Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 344

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.

Save Southern Heritage now taking legal fight to Broward County

Save Southern Heritage Florida is now pursuing legal action in Broward County against the city of Hollywood after city commissioners voted in August to rename three streets honoring Confederate war leaders.

The Tampa-based advocacy group went to court earlier this year to prevent moving a Confederate monument from a Hillsborough County courthouse.

On August 30, Hollywood City Commissioners approved a plan to rename streets named for Confederate commanders Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood and Nathan Bedford Forrest, who was also the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Commissioners scheduled a workshop Oct. 18 to discuss new names for those streets.

Save Southern Heritage spokesperson Doug Guetzloe says the commission violated their own ordinance by not letting residents living on those streets vote on the name change.

“We think a referendum should be held on those three streets,” Guetzloe tells the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. “They illegally waived the ordinance. We don’t think what they did was proper.”

Save Southern Heritage filed a lawsuit against the Hillsborough County Commission back in August, immediately after the board finally agreed to move the 106-year-old Confederate statue to a cemetery in Brandon. In early September, Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge Rex Barbas denied a request from the group for an injunction against the county from removing the monument but did not dismiss the case outright. County officials removed the statue a week later.

Save Southern Heritage has also filed a second lawsuit against two Hillsborough County Democrats, alleging that they defamed them for describing them as a “white supremacist group.”

Health coach sues state’s health department

A northwest Florida “health coach” has filed a lawsuit in Tallahassee federal court after the Department of Health slapped her with a cease and desist order because she doesn’t have an occupational license.

Heather Kokesch Del Castillo sued in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida on First Amendment grounds Tuesday after the state reprimanded her for offering nutritional advice to clients.

Kokesch Del Castillo became a privately certified health coach and the founder of Constitution Nutrition in California in 2013, where she provided personalized diet and nutrition advice to paying customers.

In 2015, she brought her business to the Sunshine State after her husband was transferred to a military base in Fort Walton Beach. There, she began offering a six-month program that cost customers $1,170, and shorter, lower-cost coaching programs. Her services did not involve any diagnostic tests or any physical examination of her clients.

In March of 2017, Del Castillo received an email from an individual who identified himself as “Pat Smith” inquiring about her services. Del Castillo responded quickly to Smith’s inquiry, offering a free 45-minute consultation and attaching a health-history form for him to fill out.

Smith was not a prospective customer, but an investigator for the Florida Department of Health, which was investigating Del Castillo “because of a complaint filed by a licensed dietitian,” the lawsuit alleges.

In May, an agent from the Department hand-delivered a letter to her house, stating that it had probable cause to believe that she was illegally practicing as a dietitian/nutritionist, ordered her to cease and desist, and assessed a fine against her of $754 ($500 plus $254 in investigatory fees).

“The licensure requirements for registered dietitians and nutritionists are established in section 468.509 Florida Statutes and 64B8-42.002, Florida Administrative Code,” says Mara Gambineri, Health Department spokeswoman. “The department, as a regulatory agency, carries out the law through the Dietetic and Nutrition Practice Council, which is part of the Board of Medicine.”

“Heather shouldn’t need the government’s permission to give advice to other adults on what to buy at the grocery store,” said Paul Sherman, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which is defending Del Castillo. “Advice about diet and nutrition is ubiquitous in America, and paying someone for that advice doesn’t strip it of First Amendment protection.”

The Institute for Justice says acquiring an occupational license is too onerous, citing it requires one to get a bachelor’s degree in health from a four-year university, get 900 hours of supervised practice, pass an exam and pay multiple fees. Failure to get a license could result in a year in jail, $1,000 in fines per violation and up to $5,000 for each day the violation occurs.

The Institute for Justice says occupational licensing boards “are increasingly operating as special-interest censors” and claim that licensed practitioners “often scour advertising spaces in search of people to file complaints against.”

Jeremy Bailie wants to bring intense focus to Florida Legislature

Jeremy Bailie, one of three Republicans who filed to run for the Pinellas County-based House District 69 seat being vacated by Kathleen Peters, says in his job as an attorney, he’s driven to help small businesses.

He wants to bring that same intense focus to Tallahassee.

“I’m running because I feel very passionately about not just the little guy, but the small businesses that really make up our community that employ hundreds of thousands of people all over the state,” the 26-year-old barrister told FloridaPolitics.com Tuesday morning. “I want to be a part of the solutions in helping them achieve the same successes that my family and grandparents sought when they came to the states, and also be able to keep that opportunity alive for others.”

Bailie paternal grandparents emigrated from Northern Ireland to the U.S. to find a better life. An attorney with the St. Petersburg based law firm of Abbey, Adams, Byelick & Mueller, Bailie says he’s proud of the fact that along with representing large international companies, he’s also represented small, local firms on employment law, worker’s compensation and bargaining issues.

“I get to see how what happens in Tallahassee affects small businesses,” he remarks.

Bailie attended Northland International University, an evangelical Christian school in Dunbar, Wisconsin, before returning to his native Florida to get his law degree at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, where he currently resides.

He said he was surprised when Peters announced earlier this year that she would not run for reelection. In her statement announcing her decision to instead run for the Pinellas County Commission, the Pasadena Republican lambasted Tallahassee lawmakers for what she said was “an all-out assault on local government and home rule,” referring to a number of bills that legislators proposed that would take power away from local government in cities and counties in Florida.

When asked if he shared her sentiments, Bailie said on some issues yes, on others, not so much.

“There’s certainly a place in our legal framework in Florida, a place for city governments to have the people closest to the citizens — the voters — to have an opportunity to do with what they deal with on a day-to-day basis,” he said, before quickly pivoting to areas where he embraces uniformity, like within the criminal justice system.

“You can’t have somebody in Pensacola getting one sentence, and somebody in Ocala or Miami, (getting) a completely, radically different sentence,” he says.

Speaking a day after the world learned about a man in Las Vegas killing 58 people and wounded hundreds in the courtyard of a hotel, Bailie said the incident struck home for him, as a good friend of his was actually in Vegas celebrating his wedding anniversary at the Justin Aldean concert that tragically devolved into the largest mass shooting in American history.

When asked his stance on gun issues in Florida, he began by asserting that the U.S. Supreme Court had spoken “pretty clearly” that the Second Amendment means that every American has a personal, individual right to own weapons with reasonable regulations.

“We want to make sure that guns don’t fall into the hands of those who shouldn’t have it,” he says, adding that if a bill were proposed to do that, “I would absolutely have to take a look at the legislation.”

But when asked about support for controversial gun bills like open carry and/or campus carry that were proposed (but died) in the Legislature over the past couple of Sessions, Bailie backed off, saying that (specifically on the campus carry bill) he would need to study it further before offering an opinion.

“That’s certainly a bill that I would want to take a look at and see what kind of protections are built into it and what options I have to keep college campuses safe but also to allow students access to guns and to protect themselves …I know that there’s been a couple of incidents of sexual assault victims who testified wanting to have that ability to protect themselves.”

Bailie is also a “huge proponent” of charter schools in Florida, while concurrently showing appreciation to public school teachers.

“Parents should have opportunity to send their students to the best possible place for their kids to grow, to learn, and to give back into the community,” he says, adding that he qualified for Bright Futures and it aided him in paying for his associate degree at Pasco-Hernando County Community College.

When it comes to children’s education, Bailie says, “we want a fully funded public school system,” adding that “you can’t pay teachers enough.”

Raymond Blacklidge and Christopher Licatta III have also filed paperwork to run in the GOP primary for HD 69 next August. Blacklidge entered the race in June, and has raised more than $54,000 to date. No Democratic candidates have filed to run.

Last November, Peters defeated Democrat Jennifer Webb 57-43 percent.

Wilton Simpson latest Republican to back Ardian Zika in HD 37 race

Florida Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson is the latest Republican to endorse Ardian Zika in the Pasco County-area House District 37 race for 2018.

“Ardian Zika’s story is a modern-day story of the American Dream,” Simpson said Tuesday in a statement from the Zika campaign, referring to the Land O’ Lakes businessman’s background, which includes leaving war-torn Kosovo 20 years ago to come to the United States.

“He has since completed an education, spent a decade and a half in the banking industry in a variety of leadership positions and started his own business,” Simpson added. “He and his wife have five children and are active members of their church. Ardian Zika has the common-sense experience we need to represent us in our state capitol.”

“This election, Ardian Zika has my strong support to serve as our Florida House Representative from District 37.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran currently occupies the House District 37 seat, but the 37-year-old Zika is quickly becoming an establishment favorite to succeed Corcoran, who is term-limited next year.

Former House Speaker Will Weatherford has already contributed $1,000 to Zika’s campaign, as has Simpson, his wife and two connected companies. All told, Zika raised more than $100,000 since entering the race in August.

“Senator Simpson has been a role model and a positive example for me, both as a successful business owner and in how he serves our community and gives back,” said Zika. “I am honored and humbled to have Senator Simpson’s support and endorsement.”

George Agovino, Elle Rudisell and Bill Gunter have also entered the Republican HD 37 primary.

Rick Scott proposes legislation banning business with Venezuela

Gov. Rick Scott Monday announced proposed legislation to prohibit the state, including all agencies, from investing in any company that is doing business with Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s government.

The proposal comes six weeks after the state’s State Board of Administration, which maintains the Florida Retirement System and its $150 billion in assets, voted to reaffirm that they would not invest in any companies or securities controlled by the Venezuelan government.

“In Florida, we have been absolutely clear: The brutal government of Nicolas Maduro must end and the people of Venezuela must be given total freedom and democracy now,” Scott said while speaking at the 2017 Latin American Summit in Miami.

Scott said he also was calling on all local governments and businesses in the state to stop doing business with the Maduro government, if they currently are.

“Let me be clear: This proposal is aimed squarely at the Maduro regime, not businesses who provide much needed goods and services to the Venezuelan people,” Scott said.

Scott has been unrelenting of his criticism towards Maduro — a trait familiar in the Trump administration, the Vatican, and other governments around the world — accusing him of undermining Venezuela’s democracy and plunging the country’s 30 million people into suffering due to food and medicine shortage.

In the past few months, Maduro has arrested and detained opposition leaders, and cracked down on street protests with lethal force.

In July he oversaw a disputed election for a special legislative body that took over the country’s parliament, ignoring a citizens referendum held in Venezuela and across the country that opposed that move.

More than 100,000 Venezuelan-Americans live in Florida, and the troubles there have captured the focus of Scott and Florida’s two U.S. Senators, Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson.

Scott is expected to challenge Nelson’s bid for re-election to his Senate seat next year.

Nelson has gone as far as to call for cutting imports of Venezuela oil as a response to Maduro’s actions.

Maduro called on his nation’s military leaders last week to prepare for war against the U.S., days after the Trump administration banned Venezuelan officials from entering the nation.

Vern Buchanan questions whether Congress should revoke NFL’s tax-exempt status

In the wake of nearly 200 NFL players deliberately refusing to stand during the “Star Spangled Banner” last weekend, conservatives are talking about hitting the league where it hurts — in its pocketbook.

Sarasota-area Republican Vern Buchanan has sent out a survey to supporters asking them whether the league’s tax-exempt status should be revoked “in response to players refusing to stand during the national anthem?” (As of Monday morning, nearly two-thirds said yes.)

The NFL did voluntarily remove the tax exempt status for the league office back in 2015. Buchanan spokesman Ryan Ploch notes that the NFL’s tax exemption continues to exist in permanent law — “the league simply volunteered to stop taking it.”

Panhandle Republican Matt Gaetz made headlines last week when he announced that he was taking over as lead sponsor of H.R. 296, the Pro Sports Act, which is legislation  that ends the tax-exempt status of professional sports leagues which still maintain that status.

“Right now, one of the special interest loopholes in our tax code allows the league offices of professional sports leagues to avoid paying taxes. That’s crazy,” Gaetz told MSNBC over the weekend. “That’s a special interest giveaway that the small businesses in my district certainly don’t have access to. And so I have introduced legislation to abolish the special tax exemption that the NFL enjoys and that all other professional sports leagues enjoy. I think that’s fairer for folks on Main Street and folks in the middle class.”

The bill was previously sponsored by now-retired Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz. 

In a memo from the Spring of 2015, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the discussion about the league’s tax-exempt status was a “distraction,” and said the league office would give it up. CNN reported the league saved about $10 million with its tax-exempt status, as estimated by Citizens For Tax Justice.

While the NFL remains tax-free, the Joint Committee on Taxation estimated that removing such nonprofit status for all sports leagues would increase federal revenues by $109 million over ten years.

Grower asks state for edible cannabis rules

Surterra Wellness, the Atlanta-based company with medical cannabis dispensaries in Tampa and Tallahassee, on Monday asked the state to let it begin offering edible products in Florida.

Voters last year overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical cannabis, and lawmakers passed legislation in June to implement the amendment.

That bill allows patients to use cannabis pills, oils, edibles and “vape” pens with a doctor’s approval, but it bans smoking.

Florida law requires the state’s Department of Health to determine “any shapes, forms” edible products can take and what other ingredients they can contain. No medical marijuana provider can offer edibles after the rule goes out.

Surterra officials say this means no Florida patient will have access to legal edible marijuana till the Department makes these rules, and they have yet to initiate that on their own. Thus, the petition to get that process moving.

The Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday morning.

“Many patients have been seeking edible products because it is the best format for them to find relief,” said Wesley Reynolds, president of Surterra Florida.

“Surterra Wellness has and will continue to fight for access to medical cannabis, and this is just a continuation of that cause,” he added. “The more available options for people, the more likely they will be able to use a cannabis product instead of highly addictive and easily abused opiates.”

“The department is working diligently to implement the many requirements of Article X Section 29 of the Florida Constitution and section 381.986 Florida Statutes,” says  Mara Gambineri, Communications Director with the Florida Dept. of Health. “Section 381.986 Florida Statutes directs the department to create rules related to edible marijuana products, and we fully intend on following the law. We remain committed to moving this process forward and will do so in an expedient and thoughtful manner.”

Surterra is one of seven companies licensed in Florida to sell a variety of marijuana products. The number is expected to rise to 17 later this month.

Dozens protest NFL players anthem-kneeling before Bucs vs. Giants game

Angry at the NFL players who refused to stand during the national anthem, about fifty people protested at a rally Sunday just blocks from Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, where the New York Giants faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers .

“My attitude is, if my flag offends you, then I’ll help you pack,” said Jim Heckman. “You need to leave America if you can’t stand the flag.” Read more

Marco Rubio calls on Defense Department to ramp up Puerto Rico response

There’s a serious logistics problem in Puerto Rico right now, and Marco Rubio says the only ones who can break through effectively is the U.S. military.

Florida’s junior U.S. senator says that a significant number of containers are sitting at the Port of San Juan have not been transported to other parts of the island, because of a variety of factors. Those include a lack of communications, fuel, generators and broken down roads.

In fact, there are more than 9,500 containers of relief supplies currently stranded at the Port of San Juan, CNN reports.

Rubio said that there had been plenty of aid sent to the island, with more on the way, but the problem is the “supply chain is shattered.”

Rubio, who visited the island on Monday, says the government of Puerto Rico is severely challenged because of hurricanes Maria and Irma, and that the U.S. military is the best agency in the world trained to take over the logistics, and so he’s calling on President Donald Trump to do so.

“Unless DOD steps in quickly to establish emergency logistical assistance, it is my fear this situation will deteriorate rapidly,” Rubio wrote to Trump in a letter forwarded from his office.

“We need someone in charge of that with the know-how of logistics, with the capability to restore logistics and with authority to make decisions quickly without having to check with 18 agencies,” Rubio said at a news conference in Washington.

The Florida Senator said he was encouraged to hear that the Pentagon had appointed Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan to lead all military hurricane efforts in Puerto Rico. A three-star star general and the Commander of U.S. Army North (5th Army), Buchanan was expected to arrive in Puerto Rico Thursday as the military focuses on trying to improve distribution networks of relief supplies.

When asked by reporters if the administration has reacted quickly enough, Rubio said that the Trump administration has responded to what might be considered a “normal ” hurricane. The problem, he said, was that this is not a “traditional model.” But he said he wasn’t interested in criticizing anyone. Not when matters are so urgent.

“This is not a time a time to stop and start pointing fingers,” he said. “Let’s get a result. Let’s save lives. Let’s get power back up. Let’s get fuel to generators. Let’s get communications going. Let’s get the roads stabilized so that people can move around. And then we’ll have plenty of time for you guys and others to say these guys and everybody else to say these people didn’t do a very good job or those people didn’t do a very job, but right now we can’t stop and have that argument. Let’s put out the fire, and then we’ll argue about who started it.”

Nearly half Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million residents still lack potable water eight days after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the island, officials reiterated Wednesday. About 44 percent of the nation’s population remains without drinking water, the Department of Defense said in a statement.

Pro-Confederate group heats up HD 58 race

As a registered nonprofit group, Save Southern Heritage can’t endorse candidates.

However, they can provide “information” to voters,  and the inference from the cards it’s mailed out to 3,000 households in House District 58 in eastern Hillsborough County indicates it likes the responses that Lawrence McClure gave the group, as opposed to Yvonne Fry, who opted not to respond to the organization’s questionnaire.

McClure and Fry are engaged in an intense battle for the Republican Party primary in the special election to succeed Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson, who stepped down from the seat for health reasons, with more than a year on his term last month.

The 30-year-old McClure is a partner in environmental consulting firm Streamline Environmental. The 45-year-old Fry is a small businesswoman and civic activist from Plant City.

Save Southern Heritage Florida is the advocacy group that fought to maintain the Confederate statue in front of the Hillsborough County Courthouse annex, an effort they lost last month when the Board of County Commissioners voted to remove the monument after the private sector contributed half the expected costs of the move.

The group asked McClure four questions pertinent to their constituency, all revolving around Confederate monuments. When asked if he supported keeping the monument in Tampa, Frank said he did.

“I have been on on record at club meetings and debates that would have had a vote on the Hillsborough County Commission to remove the Confederate monument outside of the downtown Tampa courthouse, I would’ve voted no. I think it should stay,” he responded.

Fry is on the record as having said that she did support keeping the monument in place, something she repeated to FloridaPolitics earlier this week.

“We have been on the record on this issue for over a month,” said Brock Mikosky, Fry’s campaign manager. “Yvonne believes that our history is our history and the monuments should not be removed. Further, the attempts to take down these monuments and each ensuing fight is a waste of resources and a distraction from real problems facing our communities.”
The questionnaire also asked if a statue of Confederate general Edmund Kirby Smith representing Florida should be removed from the U.S. Capitol. McClure said it should not.

The Florida Legislature agreed last year to remove Smith’s statue, but it still remains in National Statuary Hall because lawmakers couldn’t come to an agreement on a replacement.

Last month, 11 House Democrats from Florida sent a letter to Governor Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron urging them to call a special session on finding that replacement. No action was taken.

The GOP primary for HD 58 is Oct. 10.

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