarch, George H.W. Bush. His was a life well lived — war hero, Ambassador to the UN, Director of National Intelligence, Vice President and President. He was a true patriot who cared deeply for this nation and served our country with dignity and humility.

“But as towering as his contributions to our Republic were, he will also be celebrated for the love and care he bestowed on his family and his beloved Barbara.

“I will always remember President Bush as a kind and decent man. Those are qualities that we can all revere and aspire to. He will be missed.”

U.S. Rep.-elect Michael Waltz:

“WWII Naval Aviator, Congressman, Ambassador, CIA Director, Vice President, And President … But most of all, husband and dad. He was the brightest of his thousand points of light.

“And the world is a little darker today. A true Servant Leader.”

State Senate President Bill Galvano:

“From a young age, George H.W. Bush dedicated his life to serving our country, setting an example for all Americans. Our prayers are with our friends Jeb Bush and Columba Bush and the entire family.

“We join you in celebrating a tremendous life and legacy.”

State Speaker of the House Jose Oliva:

“Very few Americans leave such an indelible stamp on the story of freedom as President George HW Bush. From the battlefields of the South Pacific to the battlefields of Washington DC, President Bush was a man of principle, character, and honor and all Americans were blessed by his service.

“He now joins a pantheon of patriots whose selfless devotion to service made this nation the best hope of man on earth. Our loss as a nation is tempered by the fact that he is reunited with his beloved wife, Barbara.

“On behalf of the entire Florida House of Representatives, I offer our sincerest condolences to the Bush family — especially our former Governor Jeb Bush.”

State Rep. Kionne McGhee, House Democratic Leader:

“Late yesterday, we received news of the passing of a political giant and a tireless public servant. President H.W. Bush was a dedicated leader that devoted his life to the service of our great country.

“While I am deeply saddened by the passing of President H.W. Bush, I am grateful to be able to honor the accomplishments of this untiring patriot who brought compassion and a vision of opportunity and faith to this nation. My condolences are with the Bush family and all those mourning the lost life of this American hero.

“May God bless President George Herbert Walker Bush. My prayers are with you and your family.”

Republican National Committee chair (and sometimes Longboat Key resident) Ronna Romney McDaniel:

“We mourn the passing of an American patriot, former President George H.W. Bush. President Bush dedicated himself to serving his country in many roles: a naval aviator, a congressman, an ambassador, RNC chairman, CIA director, vice president, and commander in chief.

“He stood for American strength and cared deeply for the American people, alongside his late wife Barbara. President Bush’s legacy of bold leadership, patriotism, and humanitarianism will live on long after his passing.

“We at the RNC are praying for the entire Bush family.”

Republican Party of Florida chair Blaise Ingoglia:

“Today, we mourn the passing of a truly amazing American leader, an experienced statesman, and a man who always put our nation first. President George H.W. Bush displayed the utmost love for country since his time as a Navy pilot until his days as Commander in Chief.

“He will always be remembered as a man of integrity and patriotism, and it is with a heavy heart that we extend our condolences to the Bush Family, and keep them in our prayers during this difficult time.”

Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly:

“Such a decent man.”

Rick Wilson, Florida political consultant:

“George Herbert Walker Bush has passed. He is in heaven with his beloved Barbara tonight. We will not see his like again. A modest hero, he left a legacy of honorable service to the nation he loved.

“It was a deep honor to serve in his Administration. RIP, 41. Godspeed, sir.”

Trail Life USA chair John Stemberger:

“Man knows not his time.”

Chris King, former Lieutenant Governor candidate:

“Kristen and I were saddened to learn of President Bush’s passing last night. Whether it was in the cockpit of his TBM Avenger, the Oval Office, or across the world in his private philanthropy, George Bush served our country nobly. Rest In Peace.”

Flags ordered half-staff for December to honor George H.W. Bush

President Donald Trump directed flags to fly at half-mast to honor President George H.W. Bush. Gov. Rick Scott subsequently ordered flags in Florida to be flown at half-staff at all local and state buildings, installations and grounds statewide.

Bush, 41st president of the United States and father to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, died late Friday. The death prompted an outpouring of condolences among Florida leaders.

“Today, the world lost a statesman who was the symbol of the highest level of civil commitment and who helped weave the fabric of an America that represents freedom and prosperity. The contributions of George H.W. Bush to our country were beyond that of his presidency,” Scott said.

“As a Naval aviator and fighter pilot, Congressman, Ambassador to the United Nations, Director of the CIA, Vice President and President, George H.W. Bush dedicated his life to service to our nation and vowed to use his presidency and the power of our nation as ‘a force for good.’ I have had the privilege of knowing the Bush family for years and am incredibly grateful to have met such a genuine, gracious and kind man.”

Flags will stay low in Florida through the month of December, per Scott’s direction. Pursuant to Trump’s order, flags should fly at half-mast for 30 days, and Scott ordered the flags to remain until sunset on Dec. 31.

“The United States of America is stronger today because of the selfless service of 41,” Scott said. “Ann and I send our deepest condolences, thoughts and prayers to the Bush family as they mourn the loss and celebrate the amazing life of George H.W. Bush.”

President George H. W. Bush Dead at 94

George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, has died.

In addition to his leadership in the final days of the Cold War, Bush and his family held strong ties to Florida. Bush’s son Jeb Bush served as Florida’s 43rd governor, his older son George W. Bush won the White House after successfully securing Florida’s electoral votes, and he regularly vacationed in Boca Grande with late wife Barbara.

President George W. Bush confirmed the death on behalf of the Bush family.

“Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro and I are saddened to announce that after 94 remarkable years, our dear Dad has died,” the younger President Bush said.

“George H. W. Bush was a man of the highest character and the best dad a son or daughter could ask for. The entire Bush family is deeply grateful for 41’s life and love, for the compassion of those who cared and prayed for Dad, and for the condolences of our friends and fellow citizens.”

President Donald Trump early Saturday released a statement celebrating the president’s life.

“Through his essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country, President Bush inspired generations of his fellow Americans to public service—to be, in his words ‘a thousand points of light’ illuminating the greatness, hope, and opportunity of America to the world,” Trump said in a statement of behalf of himself and First Lady Melania Trump.

He closed the statement: “Along with his full life of service, we will always remember President Bush for his devotion to family—especially the love of his life, Barbara. His example lives on, and will continue to stir future Americans to pursue a greater cause. Our hearts ache with his loss, and we, with the American people, send our prayers to the entire Bush family, as we honoe the life and legacy of 41.”

Jeb’s son George P. Bush, Texas Land Commissioner,separately issued a statement.

“My grandfather was the greatest man I ever knew,” said George P. Bush.

“His life spanned the American Century—he fought in World War II … took part in the Texas oil boom … served out a distinguished career in public service including serving as president during the final days of the Cold War.

“Along the way, he married the love of his life and was a father to six, including a president and two governors. But to me, he will always be Gampy. The man who taught me to fish in Maine, to throw a horseshoe and to swing a baseball bat lefty.”

George H. H. Bush served as vice president to Ronald Reagan for eight years, then won the White House himself in 1998.

Russell Tuff mounting local case for Collier County GOP Chair

While state Rep. Byron Donalds may have ambitions to become Republican Party of Florida state chair, he faces opposition first in a bid to chair his county executive committee.

Russell Tuff, a longtime Naples conservative activist, already had plans to run for Collier County Republican Executive Committee chair, before Donalds expressed interst, and has no plans to step aside.

“I had enough phone calls from everybody saying I should run,” Tuff said. “Then once I accepted that, I heard Byron mentioned.”

But Tuff has concerns about a sitting lawmaker serving as chair of the county party, something he views as a year-round responsibility.

“He’ll be out of town doing legislative business, and it will be difficult to carry out the mission here,” Tuff said.

As for his own credentials, Tuff ran two years ago for Collier County Commission, but ultimately came in third in the Republican primary to now-County Commissioner Burt Saunders and current county GOP chair Ron Kezeske.

But Tuff, a former member of the local media, boasted the endorsement of the Naples Daily News and maintains strong connections within the party.

Kezeske said earlier this week that while Donalds holds a great reputation as a conservative legislative voice for the region, Tuff will pose a strong obstacle to any desires of the county chair position.

Tuff won’t disparage Donalds but plans to make a case with party regulars the chief concern of a county chair should be party building at the grassroots level. Tuff plans to employ his professional marketing experience to promote the party message and grow its membership.

“I can portray a positive message of what we can accomplish,” Tuff said.

Of course, the goal of Donalds’ candidacy largely seems to become the state GOP chair. Many party leaders expect Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis to throw his weight behind Donalds as a choice for that job.

But if that’s the case, Tuff would rather see DeSantis name Donalds to one of 10 positions on the state steering committee filled at a Republican governor’s discretion.

While such an appointee has never gone on to be selected as state chair, Tuff said it may be a better way to go for Donalds to take that role and run for state chair.

Nikki Fried’s transition team has cannabis experts, lawmakers, former opponents

Agriculture Commissioner-elect Nikki Fried’s transition team includes a Parkland father, representatives from law enforcement and even a former Republican candidate for the job.

“We have put together a team with experience on the wide ranging issues the Department oversees,” said Transition Team Chairman Patrick Murphy, a former U.S. representative.

“In the coming weeks the team will help determine the best path to build a strong Department that can deliver on Commissioner-Elect Fried’s priority issues.”

Fried already announced Murphy as chair and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto and gun safety activist Fred Guttenberg as vice chairs for transition team under Murphy.

She fleshed out the team with law enforcement voices like Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, the newly elected Orange County Mayor, and lawmakers like former state Sen. Denise Grimsley, who ran this year for Agriculture Commissioner but lost in the Republican primary.

Fried, the lone Democrat elected to Florida’s Cabinet this year, won an extremely tight race against Republican Matt Caldwell. Now, she hopes a bipartisan transition team paves the way for a solid term in office.

“We have brought people together from all corners of our state and all walks of life to help build a Department that will respect the priority issues of the people and work hard to deliver results,” Fried said.

“From Democratic, Republican, and independent leaders, to leaders in Florida’s agriculture and environmental communities, public safety, energy, consumer protection, and marijuana industries— our transition team reflects the values of all Floridians. As Commissioner, I will be a voice for all of the people of Florida.”

Who made the cut?

Members of Florida’s Congressional delegation saw representation. In addition to Murphy and Soto, Fried also tapped former U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd, a Tallahassee Democrat.

State lawmakers include: Grimsley; former state Sen. Rick Dantzler, who President Barack Obama appointed as state executive director for the Farm Service Agency; former state House Speaker Jon Mills, who later helped draft the Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative and the medical marijuana constitutional amendment; and former state Rep. Dean Saunders, who spearheaded creation of the Bright Futures Scholarship program.

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg, a former state senator, also will serve on the team.

The most notable activist on the team would be Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died in the Parkland mass shooting earlier this year.

But Fried also tapped figures who have been active in the agriculture world, including Susanne Clemons, a cattle rancher and former president of the Okeechobee Area Agri-Council.

Darin Cook, co-CEO of Infinite Energy will be a part of the team, as will Sam Poole, former executive director of the South Florida Water Management District.

Chris Hand, former City of Jacksonville chief of staff, and Scheril Murray Powell, a lawyer specializing in cannabis issues and member of the University of Florida Hemp Pilot Program advisory board, bring their legal skills.

Ben Kuehne, who recently represented Fried during the statewide recount for her race, will serve as general counsel for the transition team.

Eric Johnson, Murphy’s former chief of staff, will serve as executive director. Fried campaign manager Shelby Scarpa will serve as deputy executive director.

Filling out the team will be Deborah Tannenbaum, Florida Peanut Federation executive director, as senior adviser; Jordan Anderson, a For Our Future deputy field director, as director of operations; and Max Flugrath, Fried’s campaign spokesperson, as transition communications director.

Kathleen Passidomo aims to protect state’s affordable housing trust fund

While Florida communities persistently face affordable housing issues, a trust fund to help solve the problem remains an easy pot to raid.

But state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo hopes to safeguard those dollars in next year’s budget.

One of the first bills filed by the Naples Republican for this session aims to protect the State Housing Trust Fund and Local Government Housing Trust Fund, better known as the Sadowski Trust.

“If we have funds designated for a trust, they should be used for that purpose,” Passidomo said. “It should be an extraordinary event to use these funds for something else.”

Her bill (SB 70) seeks to stop what happened last year, when the Trust seemed intact up until the annual budget conference, when lawmakers swept millions out of the fund to help pay for a school security bill passed after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland.

That reasoning seemed compelling when the mid-February shooting threw the entire Legislative Session sideways.

But Jaimie Ross, CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition, said the reasoning doesn’t explain the trust getting raided every year for more than a decade.

“Isn’t there always something?” she said. “Before Parkland, why was it swept away then?”

The answer varies year to year. In 2017, Gov. Rick Scott called for the funds to be used for economic development. For years, the Great Recession and a connected loss in revenues justified more raids.

To Ross, it’s clear the best economic benefit for an affordable housing trust is to be used for affordable housing. That also seems the honest approach.

The Trust, established in 1992, gets funded through a documentary stamp tax paid on all real estate transactions in Florida.

It’s the rare tax on an industry supported at the time by Florida homebuilders and real estate professionals based on the fact the revenues generated by the tax would go toward improving housing inventory, something that would benefit the industries paying into the fund, Ross said.

For 10 years, that’s exactly what happened to the fund. But in 2002, as Florida dealt with tourism decline and an economic downturn after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, lawmakers raided the trust fund. Ever since, full funding seemed a relic of a bygone era.

Last year, Passidomo fought to protect the funding, left untouched in the Senate-approved version of the state budget.

But in the Florida House, where then-state Rep. Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat, championed similar protections, the trust did not fare so well. House members voted to sweep $182 million out of the fund, estimated last year at more than $308 million.

When House and Senate leaders went into conference, the trust fund became a casualty of negotiations.

“Because of Parkland, we swept a lot of trust funds,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley at the time. “There just isn’t enough money there to maintain the Senate’s position of not sweeping the fund — we are going to be sweeping that fund.”

For the coming fiscal year, the most recent revenue estimates estimate some $328 million to come into the Sadowski Trust. If used appropriately, Ross said that could generate $4 billion in economic impact for the state.

And Passidomo said with the economy booming but incomes rising unevenly, the need for affordable housing dollars will be as great as ever.

“There’s affordable, attainable workforce housing issues around the state,” she said. In many parts of Florida, including the Naples area, high real estate costs mean professionals from hairdressers to young attorneys can’t afford to live within 45 minutes of where they work.

During the Great Recession, there seemed a widespread acknowledgement the housing bubble burst created its own affordable housing stock through foreclosures and market decline. But that’s no longer the case.

“As values come back and the economy gets better, our employment rate is way down, but young workers have no place to live,” she said.

Developers tend to build the best and highest use on land, preferring to develop subdivisions on mini-mansions that sell at luxury prices, particularly within coastal communities rich in retirement amenities.

Now, Passidomo said, the state needs to create new programs and provide subsidies so that builders create working class housing stock. That could mean retrofitting empty strip malls into rental apartments, or simply supplementing lower rents for landlords willing to work with the state.

But in the always-a-reason-for-a-raid department, there’s already talk in Tallahassee about whether Sadowski Trust dollars can be used to help areas devastated by Hurricane Michael.

The idea makes Ross bristle.

“That is very unfortunate,” she said. “The federal government provides the housing assistance we need to recover from emergencies.”

Lawmakers may be tempted to use Sadowski dollars for short-term response, but if they do that, the federal grants that eventually come to the state cannot be used to replenish the trust. Once again, affordable housing funding will suffer and the housing crisis will worsen unabated, she said.

But these days, after raiding trust funds became the status quo, Ross worries many lawmakers don’t even consider using the dollars as a violation. Most lawmakers in Tallahassee never approved a budget that left the Sadowski Trust intact.

Her hope is that a new administration will leave the funding alone in his budget.

“I truly believe Gov.-elect (Ron) DeSantis has a tremendous opportunity to distinguish himself as he comes out with his first budget,” she said.

And lawmakers themselves can prove their trustworthiness to voters, Passidomo says.

“I’m a real estate attorney, and in my business, I take money for clients and put them in a (lawyer’s) trust account,” she said. “Those are carefully separated. I would lose my license if I used funds from Client A to help Client B. Those funds don’t belong to me.

“It’s the same thing here. These dollars are for a trust fund, and they belong in this account.”

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