Terry Roen, Author at Florida Politics

Terry Roen

The youngest of seven children, Terry O. Roen followed two older brothers into journalism. Her career started as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel, where she wrote stories on city and county government, schools, courts and religion. She has also reported for the Associated Press, where she covered the Casey Anthony and Trayvon Martin trials along with the Pulse massacre. Married to her husband, Hal, they have two children and live in Winter Park. A lifelong tourist in her own state, she writes about Central Florida’s growing tourism industry for Florida Politics and Orlando Rising.

Rick Scott launches travel deals for Canadians

Gov. Rick Scott announced the kick-off Wednesday of a new discount program to lure Canadian visitors back to Florida.

The Canadian Power Play Program makes it more affordable for Canadian families to travel to the state through travel deals from Visit Florida partners offering 20 percent discounts at Florida hotels, attractions and car rentals. Canada Air is offering $40 off flights to Florida, if they are booked by Friday.

Visit Florida markets the state’s tourism industry.

“As Florida’s number one international tourist market, Canada is so important to Florida’s tourism industry and the 1.4 million jobs it supports for families across our state,” said Scott, who made the announcement with Visit Florida in Toronto as part of his tourism and trade mission to Canada. “We will keep working every day to attract 120 million visitors this year and make Florida the number one global destination.”

The announcement follows a decline of Canadian visitation to Florida in recent years and addresses concerns from Canadian families about the current exchange rate between the U.S. and Canada.

Canada remains Florida’s number one international market, with 3.3 million Canadians traveling to Florida in 2016, according to Visit Florida. Canadians account for 23 percent of Florida’s international visitors and spent $3.6 billion in the state last year.

About 40 percent of Florida’s Canadian visitors travel in the winter from January through March. The Canadian snowbirds stay longer and spend 1.9 times more per person than domestic visitors.

Ken Lawson, president and CEO of Visit Florida, said the marketing agency is “doubling down on our efforts to bring more Canadians to the Sunshine State. By allowing Canadian consumers to take advantage of discounts from our great partners, we are making it easier than ever for them to book a trip to Florida.”

Twenty-six Florida businesses and tourism partners will be participating in the Canadian Power Play Program.

For a list of travel deals for Canadians, go to:  LoveFlorida.ca.

Say it isn’t so: Pluto no longer ‘top dog’ at Disney?

Don’t worry: Pluto is still the main canine at Walt Disney World Resort—but he won’t be the only dog.

The theme park will welcome dogs to four hotels for the first time ever beginning Sunday.

Dog lovers will find plenty of Disney perks for their four-legged friends. At check-in, dog owners will receive Pluto’s Welcome Kit, which includes a mat, bowls, a pet ID tag, disposable bags, puppy pads and dog walking maps. The kit also includes a Pluto “Do Not Disturb” door hanger to let hotel staff know that a pet is in the room.

Disney has partnered with Best Friends Pet Care, an on-property, full-service facility that can provide pet daycare and other pet services, for a fee.

Guests will also be able to purchase pet merchandise at the pet-friendly resorts.

Here are a list of the hotels and the per night/per room pet-cleaning rates:

Disney’s Art of Animation Resort — $50

Disney’s Port Orleans Riverside Resort — $50

Disney’s Yacht Club Resort — $75

Cabins at Disney’s Ft. Wilderness Resort — $50

A maximum of two dogs per room are allowed. Each guest room will have access to outdoor pet walkways for exercise and green spaces with pet relief areas.

A caveat: While dogs will be allowed to stay in guest rooms, they will be expected to be well behaved, leashed in public resort areas and properly vaccinated.

Visit Florida steps up efforts to woo visitors back

Visit Florida announced Thursday it is doubling down on its efforts to show visitors across the world that Florida is open for business.

The state’s marketing agency will start the second phase of its post-Irma marketing campaign to ensure visitors see for themselves that the state’s destinations are ready to welcome back visitors.

The second phase will consist of TV broadcast, print, transit and digital billboard ads that will be seen in Florida’s top markets of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

This effort comes on the heels of a successful phase one of the campaign, in which over 4.9 million people viewed Visit Florida’s Facebook Live videos.

Visit Florida is spending a total of $5 million to market Florida tourist attractions following Hurricane Irma, which caused major destruction throughout the state last month.

Digital billboards will feature Visit Florida’s ads in the additional markets of Baltimore, Birmingham, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Greenville/Spartanburg, Houston, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans and Raleigh. The ads will also be seen on digital screens and billboards in New York City’s iconic Nasdaq Tower and the Thomson Reuter sign in Times Square.

The television ads, which will run Oct. 16 through Nov. 26, feature images of Florida destinations taken since the storm.

Visit Florida President & CEO Ken Lawson said the ads encourage visitors to find their “moment of sunshine.”

“This phase will transition directly into our winter campaign and take full advantage of those making travel decisions for the late fall and winter seasons,” Lawson said. “We are continuing to allow visitors to see for themselves that Florida is still the number one global destination as we work towards our goal of 120 million visitors this year.”

Just days after the storm, Visit Florida sent video crews to destinations around the state to live stream on its Facebook page from tourism businesses that were able to reopen quickly. Last week, crews also streamed from locations throughout the Florida Keys, showcasing the areas that were ready to welcome back visitors.

Visit Florida has also reached out to domestic and international tour operators and meeting professionals in core markets to manage any misperceptions of damage to destinations and encourage the continuation of bookings to the state.

The most recent element of phase one efforts is a partnership with Delta Air Lines to offer discounted flights to Florida destinations that was announced last week and continues through today.



Pam Bondi urges collaboration at human trafficking summit

State Attorney General Pam Bondi stressed the importance of global collaboration to end sexual slavery during opening remarks at Florida’s Human Trafficking Summit Monday in Orlando.

“If we don’t tackle this worldwide, we’ll never solve the problem,” Bondi said. “This is a transnational crime and a worldwide problem.”

Bondi spoke to an audience of more than 500 attendees that included law enforcement, service providers, human trafficking survivors, health care professionals, educators, legislators and community leaders during the Summit at the Rosen Centre Hotel.

The summit began with Bondi asking for a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting massacre in Las Vegas.

“We’ve already reached out, my office, our victims’ advocates … to Nevada already, to offer our services, our advocates,” she said. “I know many of you have large organizations, if you want to reach out with your assistance, I know that would be greatly appreciated in Nevada right now, because we sadly know how to deal with rapid response after Pulse nightclub.”

Bondi urged corporations, businesses, hospitals and schools to train their employees and students about how to recognize human trafficking. She pointed to an Uber driver that noticed in his rearview mirror that an older man and young girl did not look right. His call to law enforcement ended a human trafficking ring, she said. Now, Uber is training its 40,000 drivers on the signs of sexual coercion and abuse.

Hollywood has glamorized prostitution and kidnapping in movies like “Taken,” Bondi said.

“Unfortunately, the father doesn’t come in and save the child at the end of the day,” she said. “Your child can be sitting at the dinner table every night and be a victim of human trafficking.”

The state attorney said community leaders are committed to making Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking. She said the practice is directly related to opioid addiction and that’s how traffickers get children and teens hooked into slavery. Florida is working with officials in Mexico and Africa to help come up with solutions to both drug and human trafficking, she added.

Opportunities for collaboration during breakout sessions at the daylong summit will allow Florida to continue working to protect victims, prevent trafficking and prosecute traffickers.

Academy award-winning actress Anne Archer also spoke Monday. The “Fatal Attraction” star founded Artists for Human Rights in 2006 to encourage filmmakers to create content on human rights abuses.

There’s an estimated 21 to 46 million slaves worldwide and the slave trade generates $19 billion — more than Nike, Google and Starbucks earnings combined,” Archer said. “Gangs and organized crime run human trafficking rings because selling people is easier and safer than running guns and drugs and the penalties are less severe. It’s a low-risk, high-reward market. If we stop the buyers, the whole predatory industry collapses.”

Archer said the typical portrayal of sex by Hollywood has implied the sex industry is empowering for young women.

“The reality is far darker than the images you see on screen,” Archer said. “Teenagers and children are being bought and sold online like a used bike or iPhone.”

Along with the attorney general’s office, the Summit is also sponsored by the Statewide Council on Human Trafficking, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, the Florida Department of Children and Families and the University of Central Florida.

Bondi presented the following awards at the summit:

Misty Laperriere, Survivor Advocate of the Year—Laperriere is the Director of Outreach and Law Enforcement Liaison for Selah Freedom and a survivor of human trafficking. In 2016, Laperriere assisted the Sarasota Police Department in rescuing two women from a local hotel. In addition to her work with victims, Laperriere provides training to several law enforcement agencies in Florida including the Sarasota and Bradenton Police Departments and travels throughout the state helping victims of human trafficking. Additionally, Laperriere implemented Florida’s first prostitution diversion court program called Turn Your Life Around.

-Heidi Schaeffer, Community Advocate of the Year—As executive board member and coalition communications specialist for the Broward Human Trafficking Coalition, Schaeffer has spoken to several news organizations about human trafficking and how citizens can help. She trained teachers and students at Palm Beach County schools on human trafficking indicators. She also worked closely with deans, professors, and students to help incorporate human trafficking instruction into medical school curriculum and developed a clinical training video and multiple live presentations for Baptist and South Miami Hospitals.

-Lisa Haba, Prosecutor of the Year—Haba is an assistant state attorney in 18th Judicial Circuit Court. Haba works in the office’s sex crimes and child abuse division, prosecuting cases involving human trafficking and crimes against children. Last year, Haba successfully prosecuted the first human trafficking case in Seminole County. Haba also sits on the board of directors of The Lifeboat Project, a human trafficking nonprofit. Haba is a member of the Seminole County Human Trafficking Task Force and teaches the community, law enforcement officers and deputies about human trafficking.

Corporal Alan Wilkett, Law Enforcement Official of the Year—Corporal Wilkett led the Pasco County Human Trafficking Task Force on several sweeps and trained more than 2,000 community members through the Pasco County Commission on Human Trafficking. Corporal Wilkett actively works with local government offices, local healthcare provider Baycare, the local community and non-profit organizations like Bridging Freedom, where he serves as a board member. 

Additionally, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice awarded Christopher Massey Human Trafficking Advocate of The Year. Massey chairs the Education and Awareness sub-committee for the Freedom 7 Human Trafficking Task Force. Since January 2016, as Chair, Massey trained and educated almost 5,000 individuals about human trafficking.


Governor sends National Guard to help Keys residents

Gov. Rick Scott activated 400 members of the Florida National Guard Monday to help Key West residents remove debris and clean out flood damage.

Scott said the activation will help “families get into their homes faster so they can make needed repairs and get back to their normal lives.”

“We know the Florida Keys were hit especially hard by Hurricane Irma this month, and have been working nonstop to get the Florida Keys back open,” Scott said in the statement.

The activation came the same day as Rep. Robert Asencio and State Senators Victor Torres, Jr. and Jose Javier Rodriguez sent a letter to the governor requesting he authorize the Florida National Guard to deliver food, medicine, gas and water to help Americans living on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Puerto Rico “is currently without any functioning public utility services, has virtually no communications network and limited available resources are quickly diminishing,” the congressmen’s letter said. “Additionally, the U.S. Virgin Islands received destructive impacts from by both Hurricanes Irma and Maria.”

The congressmen said they expect many residents of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to seek shelter with family and friends living in the Florida.

“We desire to make appropriate preparations in anticipation of the additional requirements to Florida’s public health services and education sectors, rising demands for both temporary and permanent housing and transitional services for professional and skilled workers to achieve employment resulting from this increased Puerto Rican migration,” according to the letter.

Scott has contacted Puerto Rico’s Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, telling him Florida stands ready to offer assistance.

“We are coordinating closely with our federal and state partners and when a request is made to Florida through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, we will aggressively work to help our friends in Puerto Rico,” said Kerri Wyland, a spokesperson for the governor.  “All state resources are that are not responding to Hurricane Irma recovery are on standby. Florida knows firsthand how important it is to share resources with our neighbors during these disasters and we will provide whatever we can to help families in Puerto Rico rebuild.”

Anna Eskamani

Anna Eskamani adds two more influential endorsements

Democratic candidate for Florida House District 47 Anna Eskamani received the endorsements of two longtime Orange County School Board Members, just days before launching a door-to-door campaign to garner votes.

The political novice, who has raised more than $100,000 from 700 plus donors, added the endorsements of school board members, Daryl Flynn of District 2 and Kat Gordon of District 5. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto and State Sen. Victor Torres also endorsed Eskamani, senior director for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.

“I’ve always been impressed with Anna’s professionalism, strength of character and strong leadership ability,” Flynn said. “I’m confident she will listen closely to the constituents of District 47 and work hard to address their concerns in Tallahassee.”

A product of Orange County Public Schools, Eskamani attended Bonneville Elementary School, Corner Lake Middle School, and University High School. She has challenged HB 7069, an education bill that she claims gives charter schools an unfair advantage over traditional public schools.

“I am who I am today because of Orange County Public Schools,” Eskamani said. “I believe that all students have a right to a high-quality education that prepares them to succeed in a global economy. The endorsement and trust of school board members Daryl Flynn and Kat Gordon speaks volumes, and voters can count on me to protect our public schools while pushing back against a dangerous agenda designed to privatize our educational system while benefiting politicians.”

The 27-year-old candidate will host a Canvass Kickoff at 10 a.m. Saturday by knocking on doors throughout District 47.  The canvassing begins at CREDO Conduit, 1001 N. Orange Ave., Orlando.

Politicians offer support after Hurricane Maria

Politicians released statements Thursday urging support for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Caribbean countries following the devastation left by Hurricane Maria.

Gov. Rick Scott said he called the governors of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands offering support and anything they need.

“Our hearts go out to them and they are in our prayers,” said the governor at a stop Thursday to thank Seminole County first responders for their service during Hurricane Irma.

U.S. Rep. Darren Soto also contacted Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s office and offered to lend federal recovery resources.

“It is heartbreaking seeing the damage Hurricane Maria caused our neighbors, including widespread flooding, destruction of infrastructure and wiping out electricity in all of Puerto Rico,” said Soto, whose father was born in Puerto Rico.

During a FEMA visit in Jacksonville Wednesday, Soto spoke with Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen about gathering support for Puerto Rico in the FEMA supplemental package. Soto said he will write a letter to the United States Department of Homeland Security requesting additional support to ensure the island has sufficient funding to handle the crisis.

“In the short-term, we need to make sure that FEMA is prepared to address the Island’s immediate needs, such as supplying food, water, and medical supplies to all citizens,” he said in a statement released Thursday. “As we reflect on how to better prepare for future natural disasters, we need to improve both Florida’s and Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure by moving more power lines underground and replacing wooden poles with cement pylons where appropriate. Let’s make strategic, sustainable investments so we can be ready for the next storm.”

The congressman plans to visit Puerto Rico in the next few weeks to assess the damage and recovery efforts on the island.

“The devastation in Puerto Rico and its Caribbean neighbors is heart wrenching and catastrophic,” said State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who is working with community organizations to mobilize funds and supplies to those most in need in Puerto Rico. “What is important for Floridians to know is that now is the time to step up and help our fellow Americans on the island.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham wrote to Florida’s two senators and twenty-seven congressional representatives asking them to support relief and recovery funding for fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help the islands rebuild after hurricanes Irma and Maria.

“Just as we helped our neighbors in Florida, we must now stand with our neighbors in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands, who just days after enduring Hurricane Irma, have been hit by Hurricane Maria, another devastating storm,” Graham wrote in her statement.

Rick Scott gets personal by showing gratitude to first responders

Gov. Rick Scott stopped in Sanford Thursday to thank first responders for their sacrifices and service during Hurricane Irma.

The blue-jeaned governor wore his Navy baseball cap and made the visit personal with handshakes and selfies, while sharing stories of how his 4- and 5-year-old grandsons want to be a firefighter and a police officer or a paratrooper.

“You really make a difference every day by keeping people alive and safe,” Scott told some of the 1,400 first responders who represented eight police departments and six fire departments in Seminole County. “You make the state better by giving people the opportunity to live their dreams.”

As a token of appreciation, he told the first responders they could fish in Florida’s fresh and salt waters for free through June 30th and each would receive a pass to get into any of the 167 state parks.

The governor praised all those who participated in rescues, storm cleanup, and shelter operations. He said he was astounded by the 37,000 volunteers who signed up in two days to help the Red Cross, after he issued a plea for 17,000 volunteers.

The governor said he wants to concentrate on cleaning debris throughout the state before another storm hits. Also, he pointed to the urgency of his emergency order to require nursing homes be equipped with generators and fuel to power air conditioners when the electricity fails.

Under the emergency rules, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities would have 45 days to submit plans that would include acquiring generators to ensure temperatures could be maintained at 80 degrees or cooler for 96 hours after losing electricity. Nursing homes and assisted-living facilities would have to carry out the plans within 60 days.

The order follows the deaths of eight seniors at The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, following the power outage caused by the storm.

“We don’t want another disaster,” he said.

Seminole County Sheriff Dennis Lemma praised the men and women who left their families to make sure other families were safe.

“When the bell rang, you showed up before, during, and after the storm,” said Lemma, who slept on the floor of his office for five days with his wife and 8- and 13-year old children. “I’ve never felt any better than in times like this when we perform at our best.”

Visit Florida unveils campaign to bring tourists back

Visit Florida has launched an aggressive month-long marketing campaign to entice tourists back to the Sunshine State.

Gov. Rick Scott announced that the multi-phased campaign will be paid for with existing Visit Florida funding and include digital, social, broadcast and traditional marketing methods in both domestic and international markets.

The marketing push starts this week and leads up to the beginning of Visit Florida’s traditional winter campaign.

The Keys, which took the brunt of damages from Hurricane Irma, will be a major focus of the marketing drive once tourism officials there indicate they are ready to welcome visitors back, according to a Visit Florida press

The campaign showcases sunshine, blue skies and good times at more than 12,000 tourism-related businesses across the state, said Ken Lawson, president and CEO of Visit Florida.

“Following Hurricane Irma, it’s more important than ever for us to spread the word that the coast is clear and the Sunshine State is open for business,” Lawson said. “I want to thank Governor Scott for his leadership as we work to let the world know that Florida is still the number one place to visit.”

The first phase of the campaign will include sharing content on social media as local tourism councils post messages after Irma.

Video broadcasts started Monday on Facebook with live shots showing Daytona, Clearwater and Fort Walton beaches ready for tourists. Visit Florida will also sponsor social media efforts to encourage state-wide usage of #LoveFL by Florida residents.

Florida tourism officials will work with international tour operators in core markets to manage any misperceptions of damage and encourage continuation of bookings, especially in the high-booking month of October.

Phase two of the plan will focus on heavier, more traditional advertising tactics to keep Florida top of mind as the top global destination. It will include launching a multi-channel, paid-media campaign with billboards, digital transportation banners, social, online travel agencies, promotions, broadcast, YouTube and a co-branded media partnership.

The state’s marketing agency will also increase its “Share a Little Sunshine” advocacy program to connect with local Instagram communities to create InstaMeets across the state, in which Instagrammers meet up to take photos and videos that they share in a branded effort.


Disney discrimination suit headed to Florida court

The lawyer representing 30 ousted Disney IT workers has filed a motion to pull the federal lawsuit alleging the theme park giant misused the H-1B visa program and plans to refile it in state court.

Sarasota Attorney Sara Blackwell said Tuesday that she is seeking the best route to penalize Disney for firing 250 American workers and hiring 250 Indian nationals to take their jobs.

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts asked a federal judge to dismiss the suit in February, saying the suit failed to state claims of intentional discrimination and that employees were hired by commercial vendors, not Disney.

The Disney workers were forced to train their replacements before leaving and filed severance documents agreeing not to talk about their dismissals, according to Blackwell.

“This is not just at Disney but it’s happening all over the country,” Blackwell said. “We will not stop fighting. It’s the CEOs and executives who are doing wrong by paying foreigners less in wages. They’re all using the same business models.”

Companies have used H-1B visas to save money by hiring foreign employees who work for less pay and no benefits. The visas allow employers to temporarily hire foreign workers in specialty occupations.

Blackwell said IT employees are losing their jobs at Toys R Us, Carnival Cruise Line, Emblem Health, Saks Fifth Avenue and McDonald’s. She added that Equifax and Target, which also hired Indian workers at cheaper pay, had “huge breaches in security.”

“This is not about being anti-immigration or racist, it’s about fairness and not exploiting workers,” said the attorney who founded the Blackwell Firm and Protect US Workers.

The lawsuit claims Disney “acted with malice and reckless disregard” when the company laid off 250 employees in October 2014 after outsourcing some of its information technology functions to an Indian vendor.


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