Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 5 of 324

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

Democracy for America endorses Andrew Gillum for governor

Democracy for America, the progressive advocacy group founded in 2004 by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, is endorsing Andrew Gillum for Florida Governor in 2018.

“As the Mayor of Tallahassee, Andrew Gillum has stood up to the NRA and made it clear that he will protect immigrants against the Trump administration,” says Democracy for America Chair Jim Dean in an announcement Monday. “He has a vision for the state that includes progressive policies like a $15 minimum wage and ending discrimination against those who have been incarcerated.”

Gillum said he was deeply honored to get the endorsement from the national organization, which backed Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential race.

“The stakes have never been higher for Florida,” he said in a statement. “Nearly half of all our households are struggling to make ends meet, wages are down in nearly two-thirds of our counties, and Floridians in every corner of our state are asking why they can’t get ahead anymore.”

DFA has more than 97,000 members in Florida; since its founding, the group contributed more than $40 million to help elect hundreds of progressive candidates across the nation.

Gillum is running against Winter Park businessman Chris King and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018. The endorsement from DFA shows that nationally, at least, he is considered the most progressive Democrat running for governor.

Kathy Castor, Florida Dems say Donald Trump ‘intentionally’ sabotaged health insurance markets

A day after Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price refused to say if the Donald Trump administration would fund cost-sharing insurer subsidies next year, Kathy Castor and other Florida congressional Democrats say uncertainty is undermining the stability of the health care insurance marketplace.

“President Trump and his administration should focus on helping hardworking families keep their affordable health coverage rather than sticking Americans with much higher insurance bills,” the Tampa Democrat writes in a letter urging the president to commit to maintaining cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments or else be responsible for higher insurance costs. “Support is critical for affordable quality health coverage, and President Trump should not ‘play politics’ and threaten the peace of mind of parents and small business owners.”

Those CSR payments are reimbursement to the insurance companies for lower copays and deductibles given to low-income customers of the Affordable Care Act. There were 1.24 million people in Florida receiving such subsidies in 2016, according to a March 2017 report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

At the Senate Finance Committee hearing Thursday, Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow noted how proposed rate insurance increases in Pennsylvania are slated to rise nearly 9 percent next year. But if cost-sharing reduction payments are stopped, that increase would rise to approximately 30 percent.

“Instead of working together to build on such successes as the number of uninsured Americans at its lowest in history and ending discrimination against my neighbors with pre-existing conditions, Trump is actively working to put the marketplace in jeopardy by not committing to these vital payments, which help provide my neighbors with affordable quality health care coverage options,” Castor added. “Trump’s inaction on CSR payments is causing instability in the federal marketplace, which in turn is forcing health insurance companies to raise their rates for 2018 or pull out altogether. He is intentionally sabotaging our health insurance markets and leaving hardworking American families and small businesses to bear the brunt.”

The insurance commissioner of Washington state blamed the Trump administration this week for the planned departure of two insurers from the state, attributing it to their refusal to guarantee the billions of dollars in reimbursements expected by the health insurers.

“For months, we’ve worked closely with our health insurers and other stakeholders in a concerted effort to try to explain to the Trump administration and congressional leaders what the impact could be to our market and most importantly, to our consumers, if this level of uncertainty and volatility continued,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler.

“Today, our predictions came true.”

House Republicans filed suit in 2014 saying that those CSR payments should have been funded through a congressional appropriation. Republicans estimated these payments are about $7 billion a year.

In May 2016, a federal judge agreed with them, ruling that the Obama administration had been making illegal payments to health insurance companies participating in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchanges. The Obama administration appealed that ruling.

House Republicans successfully asked for a delay in the case. after Trump was elected last November.

The letter to the president was co-signed by Congress members Ted Deutch, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Darren Soto, Stephanie Murphy, Al Lawson, Frederica Wilson, Charlie Crist, Val Demings and Alcee Hastings.

If David Jolly runs again in 2018, would rank-and-file Republicans support him?

Unless you’ve been boycotting cable news, former Pinellas County GOP Congressman David Jolly has been a ubiquitous presence, thanks to his unflinching takedowns on Donald Trump, the titular head of the Republican Party.

“Donald Trump is done,” Jolly opined on “11th Hour with Brian Williams” last month after the Justice Department named Robert Mueller as the special counsel to oversee the investigation into ties between Trump’s campaign and Russian officials.

While that independence from GOP orthodoxy makes the former lawmaker a desired quantity on MSNBC and CNN, the feelings among some rock-ribbed Republicans toward him aren’t nearly so warm and fuzzy.

That independence has led some observers to believe that Jolly is done for the time being for politics, but the former aide to longtime Congressman Bill Young said this week that the idea of running again in Florida’s 13th Congressional District is something that is “actively under consideration.”

Any decision won’t come until next January, however, when he says he’ll have a better idea on when can take the temperature of the “macro political environment.”

“But I’m also not convinced that Charlie (Crist) runs for re-election,” he says. “I think there’s a lot that can change between now and ’18 and so it’s still something under active consideration.”

Kevin Cate, a spokesperson for the Crist campaign, declined to comment.

Susan McGrath, the chair of the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee, often takes to her Facebook page to disparage Jolly after he appears on the cable networks criticizing the president.

“David Jolly is the consummate example of a politician that wants to portray himself as something he’s not in order to fool the voters of CD 13 so that he can try to win back his old seat,” she told FloridaPolitics.com in an email.

McGrath continued: “He had no issues with the Republican Party when he ran in a district that had a Republican advantage. He may try to run from the Republican Party and Donald Trump, but the fact is he lobbied for the privatization of Social Security, lobbied in support of offshore drilling, dismissed his vote to deny additional VA funding as ‘a procedural vote’ and for ‘bricks and mortar’ and sponsored legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and on and on. To present himself as moderate is simply not honest. His record speaks for itself.”

Jolly counters by pointing out he was for same-sex marriage and radical campaign finance reform well before CD 13 was reconfigured from a swing seat to a what is now a very Democratic-leaning district.

While the Pinellas Democratic chair is commenting on Jolly, her GOP counterpart is not.

Republican Executive Committee Chair Nick DiCeglie initially told FloridaPolitics.com he would answer the question of what Pinellas Republicans think of Jolly, but ultimately chose not to respond to further inquiries on the matter.

Another prominent Republican official in Pinellas would also not comment publicly on Jolly, but when promised anonymity, said he didn’t see a path for Jolly in the district.

“If your intention is to rally around the base, that’s not the way to do it,” the official said. “He must be trying to rally the independents, but I don’t know if there’s enough runway there for him to take off.”

“I appreciate his honesty and candor if he wants to have a career as a pundit or something,” he added. “But as far as trying to get people to rally behind you, that’s certainly not the way to go.”

Adding to the issue is while some Republicans feel personally ambivalent about Trump, they will still rally around the president when attacked by Democrats and (they say) the liberal media.

“In my observations, he alienated Trump Supporters and Second Amendment supporters before his failed election,” says Dan Tucker, a Pinellas County Republican State Committeeman.

“However, I like David as a person but what I understand from Republican Club members who are typically an older ‘die-hard conservative’ crowd, is that they feel he has lost it while some are openly hostile toward him and feel betrayed,” Tucker says. “I consider him a ‘Never Trumper’ and vying for Joe Scarborough’s job as a Progressive Republican.”

For George Hudak, a GOP political consultant from Palm Harbor who often works with Republicans in New York, the bigger question is will Democrats support a moderate Republican like Jolly over Crist.

“I think David is a truth speaker, he stands up for what he feels is right,” he says, referring to his fight against the National Republican Campaign Committee which resulted in that group opting not to help fund him in such a competitive election in 2016. “David has a lot of integrity; he and Laura are still loved by many Pinellas Republicans.”

Anthony Pedicini believes it doesn’t really matter who is the GOP candidate in CD 13.

“I do not think a Republican can beat Charlie Crist in the district as it is currently configured,” says the GOP political consultant.

Jolly lost to Crist in 2016 by 3.4 percentage points. That was without any financial help from the National Republican Campaign Committee, who essentially wrote him off after a dispute regarding the commitments made.

Paraphrasing John Kasich, Jolly says he also gets the right to define Republicanism in the 21st-century: “In many ways, I’m fighting for the future of the GOP and fighting for our brand, if you will.”

“The clearest strategy for 2018, if my only interest was running for re-election, would be to keep my mouth shut,” Jolly says. “I mean every consultant on the left and right would tell you — keep your mouth shut, raise money, keep your head down, and then we’ll figure out how to deploy campaign resources three months out — so that is the strategy.”

“If I was just worried about strategy, but I’m not. I’m calling balls and strike, and see what the field looks like next year, but there’s a good chance I’ll be on the ballot, and I will not have the full support of Republicans, nor will I bring over progressive Democrats who disagree with me on policy, but I do think we can put together a majority of Republicans, independents and Democrats and hopefully do what I was trying to do last cycle, which was to truly change politics. “

With all that, Jolly still says he is a “long way” from making a decision.

 

Charlie Crist blasts bill that Democrats say will rollback Dodd-Frank Act

Charlie Crist took to the floor of the U.S. House on Thursday to blast the Financial CHOICE Act, a Republican-sponsored bill that would undo significant parts of the Dodd-Frank financial reforms implemented the wake of the Great Recession..

“Unrestrained greed on Wall Street caused a preventable disaster because at no point did anyone say: This is simply wrong,” Crist said before the House approved the measure.

“I remember 2008 and 2009: the bailouts, the foreclosures, the long, painful road to recovery,” he said. “The financial crisis exposed a broken regulatory system allowing Wall Street to gamble with Main Street’s future.”

Republicans have chafed at the existence of Dodd-Frank since it passed in 2010.

Sponsored by Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling, the bill would give the president the power to fire the heads of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the consumer watchdog agency created under Dodd-Frank, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, at any time for any — or no — reason.

It also gives Congress oversight over the CFPB’s budget, meaning lawmakers could defund the agency entirely, and bars the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. from overseeing the living will process, which requires banks to write up plans on how they would safely be unwound in the event of a collapse. The FDIC and the Fed are the two regulators responsible for overseeing this requirement under the 2010 law.

It also repeals what’s known as “the Volcker rule,” named after former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, that addresses self dealign and conflicts of interests between banks and their customers.

While Crist was denouncing the bill, other Tampa Bay area Republicans were rejoicing in its passage.

“Simply put, Dodd-Frank has failed,” said Polk County Representative Dennis Ross. The Financial CHOICE Act represents an alternative and effective approach to financial regulation, which will protect taxpayers, end bank bailouts, empower investors, and hold government bureaucracies accountable.

“Dodd-Frank regulations disproportionately burden small companies and prevent them from competing”, said Hernando County Congressman Daniel Webster. “As a small business owner, I understand the importance of fair competition, and the Financial CHOICE Act will ensure equal opportunity in the financial sector, not an emphasis on big business. I thank Rep. Jeb Hensarling for his commitment to this bill. After years of defeat, with President Trump in the White House this bill has the opportunity to become law.”

Democrats have dubbed the bill the “Wrong Choice Act.”

“With this bill, Members are being asked to again trust the very people who brought us to this financial crisis,” Crist said. “Don’t put them back in charge.  Do not let them do it again.”

 

David Jolly still appearing on Bill Maher’s show Friday; says Al Franken should too

David Jolly fully intends to appear on “Real Time with Bill Maher” Friday night, as do previously scheduled guests Ice Cube and Symone Sanders, the former national press secretary for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.

This despite the controversy circling around the comedian, who used the N-word during his show last Friday night, prompting widespread condemnation and calls for HBO to oust him from the gig.

As it stands now, the only previously scheduled guest on the comic’s weekly program who won’t appear is U.S. Sen. Al Franken; Jolly says the Minnesota Democrat is making a mistake blowing off the program.

“Frankly, if Franken had such convictions, then the opportunity was for him to go on the show and to speak to it, not run away and hide from it,” says the former Republican congressman, whose unabashed criticism of President Donald Trump has made him a favorite this year for CNN and MSNBC bookers.

Scheduled to replace Franken is academic and author Michael Eric Dyson. In a statement issued over the weekend, Dyson, who is black, came to Maher’s defense after the comedian used what is perhaps the most toxic word in the English language.

“[Maher] has bravely, and relentlessly, pilloried racism, white privilege, and white indifference to the black plight,” Dyson wrote on Twitter. “In short, he has used his platform to highlight black faces, and amplify black voices, that might otherwise have never been given such a prominent perch to tell their truths.”

Maher subsequently issued an apology, and the next day HBO called the comment “completely inexcusable and tasteless” as well as “deeply offensive.”

The cable network also announced it removed the offensive phrase from “any subsequent airings of the show.”

In the wake of the controversy, some analysts think D.C. lawmakers — who have enjoyed getting a dose of Hollywood cool by appearing on the show — may now think twice about accepting an offer to appear. This year alone, ‘Real Time’ featured politicos like Elizabeth Warren, Darrell Issa and (now most notoriously) Nebraska Sen Ben Sasse, who took some incoming fire for failing to call Maher out for using a racial epithet in replying to Sasse’s invitation to come to Nebraska.

The Hollywood Reporter quoted one public relations professional Tuesday saying that while “commentators will still be interested in the platform, (but) elected officials will be less interested. They have more at stake — they’re associated with the language used on the program.”

Jolly dismisses the idea that if he were still in Congress he’d bow out, a la Franken.

“I’m open to just as much criticism now, just because I speak publicly to hard issues,” he says. “The safest place for a politician to be is silent, and to hide from controversy. That’s not just Franken, that’s the DNA of most politicians.”

Having said that, Jolly admits to having some “trepidation” about doing the show in a way that he didn’t a week ago.

“I did some soul-searching in the days following Friday night,” he adds, “but it wouldn’t be true to my character to shy away from controversy or hard issues.”

Jolly says he has “no idea” what might transpire differently Friday night than the usual formula for the hourlong live program.

“Nobody condones what he said. Certainly I don’t. I’m as curious as the rest of the country in seeing how he handles Friday night. I don’t have any advance knowledge.”

A number of black commentators have said Maher’s comment was offensive, but they don’t think he should be fired. Despite that, there have been many calls for HBO to can him, including one from NPR’s Eric Deggans.

As Deggans wrote earlier this week: “It’s evidence of a pattern — one that HBO now needs to decide whether it wants to continue to be associated with, especially for a channel where 22 percent of its viewership comes from black people.”

Rick Scott signs death warrant for Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission

Among the bills Governor Rick Scott signed into law on Tuesday is HB 647, which eliminates of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission by December 31 of this year.

The agency, originally created by a special act of the Florida Legislature in the 1970’s and the only one of its kind in the state, has been shrouded in controversy for years. It’s last executive director,  Kyle Cockreamremains under investigation for his handling of public records.

The PTC had been criticized for years by local lawmakers, but previous attempts to dismantle the agency consistently fell short.

That changed however, after extensive reporting about the agency’s handling of ride sharing services Uber and Lyft ultimately compelled the entire Hillsborough County delegation to agree to a local bill sponsored by Tampa Republican House member Jamie Grant that would dismantle the organization.

“The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” Grant declared in announcing his legislation.

The beginning of the end for the agency started in 2010, when Cesar Padilla, then the executive director of the agency, resigned after it was reported that he had been moonlighting as a security guard.

There was also the case of former County Commissioner Kevin White, was busted in 2008 for taking bribes for helping tow company operators to get permits in his role as PTC chair. White ended up serving three years at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The PTC caught the attention of lawmakers like Grant and Jeff Brandes after the PTC went after Uber when it introduced its Uber Black limo service during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. The PTC shut that effort down quickly.

And then came Uber and Lyft into Hillsborough County in the spring of 2014. As those two companies refused to comply with PTC regulations (as they did in other jurisdictions throughout the country), PTC agents began citing those drivers, leading to court actions and more than two years of fighting before an agreement bringing both companies into compliance occurred last month.

Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office are scheduled to provide an update to the Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday on how the transition of the duties of the PTC into other parts of Hillsborough County’s government are going. The county is also expected to sign an interlocal agreement with heath governments of Tampa, Plant City and Temple Terrace on regulating for hire vehicles.

David Richardson seeks to bring his brand of reform politics to D.C.

Miami Beach House Democrat David Richardson will run for the Congressional District 27 seat being vacated next year by Republican Illeana Ros-Lehtinen.

Richardson has served in the Florida House since 2012, when he became the first openly-gay lawmaker elected in Florida.

He had been considering entering the race after Ros-Lehtinen announced in late April that she would step down when her term ended next year. Richardson told FloridaPolitics’ Scott Powers last month that he would be traveling to Washington D.C. to discuss his candidacy with potential donors and supporters, including leaders of The Victory Fund and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

News of Richardson’s candidacy was first reported on Tuesday by the Miami Herald.

In his time in the House, Richardson has focused intensely on reforming Florida’s prison system, and just in the past year met with more than 120 inmates during more than 30 visits to 23 different corrections facilities, according to the Herald.

Florida’s 27th congressional district was targeted by the DCCC prior to Ros-Lehtinen’s announcement. It’s a district in which Hillary Clinton defeated D0nald Trump by 20 percentage points.

Richardson joins a crowded field of Democratic candidates for the race, which also includes state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person. 

On the GOP side, former Miami Dade County school board member Raquel Regalado ,Miami-Dade County commissioner Bruno Barreiro  and Dr. Maria Peiro have announced their candidacies for the seat. Peiro lost to Ros-Lehtinen in the GOP primary last August.

Scott Furhman, the South Miami businessman who lost to Ros-Lehtinen last fall, announced on Tuesday that he would not be running for the seat this year, and told the Herald that he will be backing Richardson in the Democratic primary.

Charlie Crist files bill to provide small business tax relief

Democrat Charlie Crist is teaming up with Naples Republican Tom Rooney for legislation to provide immediate tax relief to small businesses, which Crist says would enable them to invest in growth and provide higher wages to employees.

“The lingering impact of the Great Recession continues to make it difficult for many small businesses to obtain bank loans in order to grow,” the St. Petersburg congressman said Tuesday about HR 2680. “Economic expansion starts on Main Street — not Wall Street. Our bill gives locally owned businesses a much-needed boost, from the barber shop in South St. Petersburg to the tech entrepreneur in Clearwater. They should have an easier time hiring more people to serve more customers and expand their businesses. I look forward to working with Congressman Rooney to promote this common-sense, bipartisan effort to help our small businesses grow and improve communities across America.”

“This common-sense bill rewards small business for creating jobs in our communities,” Rooney added. “Promoting local businesses and encouraging job growth is not a partisan issue. I look forward to working with Congressman Crist on this innovative approach to helping America’s communities thrive.”

The bill calls for amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for small businesses an annual tax credit of 3.825 percent, equivalent to half of an employer’s payroll tax obligation, for up to three new employees and totaling $100,000 in wages.

New Port Richey Democrat Linda Jack to challenge Amber Mariano in state House Distirct 36

Democrat Linda Jack, a veterinarian from New Port Richey, has filed to run for the Florida House District 36 seat currently held by Republican Amber Mariano. 

Dr.Jack is a Florida native who spent many years traveling, performing and teaching as a professional musician, based in New York, Boston and Nashville. She then switched careers after obtaining a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 2006 from North Carolina State University and subsequently worked in Virginia and North Carolina before moving back home to Florida in 2015.

The 21-year-old Mariano upset Democratic incumbent Amanda Murphy last fall to become the youngest person ever elected to the state House. She won by 732 votes, or .6 percent.

Murphy had held the seat for three years. She won the seat in a special election in 2013 after then-incumbent Mike Fasano left the seat to take over as tax collector and she easily won re-election in 2014.

But, in what some analysts called a “Trump tsunami,” Mariano was aided by a surge of support for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in Pasco County by 21 percentage points, 58 percent to 37 percent.

Jack has been a member of “Indivisible Pasco,” an anti-Trump group organized earlier this year in Pasco County. She calls herself a Democrat with an independent streak, with a progressive stance on most issues but a fiscal conservative.

“I’m new to politics but not to public service,” she says.

Scott Furhman will not seek rematch against Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in CD 27

South Miami Democrat Scott Fuhrman now says he will not be running for the congressional seat being vacated next year by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

Fuhrman lost to Ros-Lehtinen last fall by 10 percentage points, 55 to 45 percent, and announced two months ago that he would again challenge the 28-year GOP incumbent in 2018.

Ros-Lehtinen surprised the South Florida political world in late April when she announced that she would not run for re-election next year. The seat was already being targeted by the Democratic Campaign Congressional Committee for 2018, as Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump there by nearly 20 points.

In 2016, Ros-Lehtinen aggressively campaigned against Fuhrman, a first-time candidate who entered the race only five months before Election Day. She made Fuhrman’s criminal record a focal point in the race, specifically a 2009 arrest in Colorado for driving under the influence with a loaded handgun in the car. Fuhrman later pleaded guilty, performed community service and paid a fine.

Ros-Lehtinen spent a majority of her $3.4 million campaign account on the 2016 race, while Fuhrman spent about $900,000, most of which self-funded. However, Fuhrman, who had been in charge of his family’s Allapattah juice-bottling company until the campaign, could not overcome Ros-Lehtinen’s near universal name recognition in her district.

While the Democrats will go all out to try to win the seat, Fuhrman will be watching from the sidelines next year.

POLITICO Florida first reported Furhman’s withdrawal.

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