Mitch Perry, Author at Florida Politics - Page 7 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

Congressional Dems target Brian Mast for vote repealing FCC privacy rules

Several thousand voters in Florida’s 18th Congressional District will receive robocalls this week from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee questioning Republican freshman Brian Mast’s vote to repeal FCC privacy rules.

Earlier this week, Mast joined GOP House colleagues with a vote to reverse a recent Obama-era FCC privacy rule requiring internet providers to get customers’ permission before sharing their browsing history with other companies. The rules also require internet providers to protect that data from hackers and inform customers of any breaches.

Last week, the Senate Senate voted 50-48 to reverse the rules in what many call a win for AT&T, Comcast and Verizon Communications.

What CD 18 voters began hearing Wednesday:

“Representative Mast just voted to allow internet providers, like Comcast and Verizon, to sell your sensitive personal information to other companies — all without your consent. Thanks to House Republicans, your internet browsing history, personal health and financial information and even location, can be sold to the highest bidder. Call Representative Mast to ask why she cares more about corporations than your personal privacy.”

The rule passed last October. At the time, Republican members of the FCC said that it unfairly gave websites like Facebook, Twitter and Google the ability to harvest more data than internet service providers and thus further dominating digital advertising.

Others disagreed.

“The consequences of passing this resolution are clear: broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, and others will be able to sell your personal information to the highest bidder without your permission,” said California Democrat Anna Eschoo during debate of the proposal. “And no one will be able to protect you, not even the Federal Trade Commission that our friends on the other side of the aisle keep talking about.”

The American Civil Liberties Union also opposed the measure, saying companies “should not be able to use and sell the sensitive data they collect from you without your permission.”

Mast defeated Democrat Randy Perkins last November, receiving 54 percent of the vote to succeed Democrat Patrick Murphy. Murphy 

Murphy had announced early in 2015 that he would not for run re-election in the swing district election, instead opting to run for the U.S. Senate. Murphy held the seat for two terms after defeating Republican Allen West in 2012.

Similar robocalls will be used against approximately 14 other Republicans around the nation, mostly those in swing districts who also voted to reverse the FCC privacy rule.

Rowdies, Al Lang referendum an easy sale for Rick Baker

This week, St. Petersburg residents start receiving ballots for the May 2 referendum asking to give the Tampa Bay Rowdies a 25-year lease for Al Lang Field.

St. Pete Entrepreneur Bill Edwards is advocating — and paying for — the measure.

However, considering the questions fielded in public forums by Edwards’ spokesperson Rick Baker, the referendum will be something of an easy sale.

Baker, the former (and possibly future) mayor, is making his pitch to neighborhood and community groups throughout the city.

Speaking to about two dozen members of the Sunset Rotary Club at the St. Petersburg Museum of History, Baker began with a bit of recent history. He spoke of St. Pete’s barren downtown in the 1980s, to his declaration to become mayor in 2002, where the goal was for his city to become the “cultural center of Florida.”

“We made it the cultural center,” Baker says, making comments that could have easily come from the campaign trail.

Baker alluded to negotiations opening the door for a new Dali Museum, rebuilt Mahaffey Center, a new American Stage Theater, and the Chihuly Museum.

“We stole the Florida Orchestra from Tampa,” he adds, saying they were all part a mix that led to St. Petersburg becoming such a dynamic city.

Baker’s main pitch – a bigger stadium for the Rowdies, part of a bigger league – is that it is another “thing” making St. Pete special: “Some people love the Dali, some people love Janus Landing.”

Although a simple call to Stuart Sternberg can serve as a reminder exactly how sensitive St. Petersburg residents are about the waterfront, Edwards’ proposal faces little controversy.

First of all, it’s not costing taxpayers a cent. Edwards is footing the bill for the referendum’s estimated $250,000 cost.

If Major League Soccer allows the Rowdies inside its private club (11 franchises are vying for four expansion spots), Edwards would also have to pick up the tab for construction and expansion, which is estimated at around $80 million.

And Edwards and investors would have to pay the $150 million franchise fee to get into the MLS.

Unlike the Rays proposal that first became known in 2007, the Rowdies aren’t asking to expand the physical footprint of the venerable Al Lang Field, built in 1947 and restructured in 1976. Plans for the structure preserves its open views of the water, and expands pedestrian rights-of-way to include sidewalks and cafe seating.

“To bring some of that Beach Drive experience,” Baker explains.

“I did not want to mess up the Grand Prix,” he says about the stadium expansion. “We wanted to add some restaurant facilities for the Saturday Morning Market, work it so that everybody will be with us. “

The biggest questions Baker faced from the public seems to be about parking. For example, he’s had to shoot down rumors about a new parking garage at Demens Landing.

The former mayor cites a 2016 parking study by the city that found that there are 9,500 public parking spaces available in the downtown core. A study of the availability for a Saturday night 8 p.m. game shows 51 percent of those spaces were unused at that time, Baker says, adding that the Edwards Group will continue to work with the city’s traffic department.

Baker also fields questions about bicycle access. “We intend to have access to the trails that lead right into the stadium,” he says, adding that there will be “sufficient” bike parking.

The team expects 16 percent of the attendees to be coming to games via alternative forms of transportation, Baker says, either through public transit, biking, pedestrian walk-ups and ridesharing services.

For the project, the Rowdies are working with Populous, one of the world’s largest architectural firms specializing in the design of sports facilities and arenas better known in the U.S. under its earlier moniker, HOK Sports.

Populous representatives say the firm would be able to reconstruct the stadium without affecting the main field, meaning that the Rowdies would not need to stop playing in St. Petersburg if they get permission for the expansion.

“We’re very confident that this will be successful,” Baker told Rotary Club President Adam Hopkins, after he wondered if the market could support a bigger stadium.

Hopkins pointed to recent attendance woes affecting the Rays and the Buccaneers.

“We think the market has the capacity, we think the city has the capacity,” Baker says.

“My main priority is what’s good for the city,” Baker said before the meeting, describing how he connects with the public on the plan. “So, it helps that I really believe that this is a great thing for the city if we could make it all come together.”

Baker didn’t have to use the hard-sell to win support from the Tampa Bay Times editorial board.

On Thursday, a day after the former mayor spoke with editors about the plan, the Times published a full-throated recommendation for the referendum.

Omar Khan among a group of former Obama staffers now working for Chris King’s gubernatorial campaign

Central Florida businessman Chris King has made some major hires for his burgeoning candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Florida governor.

King has named Omar Khan to serve as his senior adviser, as well as adding other Barack Obama alumni Jeremy Bird, Hari Sevugan, Larry Girsolano and Isaac Baker to his team.

Khan was campaign manager for Charlie Crist’s 2014 gubernatorial run. He also served as National Associate Political Director on President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-elect and as Deputy Political Director in Florida in 2008.

Bird was the National Field Director for Obama’s 2012 re-elect campaign and was Deputy Director of Organizing for America. After Obama’s election in 2012, he founded 270 Strategies, a political consulting firm.

Sevugan was a senior spokesman on the 2008 Obama campaign and served as national press secretary for the Democratic National Committee throughout the Obama administration.

Isaac Baker served as Deputy Director of Paid Media for Obama in 2012 and was his Ohio Communications Director in 2008.

King is the founder and CEO of Elevation Financial Group, a consortium of companies which invest in and manage affordable housing. He is a Harvard graduate and also has a law degree from the University of Florida.

Senate continues to roll bill making secretary of state an elected position

A bill to make Secretary of State an elected, Cabinet-level post advanced Wednesday through the Senate Rules Committee.

Legislation by Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean (SB 882) rolled through the committee with neither debate nor discussion.

Historically, the Secretary of State in Florida was elected by the public, but that changed in 1998 when constitutional changes removed that position from the elected Cabinet of the executive branch.

Bean has argued in committee meetings that four is an odd number for the cabinet, and needs another member. Currently, 2-2 ties on votes in the Cabinet go to the side that the governor supports.

The bill needs two-thirds support in both the House and Senate to make it on the 2018 ballot as a constitutional amendment, where it would need 60 percent support of the public to become law.

Companion legislation is being sponsored in the House by Martin County Republican Gayle Harrell. 


Palm Beach tax collector joins growing list of Dems behind Andrew Gillum

Anne Gannon, the tax collector for Palm Beach County and a delegate for Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention last summer, has endorsed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for governor in 2018.

“As a local elected official, I know firsthand the challenges facing Floridians, from an economy that has disproportionately led to low-wage jobs, an education system that is overly reliant on high-stakes testing, and a lack of 21st-century infrastructure,” Gannon said in a statement. “I deal with these problems on a daily basis, and it is my calling to ensure I’m improving on them for my constituents, and not playing politics-as-usual like our Governor and Republican Legislature.

“I endorse Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for Governor because he has the experience and vision to make life better for every one of my constituents. Mayor Gillum has made Tallahassee a great place to raise a family, start a business, and put children on the path to success. I enthusiastically endorse him and look forward to sharing his experience and vision with my constituents.”

“It’s humbling to have the endorsement of an influential leader like Anne Gannon,” said Gillum. “As the first woman to hold her Palm Beach County position, Anne has spent her entire career serving others as a distinguished public servant and tireless advocate for women and children, protecting victims of domestic violence and cracking down on human trafficking. I look forward to campaigning with her!”

The 37-year-old Gillum announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for 2018 a month ago, and has been busy crisscrossing the state and collecting endorsements ever since.

State Representatives Ramon Alexander and Loranne Ausley, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Barbara Jordan, Osceola County Commissioner Viviana Janer, Gainesville Mayor Lauren Poe and Gainesville City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos have all endorsed his candidacy.

In an appearance in Tampa earlier this month, Gillum said his biggest challenge would be fundraising, which certainly could be the case if financial heavyweights like Orlando attorney and entrepreneur John Morgan and/or Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine get in the race.

House advances bill to change Tampa municipal election dates

Under a new bill passed Wednesday by the House Government Accountability Committee, Tampa would need to change the dates of municipal elections every four years.

Changes to when local municipalities hold election days was one of a series of proposals included in a committee-written bill passed by the House Government Accountability Committee, approved easily by a 22-1 vote.

Historically, residents in the city of Tampa voted in primary and general municipal election held in March. Under the committee bill passed, the election would have to be held only at one of four dates — at the general election in November, after first Monday in November in an odd-numbered year, or the first Tuesday after the first Monday in April in odd- or even-numbered years.

The governing body of the municipality must choose which of the dates to conduct its elections. The bill sets a format for runoff elections based on the four dates and allows elected municipal officers to continue to serve until the next municipal election is held in accordance with the bill. Changes to municipal election dates would not take effect until July 1, 2020.

For the past few decades, Tampa has held main municipal elections in early March, with runoffs scheduled three weeks later.

“Our biggest reason for opposing this is a legislative override of the will of the people,” said Casey Cook with the Florida League of Cities. “Every city when it is formed adopts a charter, and that charter is approved by the voters in that area.”

The new bill would also repeal the decade-old change in state election law, which required local or state office holders who qualify for federal office to resign from the office they presently hold if the terms, or any part thereof, will run concurrently and sets the requirements for such resignations.

It would also change the state’s resign-to-run law to include federal office holders (such U.S. senators and representatives) to the current law that mandates that lower office holders must resign if any part of the term will run concurrently with the office that the candidate presently holds.

In 2007, the law was changed by the Republican-led Legislature to allow for the possibility of then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist to run as a vice presidential candidate in 2008. However, John McCain ultimately bypassed Crist, going with Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Other states do allow federal officeholders to run for president and not resign from their current office. Rand Paul of Kentucky ran for president last year, but was allowed to stay in his Senate seat (where he was also on the ballot and won re-election in 2016).

The bill mandates that in any election the word “incumbent” must appear on the ballot beside the name of a candidate seeking re-election to public office when the office sought is not subject to term limits. Current law only requires a ballot to indicate a candidate is an incumbent when two or more candidates running for the same office in a primary election have the same or similar surnames.

The bill requires all candidates who qualify for office as an NPA candidate in partisan elections to be registered at the time of qualification as NPA.

Also, the measure requires an NPA candidate to attest in writing that he or she is registered as NPA. Currently, the law allows candidates to qualify without party affiliation (NPA) despite being registered with a political party.

In addition, a candidate would be required to pay his or her qualification fee with a certified check as an alternative to paying with a properly executed check.

The bill passed 22-1, with only Orlando Democrat Carlos Guillermo Smith dissenting.

Smith objected to the fact that the bill did not mention what he called “the broken system of write-in candidates” in Florida elections.

In Florida, party primaries are normally closed; only voters registered with the party can cast ballots to choose its nominees. But state voters amended the Florida Constitution in 1998 to open primary contests if the winner would face no opposition in the general election. The point was to ensure that all voters would have a say if the primary would determine the winner. In 2000, however, the state Elections Division concluded that a single write-in candidate in the general election would be considered enough competition to close a primary with candidates from just one major party. Ever since, write-ins have regularly closed primaries, even though a write-in has never won an office in Florida.

Caldwell said he agreed with Smith, but said that change could only occur via a constitutional amendment, and thus could not be included in his legislation.

The committee also unanimously passed a bill from Jacksonville Democrat Tracie Davis (HB 521) that allows early voters to be able to turn their ballot into any early election voting site. Davis said that in her research, 31 counties currently allow voters to do that, but it is not uniform in state statute.

If HB 521 passes, it will become state law.

National Dems ask if Ileana Ros-Lehtinen supports new petition to repeal ACA

No one knows when President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans will make another attempt at repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Some hard-line GOP lawmakers want to force a repeal-only bill back onto the floor, once again putting several House Republicans on the spot.

On Friday, Alabama Republican Mo Brooks, part of the House Freedom Caucus, filed a full ACA repeal.

However, Brooks says he must wait 30 days until he begins collecting signatures for a discharge petition, POLITICO reports.

That’s compelling the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to single out Miami Republican Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, who last week said she would not support the American Health Care Act because “millions of people would lose their coverage.”

However, like her GOP brethren, Ros-Lehtinen frequently sided with them when voting on bills to repeal the ACA over the past six years. According to the DCCC, Ros-Lehtinen voted 12 times to repeal the ACA. But since there’s not an alternative at the moment, Democrats are questioning whether she’d support the Brooks petition.

But since there’s not an option at the moment, Democrats are wondering whether she’d support the Brooks request.

“Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has voted repeatedly to recklessly tear health care away from millions of Americans with absolutely no plan to replace it,” said DCCC spokesperson Cole Leiter. “House Republicans should be focused on improving the Affordable Care Act, but instead are again pursuing full repeal without a replacement, and Ros-Lehtinen’s constituents deserve to know where she stands on this petition.”

Ros-Lehtinen has represented parts of Miami in Congress since 1988. She defeated Democrat Scott Fuhrman last fall 55 to 45 percent.

Regarding another crack at health care, House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday that “we want to get it right.”

 “We’re going to keep talking to each other until we get it right,” he said. “I’m not going to put a timeline on it because this is too important to not get right and to put an artificial timeline on it.”

Poll shows support for open primary elections in Florida

A majority of Florida voters believe open primaries in elections is a good idea.

Robopolling released Tuesday from a coalition of groups that advocate creating an open primary system in Florida found strong support from voters having such an initiative on the ballot next year.

The survey was conducted on behalf of three groups seeking an open primary system in Florida: Open Primaries, Tim Canova‘s Progress For All and Florida Fair and Open Primaries. It found 73 percent of respondents saying taxpayer-funded primaries should be open to all voters. Also, 72 percent support a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to individuals who have completed their sentences for nonviolent criminal offenses.

Public Policy Polling conducted the survey of 735 registered Florida from March 12-14.

Currently, Florida’s primary elections are run as “closed” primaries, meaning only registered Republican can vote in a Republican primary election, and only registered Democrats can vote in a Democratic primary election.

“Open primaries are good for democracy because they encourage full citizen participation in our elections,” Canova said in a statement. “Both major political parties should support this reform. Since both Democrats and Republicans often need independent voters to win at the general election stage, they should stop making it so difficult for such voters to join the electoral process. They should welcome open primaries, which will allow each party to address the issues that matter to all the voters.”

“If the Constitution Revision Commission is listening to Florida voters, they will put a referendum on the 2018 ballot for open primaries,” said John Opdycke, president of Open Primaries. “The big question is will they listen. There is a growing sense among voters in Florida and across the country that no one is really listening.”

Florida one of only nine states that hold completely closed primary elections, according to National Conference on State Legislatures. Fifteen states have true “open” primary elections, with the other states falling somewhere in between.

The poll also found that 74 percent of Floridians want independent voters — 27 percent of the Florida electorate — included in primary elections.

Seventy-three percent of Floridians — including supermajorities of Republican, Democrat and independent voters — want the Constitution Revision Commission, which begins public hearings Wednesday, to put an open primaries initiative before the electorate.

Details of the poll can be found at

Senate Judiciary Committee gives big win for ridesharing regulation

Momentum remains strong in Tallahassee for the first bill in Florida to regulate ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft.

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the proposal (SB 340) unanimously without debate.

The bill, sponsored by St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes, would require ride-sharing companies to carry $100,000 of insurance for bodily injury or death and $25,000 for property damage while a driver is logged onto their app but hasn’t secured a passenger. While with a rider, drivers would be required to have $1 million worth of coverage.

It also requires transportation network companies to have third parties conduct local and national criminal background checks on drivers.

While all indications are the bill will get through the Legislature this spring, opposition from certain groups continues.

Former state Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, now a lobbyist for the Florida Taxi Association, said the bill would tie the hands of local governments from regulating their own communities. Bogdanoff referenced problems with “exorbitant” numbers of cars circling around Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and Port Everglades. She said issues that had been resolved between local governments and Uber and Lyft would be removed from the books, and also acknowledged the cold hard reality of the political calculus this session.

“I realize the train has left the station, or the car has left the Port, or whatever you want to call it,” she said.

Megan Samples, with the Florida League of Cities, again called the bill a pre-emption on local governments, particularly decrying what she said would be looser background checks for ride-sharing drivers.

Rich Templin, representing the Florida AFL-CIO, testified on behalf of the Amalgamated Transit Union. He said he was hoping to draft an amendment before the next stop for the bill that would address additional safety guidelines in the bill, considering that more public transit agencies are working with Uber and Lyft on options like first-mile last mile and paratransit options. He said he was worried the Brandes bill would undue guidelines already in place.

Immediately after the bill’s passage in committee, spokespersons for Uber and Lyft immediately issued statements praising the vote.

“Lyft applauds Chairman Greg Steube and sponsor Sen. Jeff Brandes for guiding SB 340 to approval by the Senate Judiciary Committee,” said Chelsea Harrison, communications manager for Lyft.

“This is important legislation that brings Florida one step closer to a consistent statewide framework for innovative services like Lyft,” Harrison added. “Floridians want access to ridesharing, and we look forward to providing the state’s residents and visitors with a safe, reliable transportation option for many years to come.”

“Today’s unanimous vote on Senate Bill 340 by the Senate Committee on Judiciary is a positive indication that Florida lawmakers support the safety, economic, and mobility benefits that come from ridesharing services like Uber,” said Stephanie Smith, Uber’s senior manager for public policy. “We are grateful to all of the Senators who voted ‘yes’ on the bill, with special thanks to Sen. Jeff Brandes … who continues to be a champion for modern transportation options.”

During the past two sessions, the House had pushed similar bills, but the issue tangled up in the Senate, where former President Andy Gardiner wanted to address more narrow issues such as insurance requirements for ridesharing drivers. After Gardiner left office last fall, the way eased a bit in the Legislature’s upper body.

Safety Harbor Republican Chris Sprowls and Tampa Republican Jamie Grant are sponsoring the companion bill moving in the House (CS/HB 221).

House advances bill allowing FPL to charge customers for out-of-state speculative investments

State lawmakers advanced a proposal Tuesday to allow Florida Power & Light to charge customers for speculative oil and gas investments.

After two and a half hours of debate, the Florida House Subcommittee on Energy and Utilities approved HB 1043, sponsored by Sanford Republican Jason Brodeur. The measure would authorize the Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) to approve utilities with at least 65 percent natural gas-fueled generation to charge customers for “prudent” investments in gas reserves and associated expenses.

Brodeur’s proposal arrives nearly a year after the Florida Supreme Court reversed a PSC decision allowing the utility to charge ratepayers for a fracking venture in Oklahoma.

Sam Forest, vice president of energy marketing and trading at FPL, said it was an extraction process, not an exploratory process. He added that it was definitely not “cost-recovery,” the controversial 2006 law that allowed utilities to charge in advance to pay for nuclear power plants, even though some of those never came online.

“All of the expenses that we would put out for a natural gas reserves investment would be recovered as the gas begins to flow or as it’s used,” said Forest.

Eric Eisnaugle, the vice-chair of the committee who was running the meeting, challenged Forest on that point. “Are you saying that FPL wouldn’t be able to charge ratepayers until the gas is actually flowing into their homes?” he asked.

“We do earn a little bit upfront in terms of the investment that we have made,” Forest admitted. “But the vast majority of the costs don’t occur until the gas is actually flowing.”

Eisnaugle later voted against the bill.

It would also be the first time in the nation that a utility company would be allowed to shift the risk of an exploratory drilling to customers, instead of shareholders, without determining whether the investment is prudent.

Susan Glickman with the Southeast Alliance for Clean Energy asked if consumers should have to fund the drilling operation and also pay for the fuel, or just buy the fuel?

Environmental groups weren’t the only people opposing the bill.

“There’s no guarantee that this gas will always come back to Florida, and we’re the ones paying for it,” said Melissa Rhamba with the Florida Retail Federation.

Forest criticized opponents for using terms like “speculative” regarding the legislation, saying it reflects “a serious lack of understanding of the bill itself and the science behind it.”

However, that’s the phrase used by Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston in the court’s 6-1 ruling against FLP last June. “Treating these activities as a hedge requires FPL’s end-user consumers to guarantee the capital investment and operations of a speculative oil and gas venture without the Florida Legislature’s authority,” Polston wrote.

The Office of Public Counsel went to court to challenge the project. J.R. Kelly, from the Office of Public Counsel, said that there is always risk involved in such endeavors that FPL is requesting. “That was an issue that we raised quite vehemently three years ago to the Supreme Court.”

But at the end of the hearing, FPL won the day.

Sarasota Republican Joe Gruters was conflicted on whether to support the bill, but he said he was won over by the fact that FPL has lowered rates over the past decade.

Jacksonville Republican Jason Fisher, who used to work at FPL, said that with many of his constituents on fixed incomes, he thought the proposal was a good one since he believed it would bring rates down.

I don’t want to do anything that is speculative, especially with those on fixed incomes,” countered Boynton Beach Democrat Lori Berman in opposing the bill.

Fernandina Republican Aaron Bean is sponsoring the companion in the bill (SB 1238) in the Senate.


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