Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 332

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

In Senate floor speech, Bill Nelson takes aim at Rick Scott and GOP’s ‘war on science’

Bill Nelson took to the floor of the U.S. Senate Monday to decry what he calls a “war on science.”

At the same time, the Florida Democrat all but called out Rick Scott as a climate change denier.

Nelson is looking at a likely challenge from Florida’s governor and his speech was undoubtedly an indication of the tactics he may use when that campaign cranks up.

Nelson took aim at a bill sponsored by Naples House Republican Bryon Donald that will allow anyone in the state to challenge and possibly change what kids are learning in public schools. The senator said he feared that could chill discussion on climate change in Florida schools.

“Sea-level rise in South Florida is a fact,” he began.

“But if there are some who object to that climate science, then, under this new law just signed by the governor, they are going to be able to object to that subject being taught in our public schools and a single hearing officer will determine — a single hearing officer – will determine — lord only knows who that officer is appointed by — that single person will determine under the new law if the objection is justified and they can force a local public school to remove the subject from its curriculum.”

“I don’t think we can sit back and allow our public schools to become political battlegrounds,” the Florida Democrat continued. “And we shouldn’t allow politicians to silence our teachers and scientists just because they don’t happen to like that part of the science.”

Nelson then segued to the much publicized story in 2015 that Scott had ordered members of the Florida Dept. of Environmental protection not to use the words global warming or climate change.

“Doesn’t that sound like muzzling?” he asked.

Nelson filed legislation just weeks into the Trump administration’s taking power in Washington that would protect federal scientists from attempts to interfere with scientific discourse and dissemination of research results.

He then segued into criticizing Senate Republicans who have been trash talking the Congressional Budget Office, who is expected to weigh in with a score later this week on the GOP Senate’s latest iteration of a health care reform bill.

“Mr. President, it’s kind of clear what’s going on,” he surmised. “This administration’s war on science is not a myth. It is not fake news. If you want to know an administration’s true priorities, you need to look no further than their budget. If you look at the president’s most recent budget request, you’ll see dramatic cuts to some of our most important scientific agencies.”


Congressional hopeful Michael Hepburn boasts of already receiving more than 1,700 contributions

Illeana Ros-Lehtinen’s decision to not seek another term representing Florida’s 27th Congressional District has spurred six Democrats to enter the 2018 contest.

Among those Democrats is Michael A. Hepburn, a senior academic adviser for the School of Business at the University of Miami. He lost a 2014 primary election against Daphne Campbell for the state House.

Hepburn announced Monday that he has already received 1,780 contributions from more than 1,580 donors, though he did not announce his fundraising numbers.

“More people have contributed to our campaign in less than two months, than both of my opponents last political campaigns combined,” Hepburn said in reference to two of his opponents in the race, Miami Dade state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez and Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez.

Rosen Gonzalez and Miami City commissioner Ken Russell both have raised more than $100,000 in the relatively nascent campaign, set in motion when Ros-Lehtinen announced in late April that after 29 years in office, she will not run for ree-lection in 2018.

Russell has not formally filed to run in the race. He tells the Miami Herald that he filed an exploratory committee to gauge interest. He began fundraising about four weeks ago.

State Rep. David Richardson and Mark Anthony Person fill out the Democratic field.

“I agree with the voters that I have met,” says Hepburn.”We simply do not need more millionaires or career politicians running to represent us. We also do not need more elected officials running for Congress, who choose not to honor their current commitments to the voters that have elected them.”

Republicans in the race include Miami-Dade County commissioner Bruno Barreiro, former Miami-Dade mayoral candidate and school board member Raquel Regalado and Maria Peiro.

Report: Florida’s imprisonment rate is 23 percent higher than the national average

The national crime rate in the U.S. has been steadily declining since for two decades and is currently at its lowest rate since 1968.

Likewise, Florida’s crime rate has dropped over the past few decades, but it is still 15 percent higher than the national average. And its imprisonment rate is 23 percent higher than the national average.

Those are just two findings included in a recently released report on Florida’s prison population trends that was published last month to little public notice, but was referenced by St. Petersburg state Senate Senator Jeff Brandes at an appearance at the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club last Friday.

“Our system is broken,” said the Republican lawmaker, who failed to pass several bills addressing criminal justice reform in Florida.

The report from the Boston-based Crime and Justice Institute of Community Resources for Justices also found that prison admissions had declined by 28 percent of the last decade, driven by the declines in crime. However in that same time period, average sentences have increased by 22 percent, balancing out the admissions decline and leading to a mostly stable prison population.

The study (which goes up to the end of 2015) also shows that, generally, it helps to get arrested in the southern and eastern parts of the state. Counties in those parts of Florida tend to send people to prison at a lower rate than northern, central and western counties.

“These patterns hold when looking at admissions per reported crime or admissions per arrest, which means that the disparity is not driven by underlying crime rates,” write the authors, who are Felicity Rose, Colbey Dawley, Yamanda Wright and Len Engel of the Crime and Justice Institute.

Although there has been a decline in prison admissions in the last ten years, that’s certainly not universally felt across the state.

Overall, 47 of 67 counties have experienced a decline in prison admissions since 2007,  while 20 counties saw an increase. Within these groups there was significant variation, with some counties cutting their prison admissions by half, while others tripled theirs over the same period.

Enhancements and mandatory minimum sentences have a significant effect on the Florida prison population. Almost 36,000 current Florida prisoners were sentenced with an enhancement or mandatory minimum, up 19 percent from 2007. These enhancements primarily impact length of stay in prison, leading to a stacking effect where offenders come in to prison but do not leave at the same rate.

There were proposals to address the state’s mandatory minimum terms in the Legislature this past session, but no significant policy changes were enacted. The report says that in 2016, staff from Florida’s Senate Committee on Criminal Justice conducted an inventory of mandatory minimum terms in Florida and identified 108 offenses that carry a mandatory minimum sentence.

Demographically, Florida has always been home to some of the nation’s oldest citizens, and that includes those who are incarcerated.

The report shows that the number of prisoners 50 years old and over grew by 65 percent in the last decade, with that growth generated by prisoners who extremely long sentences aging into the “elderly prisoner” demographic.


NRSC frames Bill Nelson as accountable for broken promises

While Congressional Republicans are struggling to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, the GOP still believes campaigning against Obamacare is a win for its cause.

The National Republican Senatorial Campaign on Monday unveiled a new digital ad that will run on Facebook targeting Florida’s Bill Nelson and other Senate Democrats who will be on the ballot next year for their support of the ACA.

“As Democrats continue to grandstand without offering solutions, Bill Nelson’s broken promises are fresh on Floridians’ minds,” said NRSC Communications Director Katie Martin. “Bill Nelson should be held accountable for being dishonest with voters and being complacent in Obamacare’s death spiral.”

Anticipating the attack, Nelson sent a preemptory warning to his supporters on Sunday night.

“Mitch McConnell’s national group just started running brand-new ads against me here in Florida,” Nelson wrote. It’s clear these right-wing groups are more determined than ever to try to replace me with a rubber stamp for their extreme agenda. That’s because instead of having to deal with someone like me – who will continue to fight to keep oil rigs away from our coast, slow the effects of climate change and prevent the passage of this disastrous health-care bill – they’d rather have someone like Gov. Rick Scott, who will quietly go along with their plan.”

Scott is widely expected to challenge Nelson next year in his bid for a fourth term in the Senate.

The NRSC is going all out to target approximately 10 Democratic Senators up for reelection next year who are considered vulnerable, and Nelson is on that list.

Two weeks ago, the NRSC began running Facebook ads tying Nelson to Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s push for a single-payer healthcare system, an interesting twist since Nelson has never professed support for such a system.


‘Pragmatic’ civil engineer Randy Cooper vies for HD 71 seat in Manatee County

Randy Cooper likes to think of himself as a pragmatist.

The 60-year-old Democrat is one of three candidates running to succeed Republican Jim Boyd in Florida House District 71, which encompasses much of Manatee County and a bit of North Sarasota County.

He says his political philosophy could be labeled “practical and pragmatic,” and says the main impetus compelling him to run for office is his belief that the Legislature is not listening to the voters.

“If public schools aren’t doing well, funding the charter schools isn’t a solution,” he says. “Let’s help the public schools first, try to build them up, instead of making a for profit charter school.”

He also believes that local governments are better suited to regulate property rental companies like Airbnb and HomeAway, specifically mentioning the areas in Anna Maria Island, Palma Sola and other parts of northwest Bradenton.

“They’re taking over neighborhoods, and ruining whole communities,” he says of those companies, sounding a little bit like Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine. “People have to have a say about what’s going on in their neighborhoods.”

Cooper owns R. Cooper Engineering, an agricultural engineering consulting firm, and is a self-described moderate. “As an engineer,  I’m pragmatic – maybe to a fault,” he says.

He is disparaging of Gov. Rick Scott’s trips to other states to recruit businesses, saying it reeks of political opportunism. He says more needs to be done to boost local businesses, and he likes Visit Florida but would be just fine if Enterprise Florida faded away.

Cooper is the lone Democrat in the race, and the odds of his winning the seat may be formidable. He raised no campaign contributions in June, and overall has raised just $5,325 since entering the contest in March.

Meanwhile, the two Republicans in the contest have both raised more than $100,000.

James Buchanan, the son of Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan, raised $6,000 last month and overall has raised $162,630.

Bradenton attorney Will Robinson raised $4,400 in June, and overall has taken in $118,275.

Big get: Scott Fuhrman backing David Richardson in CD 27

Scott Furhman, the South Florida Democrat who ran in 2016 against Illena Ros-Lehtinen in Florida’s 27th Congressional District and considered running again this cycle, is endorsing state Representative David Richardson in next year’s contest.

“David is the kind of Democratic standard-bearer we need in this race right now,” Furhman said Thursday in a statement issued out by the Richardson campaign. “I know that we can count on him to fight for progressive and responsible solutions to the problems we face as a nation, as well as to stand up to the Trump administration’s harmful policies and alarming rhetoric. In Tallahassee, David has been on the right side of everything from equal rights to prison reform to gun safety to the environment. I’m excited to see him take a courageous stand for single-payer health care on day one. David gets thing done.”

Richardson, who has been representing Miami Beach and downtown Miami in the Florida House since 2012, recently announced a bid for the congressional seat that has been held by Ros-Lehtinen since 1988. She announced earlier this year she would not run for re-election next year.

The district tilts heavily Democratic, as Hillary Clinton defeated Donald Trump by more than 20 points last November.

“Scott’s belief in my ability to continue carrying that flag means the world to me and I am honored to have his support,” said Richardson.

Other Democrats who have entered the race include Miami state Senator José Javier Rodríguez; Miami Beach Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez; University of Miami academic adviser Michael Hepburn and Mark Anthony Person.

Maria Peiro is the lone Republican to enter the race.

St. Pete activists worry environmental gains would regress under Rick Baker

Environmental activists would like to see several initiatives passed this year by the City Council because they fear they will not be addressed if Rick Baker becomes mayor in 2018.

The St. Petersburg Sustainability Council (SPSC) is a local non-profit that includes members of the Suncoast Sierra Club, which has previously endorsed incumbent Rick Kriseman for mayor. At a press conference at Maximo Park in South St. Pete, members said that the progress on  environmental issues that has taken place during Kriseman’s time in office could be in jeopardy if he is not re-elected. Read more

Ted Deutch pushes for House vote on Russian sanctions

In the wake of Donald Trump’s Jr‘s release of a stunning chain of emails detailing his conversations with a Russian lawyer who had offered compromising information on Hillary Clinton, Ted Deutch is calling for a vote on the Senate-passed Russia sanctions bill.

“When the Senate votes 98-2 on anything, it’s a safe bet that it’s a widely bipartisan and broadly accepted bill,” the Boca Raton Democrat said Tuesday afternoon.

The Senate was nearly unanimous last month in passing a bill that would slap Russia with new sanctions and give Congress the power to review any White House attempts to roll them back. The only Senators to oppose the bill were Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul.

The bill has yet to go to the House.

“This is not controversial; Russian officials involved in interfering in our elections last year must not be allowed to get away with it,” said Deutch. “Especially in light of today’s revelations that the Trump campaign met with Russian officials intent on swaying the election, Congress needs to show unity and impose sanctions for these very acts. Speaker Ryan needs to find his backbone to stand up to President Trump and let the House vote on this sanctions bill this week.”

According to one of the emails distributed by Trump Jr. today, the information being offered by a Russian lawyer “would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.”

Tump Jr. has said the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, did not have the promised opposition research and instead arranged the meeting to press for changes in a U.S. policy that restricts adoptions of Russian children.

Veselnitskaya told NBC News Tuesday that she never had any damaging information on Clinton, and it was never her intention to secure the meeting under the impression that she did.

“It’s no surprise that the White House has voiced its opposition to this bill and tougher sanctions on Russia,” said Deutch. “Failure to act on this sanctions bill makes the Speaker complicit in the White House’s apparent efforts to repay Russia’s political favors.”

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