Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 of 286

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

Kathy Castor co-signs letter to Donald Trump calling on him to repeal the Hyde Amendment

Tampa area Representative Kathy Castor is one of more than 100 Democratic members of the House of Representatives who have co-signed a letter to President-elect Donald Trump, calling on him to support the repeal of the Hyde Amendment. That’s the 1976 law named after former Illinois Republican Congressman Henry Hyde which prevents federal funding for abortion.

“Every person should be treated with dignity, compassion and respect – and that includes upholding a woman’s right to make her own decisions about whether to end a pregnancy,” says the letter, written by Berkeley Representative Barbara Lee. “We urge you to begin your presidency with a clear and bold statement that abortion coverage bans have no place in our public policy by eliminating all such restrictions from your FY2018 Budget request.”

Other Florida Democrats on the letter include Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Lois Frankel and Alcee Hastings.

The Hyde Amendment enjoys popular support from a strong majority of Americans. A Marist poll published in July found that 62 percent of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, including 63 percent of women, 45 percent of those who say they are “pro-choice,” and 44 percent of Democrats.

At town hall in Ybor City, Darryl Rouson says climate is good for “true” criminal justice reform

At a town-hall meeting in Tampa’s Ybor City, newly-elected Senate District 19 Democrat Darryl Rouson said he feels that, finally, a serious attempt at criminal justice reform is going to take place in the Florida Legislature in 2017.

“It’s my intention to change the Black Caucus this year so that all 28 members … really stand up and do something,” he said when queried by one new constituent, who told him that the only way to stop gun violence was to provide more job opportunities for young men.

“I believe the climate is good this year for true criminal justice reform,” Rouson continued. “And we’re going to work hard.”

The St. Petersburg Democrat added that it was “unfair” for the community to criticize lawmakers like himself for not doing enough regarding urban violence, “as if we’re not sensitive to this issue.”

“These are our families. These are our friends. These are church members who are going through this issue,” he said.

Rouson met with approximately 120 of his new constituents in Tampa, where he was joined by House District 61 Democrat Sean Shaw in a joint meeting hosted by both local legislators. While Shaw represents much of Tampa and other parts of Hillsborough County, Rouson’s district encompasses that area and parts of  downtown and south St. Pete as well, making him the first lawmaker in this hybrid district to come from the Pinellas side in more than two decades. He narrowly defeated former HD 61 Representative Ed Narain by just 75 votes last month to take the seat which has previously been held in the past eight years by Arthenia Joyner.

One audience member questioned how criminal justice reform should move forward with the heavily GOP based Legislature?

“Because certain people are beginning in this phrase ‘smart justice,’ certain people are looking at the economic cost of incarceration and felonization of people to society and they haven’t looked at it like this before,” Rouson explained.

Senate President Joe Negron and St. Petersburg’s Jeff Brandes have spoken about tackling criminal justice reform in the coming year. But whether that happens or not remains to be seen. In the U.S. Senate, Kentucky Republican Rand Paul and New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker introduced the REDEEM Act (Record Expungement Designed to Enhance Employment) in 2014. The bill is focused on helping people who committed non-violent crimes better integrate into the community and find gain full employment to reduce the chance they will commit offenses in the future.

More than two years later, it has not come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate.

The two lawmakers also heard plenty of questions and concerns about issues like restoring ex-felons rights, the Tampa Bay Express project, affordable housing and education.

On the restoration of voting right for ex-felons, Shaw said he intends to prepare a bill that that will deal with that issue “on the front end.”

“I want to limit the categories of people who get their rights taken away up front,” he said.

Lynn Gray, a new Hillsborough County School board member, said she was concerned that the state was going to get “more involved” in school vouchers.

“I support a fully funded high quality public education for every child that fits their need,” Rouson immediately began before adding, “But one size does not fit all.”

He went on to say that parents deserve a choice, referring to how one of his boys who was born with cognitive deficits is struggling with IEP’s (Individualized Education Program) in public schools, because there’s no type of school that handles such kids in his school district.

“I believe that parents deserve choice, but we must require accountability, strict standards, we must lessen the testing that’s going on in public schools, while requiring certain things of our private charters and public charters,” Rouson said. “And there are there are 90,000 kids supported by Step Up and tax credit scholarships.”

Shaw said that the issue of school choice was one of the items that the two lawmakers disagreed on. “Unfortunately, it’s zero sum game to a certain extent, so if we want to fully fund public eduction, we have to do it before we start doing other things,” he said, adding, “I want choices, but as a starting point, we have to fully and adequately fund public education. And we don’t adequately fund public education.”

Rouson, a noted anti-drug hawk, joked that no other senate district was in more support of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment that his SD 19. “So I’m taking a look at this,” he deadpanned.

Both men talked about how reducing gun violence, but admitted they didn’t have all the answers. “That’s one of the reasons why we’re here,” said Shaw. “We need your ideas too.”

Regarding Florida DOT Secretary Jim Boxold comment last week said there was time for a “reset” regarding the troubled Tampa Bay Express project, Shaw said,”I’m going to meet with the secretary and ask what the reset means. Regarding the TBX project itself, Shaw remains resolutely opposed to it.

“I think it’s bad. My district contains the homes that will be torn down, it contains the land that has already been sold. I’m absolutely against it.”

A number of other elected officials were in the room, including newly elected Hillsborough County School board member Tamara Shamburger and Lynn Gray, Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick and District 70 Representative Wengay Newton, who was put to work passing the microphone to members in the audience who asked questions.

Alan Clendenin moves to Bradford County, becomes state committeeman, now running for Florida Democratic Party Chair

Two weeks ago, it appeared that Alan Clendenin‘s hopes for becoming state chair of the Florida Democratic Party died after falling twelve votes short of being re-elected as Hillsborough County’s state committeeman.

That position is one of just a handful in local Democratic Party politics that would qualify a candidate to run for state party chair.

But in a stunning development, the DNC Committeeman and Tampa resident moved in recent days to North Florida, specifically Hampton in Bradford County, where there was a vacancy for their state committeeman position.

On Monday night, he was sworn in as state committeeman, once again becoming a full-fledged candidate for party chair.

“I ran last time against the entire paid staff of the Democratic party — both state and national — and came damn close to winning,” Clendenin said about his unsuccessful bid for the party chair post in 2013. “This year I’m going to enjoy that same type of support, and hopefully add a few more votes to it and hopefully be successful.”

Clendenin was speaking from his new trailer home in Starke, which will serve as his residence for at least the next few weeks. Th9isn week, he’ll meet with people in Bradford. Then, after Christmas, he’ll go on a “roadshow” of sorts, a listening tour of Democrats up and down the state in advance of the FDP party elections, which take place mid-January in Orlando.

Two weeks ago, Clendenin seemed a “dead man walking” over his chances for the state party chairmanship.  A stunning loss at the December 5 Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee meeting occurred shortly after DEC Chair Ione Townsend made a controversial decision regarding the party’s bylaws. The decision resulted in the exclusion of several locally elected officials in nonpartisan races (meaning the entire Tampa City Council, a couple of Hillsborough County School Board members and Mayor Bob Buckhorn) from participating in the county’s reorganization meeting.

In that race for state committeeman, Clendenin lost to Russ Patterson, 52-40.

Nevertheless, Clendenin has many Democratic friends around the state, some acquired during his campaign for state party chair four years ago, which he lost to Allison Tant by 139 votes, 587-488.

Clendenin said several DEC party officials around Florida contacted him after learning what happened in Tampa. He ultimately discovered that his best opportunity would be in Bradford County, where the former state committeeman decided earlier this month not to run for re-election, leaving a vacancy and opportunity.

“Bradford was one of those areas four years ago that were just absolutely steadfast supporters,” Clendenin said. “I had spoken extensively about the need for a 67-county strategy, and with the Bradford folks, I could not have asked for people to be more supportive. I’ve maintained a very good longstanding relationship with them.”

Meanwhile, in Miami, Coconut developer Stephen Bittel continues to gain more endorsements as he battles former state Senator Dwight Bullard for a state committeeman position there. The winner is expected to run for the FDP chair position as well. On Monday, the Florida Education Association and the Florida Service Employees International Union came out in support of Bittel.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, one of the most influential Democrats in the state, had kind words for Bittel coming short of formally endorsed him. Nelson did tell last week he believes that Bittel, if elected, would bring a level of “professionalism” to the state party.

But as the only statewide elected Democrat, Nelson doesn’t want to “inject any thought that I am trying to strong-arm anybody, which I am not.”

“People took the bait and ran with it,” Clendenin said about the impression that Nelson is backing Bittel. While Nelson has definitely said nice things about Bittel, Clendenin said he hopes Nelson “will say some of the same positive things about me.”

As far as living in Bradford County, Clendenin said it’s more akin to how he grew up.

“I lived for a long time in Sanford in a farm that my grandfather was renting,” he said, “and I’ve bounced around from school to school.

“This is a small town. My extended family is from Southern Georgia, this is more in kind with my family and my growing up than what people probably know me.”

The 2013 election for state party chair was an intense, bitter race. Clendenin was a “little more cognizant” about some of the “maneuvers” that can happen in such races and said he’s ready for whatever comes his way.

“What I bring to this party is part of the solution,” he said. “Four years ago, I would have said ‘righted the ship.’ Now it’s taking the ship off the ocean floor, and hopefully the people I speak with will see that.

“It’s the time to really turn this into a grassroots, bottom-up organization that can win races across the state, as well as state races.”

Mitch Perry Report for 12.20.16 – Our driverless future?

Among the 2017 priorities that the Hillsborough County Regional Transit Authority’s government liaison, Cesar Hernandez told board members on Monday, one would be to continue to push for anything that can push autonomous vehicle technology forward in the new year.

In case you’re not familiar with the whole driverless car concept, you should know that the Sunshine State, led by St. Petersburg Republican state Senator Jeff Brandes enthusiasm and advocacy, is in the vanguard of states when it comes to this new form of transportation.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature unanimously passed a bill making Florida the only state that legalized fully autonomous vehicles on public roads without a driver behind the wheel.

Meanwhile, Uber says it will continue to tests its 11 self-driving cars on the streets of San Francisco, despite the threat of legal action from the California Attorney General’s office if the company does not “immediately” remove its test vehicles from public roads.

The Attorney General’s letter, sent late Friday, ordered  Uber to apply for the appropriate permits from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles before continuing to test its cars.  Uber says its self-driving cars don’t require a DMV permit because the systems it is using are no different from current advanced driver-assistance systems that help with parking and collision avoidance, the same systems available in some luxury cars today.

As reported by USA Today, in a Friday afternoon media call, Anthony Levandowski, who runs Uber’s autonomous car programs, said the permitting process doesn’t apply to the company and that “we cannot in good conscience” comply with a regulation that the company doesn’t believe applies to it.

Does that sound familiar to anyone in Tampa?

By the way, have you spoken with an Uber or Lyft driver of late? In Tampa, because there are so many drivers flooding the market, the only way folks can make decent money working for either of these companies is to work for both. And driverless cars could make it even harder for “entrepreneurs” to make money.

But while we’re all moving so fast towards this brave new world of technology, what does the public think?

“In the glorious future, we are assured that driverless cars will save lives, reduce accidents, ease congestion, curb energy consumption and lower harmful emissions. These purported benefits contain elements of truth. But the data is nowhere near complete,” writes Jamie Lincoln Kitman in the op-ed section of Monday’s New York Times. “Even stipulating that all the claimed benefits will one day materialize, the near- and midterm picture from a public-interest perspective is not the same favorable one that industry sees. Legitimate areas of question and concern remain.”

Kidman notes that while the new technology will create some jobs, many others will be lost.

“Millions of truck and taxi drivers will be out of work, and owing to the rise of car-sharing and app-based car services, people may buy fewer vehicles, meaning automakers and their suppliers could be forced to shed jobs,” he writes.

It’s not doom and gloom, and maybe autonomous technology is going to be sensational for all of us going forward. But it’s worth your while to think of some of the possibilities that exist with this technology that may not truly denote progress in our world.

By the way, this will be my last column of 2016. I’m heading out to San Francisco myself tomorrow to celebrate Christmas with friends and family. See you in 2017.



In other news…

Stephen Bittel may be closer to becoming the next state party chairman 0f the Florida Democratic Party. Of course, he has to win his election for state committeeman in Miami-Dade County tonight against former state legislator Dwight Bullard, but there is precedence for the Democratic party establishment getting who they want in these cases.

At yesterday’s HART meeting, one board member raised strong objections to coming together with PSTA, Pinellas County’s transit agency, in an interlocal agreement.

And our state supervisors of election are hoping for the state legislature to help them with two key issues in 2017, a request made on Friday by Hillsborough County SOE Craig Latimer. 


Craig Latimer advocates for public records exemption for voter file before Hillsborough lawmakers

Speaking to the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation on Friday, Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer had two requests for state lawmakers.

One is to get Florida into the Electronic Registration Information Center, a non-profit organization with the sole mission of assisting states with improving the accuracy of America’s voter rolls and to increase access to voter registration for all eligible citizens. Its membership list is now up to 21 states and Latimer says that they’ve been able to remove more than a million voters who have been registered in another state.

“It’s not malicious. You know, people move from other states, and the first thing they think of is, ‘Oh, let me cancel my registration that I did twenty years ago in that state,'” Latimer told the delegation. “It’s going to help us get those voter rolls clean and accurate.”

The other proposal that Latimer brought forth — one that is also backed by the Florida State Association of Supervisor of Elections — is an exemption in the voter registration information as a public record. Current law allows some date of birth, address, party affiliation, phone number and email address and nd any information related to 16 and 17 year olds who are pre-registered. What is exempt from public disclosure is the voter’s Social Security number, Driver’s license number,  Florida identification number and location of voter’s place of registration.

“We’re getting calls from people saying they want to be removed from the rolls because they don’t want their information out there in the public,” Latimer said. It’s not political candidates who are bothering them, he said, but retailers.”

He also said those records were being accessed by people who prison inmates.

“I will also tell you that we have been dealing with a handful of men incarcerated in our Florida state prison system, who are making public records demands for females information so that they can become pen pals with them,” Latimer told lawmakers.

A proposal for such an exemption was proposed in the 2016 Legislative session, but did not pass. No such legislation has been filed yet for the 2017 session.

Plant City House Republican Dan Raulerson said there is a bill being presented in the 2017 session that would require all cities to vote in the same election cycle. Several cities in Florida, such as Tampa and Plant City, have elections in March, not November. When asked if he had any opinion on that, Latimer said he really didn’t.

“We run elections, sir,” Latimer replied. “That’s all I can tell you. So bring ’em on,” adding that it would add costs to his department, because currently Plant City and Tampa pay the SOE’s offices for their own elections.

Stephen Bittel rolls out more endorsements in bid for Miami-Dade Democratic Committeeman

Stephen Bittel, a favorite of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson as the person who might become the next chair of the Florida Democratic Party, announced he received more endorsements from organization labor in his bid Tuesday for Miami-Dade County committeeman against Dwight Bullard.

Typically, such inside local politics maneuvering wouldn’t garner statewide attention, but the winner in Tuesday night’s Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee vote for committeeman is expected to run for party chair next month.

The Florida Education Association (FEA) and the Florida Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced their support for Bittel Monday, joining other Democrats, like Minnesota Congressman and DNC chair candidate Keith Ellison, in endorsing the Coconut Grove multimillionaire real estate developer.

“I’m proud of the support we’ve received in our campaign to reform the Florida Democratic Party to make it more inclusive and representative of all Florida Democrats,” said Bittel in a statement. “We’ve received the support of South Florida progressives because they understand what’s at stake and they want a Democratic Party leader who isn’t afraid to shake things up to ensure more voices are heard, and more Florida Democrats win elections.”

“Stephen Bittel has a compelling vision for transforming the institution of the Democratic Party into a strategic powerhouse in the service of everyday Floridians who lack health care, living wages and civil rights,” said Monica Russo, President of SEIU Florida State Council.

Russo added: “Bittel has articulated a compelling strategy in this complicated moment when working people face unprecedented attacks. He has the organizing skills along with a broad array of relationships in the community that position him to be able to transform that vision into a reality.”

Russo said the winner in the Miami-Dade County race Tuesday night would likely to go on to run for state party chair; they interviewed both Bittel and Bullard, who served in both houses of the Florida Legislature for the past eight years.

Last month, Bullard lost his bid for re-election to the state Senate.

Nelson said he has been trying to stay out of the discussion regarding who might succeed Allison Tant as state party chair.

As the only statewide elected official, Nelson holds an enormous amount of power among fellow Democrats. But when speaking with FloridaPolitics last week, the Florida senator admitted that Bittle, if elected, would bring a significant amount of professionalism to the chair’s position.


AFP Florida conveys to lawmakers their holiday wish list for 2017

Americans for Prosperity-Florida is getting in the holiday spirit, playing off a classic Christmas poem to highlight the organization’s 2017 priorities.

The statewide organization launched a new web ad Monday that is meant to target Florida lawmakers over the holiday season. The AFP-FL ad — called “A Holiday poem to FL lawmakers” — asks Floridians to tell the House and Senate to make taxes fair, end political favoritism, be good stewards of transparent government, and empower Florida children with the best education they can receive.

In the new ad, AFP-FL riffs on “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to ask Florida lawmakers to follow a plan laid out by the statewide advocacy organization.

“Lawmakers should focus on real priori-(ties)/So sunshine-state boys and girls can live in prosperi-(ty)/To deliver good government is what they should do/Just follow these steps we’ve laid out for you,” reads the poem. “The first is be fair, no one likes to be cheated/Special favors and corporate welfare are bad and need be defeated/No more handouts to grinches or cronies without care/It’s not right, and it’s not helping those who pay their fair share.”

The statewide organization led the charge in 2016 against incentives, including Gov. Rick Scott’s proposed $250 million for Enterprise Florida. It also actively opposed Rep. Patrick Murphy’s U.S. Senate bid, spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on ads targeting the Treasure Coast Democrat.

“As 2016 comes to an end, I am thankful for the hard work of our activists who knocked over 1,000,000 doors and make over 3 million phone calls,” said Chris Hudson, the state director of AFP-FL. ” But if we want to make Florida the best state for families and entrepreneurs we need to stay focused on successfully advocating for policies that continue to cut red tape, keep taxes fair while ending political favoritism, and expand the successful school choice policies that empower our kids with the best education possible. I hope legislators, new and old, enjoy this holiday season with their families and come back in 2017 prepared to tackle the most critical issues to our state.”

The new AFP-FL ad will run throughout the holiday season.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.19.16 – Florida electors feel the heat while the rest of the nation freezes

Florida’s 29 Republican presidential electors gather in Tallahassee today to vote for well, presumably for Donald Trump, who defeated Hillary Clinton by 1.2 percent in the Sunshine State on November 8.

While the world awaits to see if there’s any movement with the 290 nationwide Republican electors, our electors will be voting in perfect conditions, with the forecast set for 65 degrees today in the Capitol.

That’s a far cry from the weather conditions of electors from much of the country today, and should be noted.

More than three dozen record low temperatures were set in the Midwest and Plains this past weekend with actual air temperatures in the 20s and 30s below zero, while wind chills plunged into the minus 40s and even a few 50s at times in some cities. Subzero low temperatures were observed as far south as Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle Sunday morning. Huron, South Dakota and Marshall, Minnesota each set a record yesterday at 31 degrees below zero.

I’ve got the air-conditioning running in my home this morning, which, let’s face it, sort of kills the whole Christmas/holiday feeling. But I’ll refrain from complaining when I see the images of multi-car pileups and outright deaths around the nation due to icy road conditions.

Back when this presidential season really kicked into high gear – this past February in New Hampshire, I dealt with an inclement weather situation that, well, not to be dramatic, could have killed me.

On the Friday before the first primary in the nation, New Hampshire was rocked by a blizzard that, frankly, freaked me out. Considering I’ve only lived in San Francisco and Tampa, I haven’t dealt with a lot of snow conditions. Sheltered yes, but the fact is, I almost died driving down a turnpike from Manchester to Nashua, when I hit my brakes and went skidding over the road.

Yes, it’s annoying not to really get into the Christmas spirit when you have to turn your air conditioner on, but considering what it’s like in 80 percent of the rest of the country, those of us waking up today in Florida are damned fortunate folks.

As far as Florida’s electors? Yes, their feeling some intense pressure to reconsider voting for Trump. But none of them say they’re going to flip, so while there will be a lot of press coverage on this today, is it really that big of an event?

In other news..

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is closer to extinction after a vote by the local state delegation.

South Florida Democrat Tim Canova says he may run again against Debbie Wasserman Schultz in 2018.

Hillsborough Clerk of the Circuit Courts Pat Frank got in the local delegation’s face on Friday calling for more funding for her office.

And Alan Grayson is not completely done in Washington. On Friday he announced two bills trying to hold Donald Trump accountable.

Alan Grayson files bill to force Donald Trump to pick up the tab for security costs at his properties

Although Alan Grayson will no longer be a sitting member of Congress in a few weeks, he’s given his congressional colleagues a road map to try to keep Donald Trump accountable with the filing of two new bills.

The Orlando firebrand announced Friday that he had filed legislation that would require the IRS to release Trump’s presidential tax returns, and ensure that taxpayers will not have to pay for added security costs to protect the President’s business properties.

During the recently concluded campaign, Trump became the first presidential candidate from a major party since 1976 not to have released his tax returns. When asked why not, he claimed to be under an IRS audit that precluded a release.

The IRS countered that individual could share their tax information at any time, even under an audit. Political pundits predicted that Trump would ultimately have to succumb to the political pressure to release his returns, but he never did, and didn’t appear to be harmed by not doing so.

That includes surviving a New York Times report that suggested that he might not have paid any federal income taxes for up to 18 years, after declaring a $916 million loss on his 1995 income tax returns.

Grayson’s second Trump accountability bill, H.R. 6506, mandates that the “President shall be financially responsible for any additional security measures imposed on property in which the President holds an ownership interest, and for other purposes.”

Grayson says that bill would be the first legislation of its kind to require a sitting president to reimburse the taxpayers for the cost of the security detail for his business property and investments.

“It’s bad enough that Donald Trump refuses to honor a long Presidential tradition of transparency by keeping his tax returns secret.  But it’s even more grotesque that, as my friend Congressman (Jose) Serrano has pointed out, New York City taxpayers already are paying $500,000 a day in security costs for Trump properties there alone,” Grayson said in a statement.

“It’s just a matter of time before President-elect Trump forces the taxpayers to pick up the tab for the added security costs at his personal and business properties around the world. That’s an insult, coming from a businessman who brags that he’s ‘smart’ not to pay taxes,” Grayson said. “My bills would solve both these problems.”

The President-elect currently owns over 30 properties in the U.S., and Grayson cites Forbes magazine with listing more than two dozen other projects under development. Grayson says that with so many personal and business properties around the world, the presidential security detail could be a costly measure.

“American taxpayers shouldn’t have to bear the burden of paying the security costs of profitable Presidential investments, especially when that President is someone who allegedly owns billion dollars in property and private investments around the world and refuses to tell us if he even pays any taxes on them,” says Grayson. “Trump is poised to cut taxes on billionaires and multinational corporations and cut middle-class earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare, while claiming that his own tax rates are ‘none of your business.’ Well, it’s my business to make sure Trump isn’t using the highest office in the United States to fund his own personal get-rich-quick scheme.”

“Trump is poised to cut taxes on billionaires and multinational corporations and cut middle-class earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare, while claiming that his own tax rates are ‘none of your business.’ Well, it’s my business to make sure Trump isn’t using the highest office in the United States to fund his own personal get-rich-quick scheme.”

Whether any lawmaker will pick up Grayson’s bill is uncertain, as he won’t be there to advance it. Grayson stepped down from his seat in Florida’s 9th Congressional District last year to run for the U.S. Senate. He lost in the Democratic Senate primary in August to Representative Patrick Murphy.

Earlier this week, Grayson filed to run in Florida’s 11th Congressional District, centered in Lake County, in 2018, but told reporter Scott Powers that he’s not certain yet if he will actually pursue another run at this time.

Hillsborough County PTC may be on way out after local delegation approves bill to kill it

The troubled Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission received a terminal diagnosis Friday after members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation voted unanimously for a local bill that would eliminate the agency on December 31, 2017.

After that, the County Commission would pick up its regulatory duties.

“The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” said bill sponsor James Grant said before the entire delegation vote in support of his bill.

The proposal was similar to a previous bill Grant brought to the local delegation in 2013 that sought to put a stake through the heart of the agency, but with a significant difference.

The local bill approved on Friday gives the county and the PTC a full year to contend with the transition.

“It’s not about moving fast. We want to make sure we avoid any unintended consequences,” Grant said. That was in notable contrast to the 2013 version, which would have killed the agency immediately, making it a bridge too far for other legislators to support, even with noted PTC critics like Dana Young

“I think the plan is to subcontract the regulation out to Uber, isn’t it?” asked Brandon Senator Tom Lee, eliciting the largest round of laughter of the morning.

Although meant for humorous effect, there’s no question that the addition of Uber and Lyft into the county ultimately was the beginning of the end for the PTC, which was already burdened with a toxic reputation well before the emergence of ride-sharing in Hillsborough County.

Among the previous lowlights that had saddled the PTC came 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.

Those lawmakers became incredibly irritated with the PTC and its (now former) chairman Victor Crist over the past few years, as Uber and Lyft refused to comply with PTC regulations. That led to PTC agents 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.

At Friday’s meeting, County Commission Chairman Stacy White said, “the county stands prepared to take over regulation of this industry and create a meaningful regulatory framework.”

“I think that those types of things would be able to be implemented by the county with relative ease,” White said. “We do stand prepared to create a lean, regulatory framework.”

The PTC has been funded by fees paid by the taxicab and limousine companies, not directly by taxpayers. Plant City Republican Representative Dan Raulerson asked White if the county would continue to fund their regulatory efforts in the same fashion.

“We certainly do have the ability to charge various permitting fees to offset the costs of the regulatory process,” White said.

“It seems like a good move in broadening out transportation options,” added recently elected Commissioner Pat Kemp.  

“I support it, and I realize that there are 66 other counties in the state of Florida that have figured out how to do this,” said Tea Party activist Sharon Calvert. “Let’s get it done.”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons