Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 311

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

Chris King bills himself as ‘progressive entrepreneur’ as he prepares to enter 2018 gubernatorial race

The 2018 political campaign gets a little more interesting this week when 38-year-old Central Florida businessman Chris King officially enters the contest for the Democratic nomination for Governor.

“As many of you are probably aware, next Tuesday I will be launching my candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Governor, and I look forward traveling all around this state getting to know so many of you,” King told a gathering of statewide Democrats Saturday night at the Florida Democratic Party’s DCCA Retreat.

“We can win this race in 2018, and I want to be the type of candidate that makes that possible and gets you excited again about what is possible in Florida,” King said.

King is a complete political unknown in Florida, having served exclusively in the private sector as the founder and CEO of Elevation Financial Group, a private equity real estate investment company. In his brief remarks via video, he billed himself as a “progressive entrepreneur.”

“I started a company from scratch that creates safe, clean affordable housing for seniors and working families all over Florida and across the Southeast,” he said. “It’s a company that reflects my values that I am proud of that has taught me discipline and hard work and taken on big challenges and doing big things.”

King’s entry into the race this week will make him the second Democrat to officially enter into the 2018 sweepstakes for Governor for Florida, following Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum’s entry into the race a month ago. Videos introducing Gillum and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine (still considering a run) also aired (Levine appeared at the event earlier).

Gwen Graham, another potential 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, worked the event hard on Saturday at the retreat, attending 14 of the 16 individual caucus meetings held at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park .

Graham began her remarks by saying that an announcement about her political ambitions would be coming “very soon.” The former U.S. Representative ditched her prepared speech and, instead, informed the audience that her husband, Steve Hurm, is doing “very well” in his battle with cancer.

Rick Scott reappoints Virginia Sanchez to Suwanee River Water Management District board

Governor Rick Scott has reappointed Virginia Sanchez to the Governing Board of the Suwannee River Water Management District.

Sanchez, 54, of Old Town, is a co-owner of Sanchez Farms, LLC. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and her master’s degree from Florida A&M University. Sanchez is reappointed for a term beginning March 31, 2017, and ending March 1, 2021.

The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Dana Young, environmentalists still hold hope for fracking ban in 2017

House members now say the possibility of a fracking ban is dead for the 2017 Legislative Session.

Sen. Dana Young thinks it’s premature to administer last rites, at least just yet.

“You never say never, but now we’re saying it looks like that will be next year,” Rep. Mike Miller, an Orlando Republican, told the Naples Daily News about his bill (HB 451) as the first month of Session ended this week.

The reason for the impasse is the desire by some House Republicans for a scientific study to determine the potential impacts of fracking. That echoes the 2016 legislation seeking to impose a two-year moratorium on fracking while a Florida-specific study was commissioned to assess the possible implications of the drilling technique used for extracting oil or natural gas from deep underground.

That’s a bill Young supported a year ago.

And while the Tampa Republican maintained that it was, in fact, an anti-fracking bill, environmental groups and Young’s opponents in the Senate District 18 race hit her hard on the issue in 2016, prompting her to declare that she would introduce a clean proposal banning hydraulic fracking in 2017.

It was then Young sponsored SB 442, which immediately gained support from those same environmental groups who opposed her.

And with more than 80 Florida cities and counties already adopting ordinances or resolutions in support of a ban, momentum looked strong for such a ban coming into Session.

But Miller and House Majority Leader Ray Rodrigues say that a scientific study is required. Rodrigues has previously said that it would be “foolish” to ban the practice without any scientific evidence (neither Miller or Rodrigues returned calls for comment).

On Friday, Young said that she hadn’t spoken with House leadership; if they are interested in a study, she says they should still go ahead and push the legislation forward.

“What I would say is, move a bill in your chamber that has a study and a ban in it,” Young says, “and then let’s let other members in on that and see where we end up.”

Miller’s bill is co-sponsored by Tampa Democrat Janet Cruz, who said she thought with “Republican muscle” behind the bill this year, it has to pass.

“It’s absolutely incredible and amazing that the citizens of Florida, if you look at the numbers, overwhelmingly support a ban on fracking,” Cruz says. “Yet once again, we have a Legislature that continues to ignore the wills and the wants of the people to serve big business.”

With more than half the session to go, though, some environmental activists are refusing to throw in the towel on the prospect of finally getting a ban in the Sunshine State.

“The House bill that bans fracking may not survive, but the fight is long from over,” says Jonathan Webber, deputy director of Florida Conservation Voters. “Nearly half the Florida Senate – Republicans and Democrats alike – have already cosponsored Senator Dana Young’s good legislation. Now Senator Rob Bradley has the opportunity to teach the House a lesson about how to best protect our water and tourism economy by keeping the ban moving in the Senate.”

With 18 co-sponsors of her bill in the Senate, Young says she’ll have no problem getting the bill passed through the Legislature’s upper chamber. She said then it’s up to the House to respond in kind.

Other environment groups are keeping the heat on as well.

On Friday, the environmental group Food & Water Watch held a press conference in House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s district, where they called on him and Senate President Joe Negron to follow “the will of the people,” says organizer Michelle Allen.

“I think towards the middle of Session, they start to say things like that,” Allen says of Miller’s comments that the bill was dead in the House. “We’re going to keep pushing.”

Food & Water Watch will hold another media event in Key Largo Saturday, calling on to bring Republican Holly Raschein to support the House bill the Natural Resources and Public Lands Subcommittee she chairs.

Governor appoints two members to St. Johns River Water Management District governing board

Governor Rick Scott announced one appointment and one reappointment to the Governing Board of the St. Johns River Water Management District on Friday.

The Governor named Susan Dolan, 51, of Longwood to succeed Maryam Ghyabi. Dolan’s term will end on March 1, 2021.

Dolan is currently the director of community affairs for Waste Pro of Florida, Inc. Her appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.

Scott also reappointed Douglas Burnett, 72, of St. Augustine for another four year term that ends March 1, 2021. Burnett is the director of community affairs for Waste Pro of Florida, Inc.


Kristin Incroci appointed to Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority

Governor Rick Scott announced the appointment of Kristin Incrocci to the Sarasota Manatee Airport Authority on Friday.

Incrocci, 51, of Sarasota, is the owner and pilot of SRQ Aviation.

She received her bachelor’s degree from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach.

Incrocci fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term beginning March 31, 2017, and ending November 17, 2018.

2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidates to speak in St. Petersburg Saturday

Four potential or actual Democratic candidates running for governor next year will speak in St. Petersburg on Saturday night.

Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, Central Florida businessman Chris King, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine and former Tallahassee Congresswoman Gwen Graham will speak at the Democratic County Chairs Association (DCCA) weekend-long retreat kicking off at the Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon Park.

Gillum and King are officially in the race. Levine is testing the waters, while Graham continues to inch closer to an announcement.

The weekend will also feature Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel and a panel of fellow Democrats distributing $100,000 in grants to various small- and medium-sized Democratic executive committees, as well as some Democratic caucuses and clubs.

Shortly after taking office in January, Bittel announced he was rolling out what he calls the $100,000 Janet Reno Challenge Grant.

Our goal is to ensure that Democratic organizations across the state have the freedom to implement new and creative ideas for organizing their communities and then receive the resources to implement those strategies,” Bittel said. “The new Florida Democratic Party must organize year-round regardless of election cycle, and the Janet Reno Challenge Grant will help kick-start our grassroots mobilization and put us on a path to victory in 2018.”

A total of 30 merit-based awards will be announced on Saturday – ten $5000 and twenty $2500 are to be awarded,  part of a competitive process.

The panel in charge of selecting grant winners includes Wakulla County Committeeman and DNC member Nikki Barnes, Osceola County DEC Chair Leah Carius, Miami-Dade County DEC Chair Juan Cuba, Duval County State Committeewoman Lisa King, Hillsborough County Committeeman Russ Patterson and Tampa’s Ian Whitney, a former Committeeman and Monroe County DEC Chair.

Unless legislation is changed, Joe Redner says he’ll sue over Legislature’s medical marijuana

Advocates of Amendment 2, which legalized medical marijuana in Florida, have been expressing disdain for HB 1397, moving through the Legislature this Session, sponsored by Fort Myers Republican Ray Rodrigues.

“Folks, this bill is bad,” wrote Ben Pollara, head of United for Care, the organization that campaigned for the constitutional amendment that passed with more than 71 percent support of Floridians last fall.

“If passed, it would basically cancel out the vote we had last fall, if not make the situation worse,” Pollara added.

Specifically, Pollara and others are denouncing the bill as currently written, primarily because it bans smoking, vaporizing and eating of medical marijuana. It also requires patients recertify with the state every 90 days and compels patients to sign an “informed consent” document warning them about the dangers of marijuana use and reminding them that it is illegal federally.

In the past, Pollara said he knows organizations and individuals who may sue if the ultimate legislative product has those elements.

On Thursday, Tampa adult entrepreneur and gadfly Joe Redner confirmed he would be one of those individuals.

“We have a constitutional amendment, and I loooove the court system,” Redner said Thursday on WMNF-88.5 FM.

In the 1980s and 90s, Redner frequently battled the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County over his adult nightclubs, winning more than a million dollars in damages, according to a 2012 Deadspin report.

“I cannot wait to sue the state Legislature. Please don’t pass a good law!” he joked about the efforts of Rodrigues, who is pushing the main medical marijuana bill in the Florida House.

“There were definitely people who believed that they were voting to smoke it because those people have contacted me since we had filed that bill and expressed that sentiment,” Rodrigues recently told a Tampa radio station.

“However, I do not believe that is the majority of the people,” Rodrigues explained. “Clearly, the majority of the people believed they were voting for medical marijuana, and as long as they get the benefits from medical marijuana, the way that it is administered is irrelevant. And I would say that the science is on our side.”

Accompanying Redner at WMNF were Adam Elend and Jeff Marks, his former “Voice of Freedom” cable access show co-hosts back in the aughts.

Redner said the two had been working in Colorado on marijuana-based businesses after the state legalized pot in 2012. Redner intends to work with them on a medical marijuana-related business in Tampa.

Whether he gets that opportunity is again subject to the whims of the Legislature, which seems bent on reducing the field of companies that can grow and distribute medical pot — keeping it to seven companies statewide. However, that number could grow if the patient population does.

Of all the medical marijuana bills now floating in the Florida Legislature, only a measure from St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes would open competition two more than those seven companies.

Brandes’ proposal would also let cities and counties determine how many retail facilities would be required.

During the interview, Redner admitted that despite proclamations to the contrary, Democrat Bob Buesing asked him to drop out of the four-person Senate District 18 race against Republican Dana Young last fall.

At the time, Buesing said Redner’s presence would not hurt him in his battle against Young. Young defeated Buesing by 7 percent, while the independent Redner took 9 percent.

Recently, Redner said he would not enter another race in 2018 if Buesing was again the Democratic candidate.

Redner also revealed that he had not spoken to his son, Cigar City Brewing head Joey Redner, until just recently, since Joey gave a financial contribution to Young in the Senate race.

“To me, it was my son telling me, he thought she was a better person than I was,” Redner said, adding that he is not sure he will ever get over it.


Vern Buchanan ‘disappointed’ feds changed manatee endangered status, calls for reversal

Congressman Vern Buchanan is attacking an announcement Thursday from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service downgrading protections for the Florida manatee from “endangered” to “threatened.”

It’s a “huge disappointment,” the Sarasota Republican said.

“The decision to weaken protections under the Endangered Species Act threatens the survival of the manatee, one of Florida’s most beloved animals,” Buchanan added. “It needs to be reversed.”

Buchanan plans to contact Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to ask him to reconsider and overturn the decision.

Florida manatees have been protected under the Endangered Species Act since 1973. By 1979, FWS officials estimated there were only 800 to 1,000 individual manatees.

Through careful management of the manatee and its habitat, both the FWS and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have helped the animals’ population rebound.

Now Florida waters are home to more than 6,000 manatees.

However, manatee deaths are on the rise. In 2016, there were 520 deaths, more than 100 of which were caused by boats and other watercraft.

In January, the FWS proposed to remove the manatee from the endangered species list reclassify it as “threatened” after “significant improvements” in its population and habitat conditions.

This prompted Buchanan to pen a formal objection letter to the Fish and Wildlife Service to emphasize that any push to weaken protections for the manatee would be “misguided and premature.”

In 2014, following a three-year period in which 1,600 manatees died of cold weather or red tide, Buchanan also called on FWS to maintain federal protections for manatees.

Charlie Crist joins bill rolling back Doanld Trump’s efforts to weaken Clean Power Plan

Two days after President Donald Trump directed the Environmental Protection Agency to start the legal process of withdrawing and rewriting the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

St. Petersburg Congressman Charlie Crist joined 35 other Democrats to file legislation to prevent its implementation.

HR 1812, known as the Congressional Leadership in Mitigating Administration Threats to the Earth (CLIMATE) Act declares the anti-environment executive order null and void and prohibits federal funds from implementing, administering, or enforcing the order.

“My home county of Pinellas is quite literally a peninsula on the peninsula of Florida, and we feel the effects of climate change daily. Our shorelines are impacted by severe storms and constant coastal erosion. And, as a result, there are real concerns that one of our key revenue sources — tourism — may wash away bit by bit,” Crist said. “We can’t afford to roll back these key environmental protections — more pollution and more climate change are direct threats to our community’s health, safety, energy independence, and economy.”

Obama’s Clean Power Plan would have closed hundreds of coal-fired power plants, frozen construction of new plants and replaced them with vast new wind and solar farms. It also undercuts regulations on methane emissions.

“This executive order ignores both the science and the impacts of global climate change, and jeopardizes our children’s future by reorienting our policies backwards toward higher-emission sources of energy,” says Illinois Democrat Brad Schneider, another co-sponsor of the bill. “The United States must continue to play a leadership role in the international effort to confront climate change, or risk losing that role to other countries. We need to lead not just to protect our environment and national security, but to also ensure that the green energy jobs of tomorrow are created here at home.”

Trump signed the order while surrounded by coal workers and executives earlier this week.

“C’mon, fellas. You know what this is? You know what this says?” Trump reportedly said to the miners as he signed the order, according to The New York Times. “You’re going back to work.”

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