Jim Rosica, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 186

Jim Rosica

Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.

Daphne Campbell appointed chair of Haitian Temporary Relief Task Force

State Sen. Daphne Campbell has been appointed Chair of the Haitian Temporary Relief Task Force.

The Miami Democrat, elected to the Senate last year after serving six years in the House, announced the appointment Monday. It was made by state Rep. Kionne McGhee, a Democrat who leads the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation.

The task force is an organization formed to “advocate on behalf of tens of thousands of Haitian refugees in Florida who fled their native country but now face deportation in the near future,” according to a Senate Democratic Caucus news release.

Campbell seeks for “Haitians and other refugees (to) receive permanent residence,” she said.

“Her selection comes on the heels of the decision rendered by the Trump Administration last month regarding Haiti’s Temporary Protected Status,” it adds.

Such status is a “form of temporary permission” to be in the United States, shielding Haitian nationals from deportation, The Washington Post explained.

“Since the 2010 earthquake, the number of displaced people in Haiti has decreased by 97 percent,” the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement.

“Significant steps have been taken to improve the stability and quality of life for Haitian citizens, and Haiti is able to safely receive traditional levels of returned citizens,” it said. “Haiti has also demonstrated a commitment to adequately prepare for when the country’s TPS designation is terminated.”

Campbell — born in Cap-Haïtien, Haiti, and moved to Florida in 1981 — has filed nonbinding legislation urging the feds to continue the status and she met with a host of appointed and elected federal officials.

“Campbell advocated that Haiti TPS be extended for an additional 18 months as it was scheduled to expire on January 22, 2018, causing some 60,000 Haitians to be forcibly returned back to Haiti,” the release said.

“Despite multiple campaign promises that he would be their ‘biggest champion,’ President Trump’s administration agreed to allow them to remain in the (United States) only until July 22, 2019.”

Personnel note: Nicole Hagerty on board at FRSCC

Nicole Hagerty is joining the 2018 Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee’s (FRSCC) in-house Finance Team as Director of Finance, Senate President-designate Bill Galvano said in an email.

The FRSCC is the main fundraising panel supporting GOP state Senate campaigns.

Also, Kelly Schmidt is becoming Deputy Director of Finance and Matthew Yost will be Director of Member Fundraising, Galvano said.

They will work with Nancy Ann Texeira, the Campaign Committee’s chief fundraising consultant.

“Individually, these team members have all been key to the successes of our caucus,” said Galvano, a Bradenton Republican expected to head the chamber in 2018-20. “I know that together they will ensure FRSCC will continue to be successful. I am very confident in the great team we have assembled.”

Hagerty began with FRSCC under Senate President Don Gaetz and continued as Deputy Finance Director under Senate President Andy Gardiner, he added.

“During the 2016 cycle, Nicole transitioned to Innovate Florida, where she ran a successful member fundraising operation and has continued raising resources for the caucus,” Galvano said. Innovate Florida is Galvano’s political committee.

Schmidt “first arrived at FRSCC as a college intern and quickly proved herself to be a valuable and trusted member of the team. Kelly was first named FRSCC Deputy Director of Finance under Senate President Joe Negron.”

Yost “previously served in several roles at Innovate Florida for nearly two years prior to joining FRSCC’s finance team,” Galvano said. “He worked as a legislative assistant in the Florida House and managed a successful re-election campaign.”

Bill tweaks state law on theme parks’ ‘lost and found’

A change to the state’s “lost and found” law could help needy Floridians, its sponsor says.

State Rep. Bobby Olszewski, a Winter Garden Republican, filed a bill (HB 851) to allow “lost or abandoned personal property” at a “theme park or entertainment complex” to be donated to charity.

Specifically, his measure—which also includes zoos, museums and aquariums—allows the facilities to give unclaimed items to “a charitable institution” without having to first turn them over to law enforcement, he says.

And there’s lots of stuff.

“There’s rooms and rooms, I mean warehouse-sized spaces, to store this stuff,” Olszewski said in a phone interview. “This is an opportunity to do some good for needy families.”

His bill requires theme parks and others to hold on to items for at least 30 days, but they can store them longer if they choose.

And those who go back to look for lost watches, wallets and other belongings still have time to get them back.

“The rightful owner of the property may reclaim the property at any time before the disposition, sale, or donation of the property in accordance with this section and the established policies and procedures of the facility operator,” the bill says.

The 2018 Legislative Session begins Jan. 9.

Text messages: Jack Latvala accuser dreamed of him as younger, skinnier

More text messages from the Senate staffer accusing Sen. Jack Latvala of sexual misconduct show her describing her dream of a younger, thinner Latvala and calling him “mo betta.”

The exchange between Rachel Perrin Rogers, top aide to Trilby Republican and future Senate President Wilton Simpson, and Lillian Tysinger, then a Senate Republican Office legislative analyst, was obtained by Florida Politics on Friday afternoon.

“All I can tell you is, I would question their veracity in light of the person that they came from,” said Perrin Rogers’ attorney, Tiffany R. Cruz, when asked for comment.

Later, she texted a reporter, “Florida Politics has printed false information. Lily Tysinger does not work in the Senate Majority Office. She was removed because she was incapable of telling the truth.”

The 35-year-old Perrin Rogers is one of six women to tell POLITICO Florida they were groped or otherwise sexually harassed by Latvala,  a Clearwater Republican who has repeatedly denied the claims and continues to campaign for governor. Perrin Rogers also has filed a sworn complaint with the Senate Rules Committee.

In the undated virtual conversation, which Tysinger certified under “penalties of perjury,” Perrin Rogers asked her if she had told Latvala about “our messiness.”

“I sort of mean our friendship but messiness seems like a good way of putting it,” she wrote. (It’s not entirely clear whether Perrin Rogers is referring to her and Latvala, or her and Tysinger.)

“Flashback,” Perrin Rogers continued. “Last night Latvala was in my dream. He lost over 100 lbs.” Tysinger responded, “Oh wow.”

“He also had dark hair. It was like his official Senate photo came to life,” Perrin Rogers wrote.

“Oh that’s creepy,” Tysinger replied.

“When are you coming back? Have we lost you to Jack forevvvverrr,” Perrin Rogers wrote.

“Saturday. Lol,” Tysinger said.

“What are you doing tomorrow? I wish we would. He’s mo betta,” Perrin Rogers said.

Previously released messages between Perrin Rogers and Latvala on Wednesday show a friendly relationship between the two throughout the last Legislative Session. They include a meme, and a text saying “Smile, somebody loves you!” followed by a heart emoji.

Cruz has previously said any texts her client sent to Latvala were “an effort to accomplish one goal: Garner his support for Sen. Simpson and his agenda.”

While these text messages are surfacing, the state’s executive cabinet has made a point of distancing itself from the Clearwater Republican.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis was the last to disavow the ongoing investigation, telling POLITICO Friday he’s “disappointed in this entire situation.”

Gov. Rick Scott and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam have made similar remarks distancing themselves from the suspended Senate budget chief.

Attorney General Pam Bondi said on Friday her “heart breaks” for the alleged victims.

Capital correspondent Ana Ceballos contributed to this post. 

Greyhound racing ban clears first CRC committee

A proposed constitutional amendment to end greyhound racing in the state unanimously cleared its first committee Thursday.

That was right after its sponsor, Commissioner Tom Lee, delivered a fiery speech on the power of—and oncoming peril to—his proposal. Mira, a 7-year-old greyhound and former racing dog, lay a few feet away.

“You haven’t heard from the industry today,” he told the Constitution Revision Commission‘s General Provisions Committee. “And that too should be a lesson. They’re not here because they knew they could not win today. But they’re not gone. They operate in the shadows.

“And you will see exactly why this hasn’t gotten done in the Legislature,” added Lee, a Republican state senator from Thonotosassa and former Senate President.

“They will find a moment when they see a crack in the armor of what we are trying to do, and then they will emerge. And they will emerge in full force.”

Lee’s plan to put a stop to dog racing also was amended by the committee to take effect only one year after passage, rather than the three-year phase out Lee envisioned.

Jack Cory, a spokesman and lobbyist for the Florida Greyhound Association, which represents breeders and trainers, penned an op-ed against the proposal for Florida Politics.

On Thursday, he added Lee’s plan will “result in the largest expansion of gambling in Florida’s history … it would convert all of Florida’s dog tracks into mini-casinos, which was amended on to this very bad proposal.”

Those in support “have listened to very radical out of state animal rights groups and their misinformed supporters,” Cory said in a statement.

The amendment would hurt the “over 3,000 Florida families” in the dog breeding and training business, and “supporters that bet over $80 million on live greyhound racing last year.”

But greyhound advocates told stories of dogs forced to lie in cages for 20-22 hours a day and fed meat treated with charcoal because it was otherwise “unfit for human consumption.”

Kelly Faircloth, with Greyhound Rescue & Adoptions of Tampa Bay, told commissioners she has seen some animals covered in hundreds of fleas, so many that they look like “a shadow moving on the side of a dog.”

Bryan Wilson, who worked on a campaign to pass Seminole County’s greyhound injury reporting ordinance, began weeping as he testified.

“This has to go to the people,” he said. “… This is a game played too often, but it’s a game that affects lives.” He paused, choking up. “It is emotional. Those faces need it,” Wilson added, pointing to a picture of a dog.

And Kate MacFall, Florida state director of The Humane Society of the United States, said commissioners needed to vote against “business as usual for the tracks,” saying Florida should get “out of the business of animal cruelty.”

The amendment adopted Thursday, filed by proposal co-sponsor Brecht Heuchan, also ensures that dog tracks offering other gambling, such as cards, won’t lose their ability to keep offering those games if dog racing is banned.

Lee’s measure next will be considered by the commission’s Executive Committee. Any proposal to change the state constitution must be approved by 60 percent of voters on the 2018 statewide ballot.

Brecht Heuchan says ethics complaint is part of ‘smear campaign

A member of the Constitution Revision Commission says he’s become the victim of a “smear campaign” after proposing a constitutional amendment creating a “bill of rights” for nursing home and assisted living facility residents.

On Wednesday, Conwell Hooper, head of an Atlanta-based group called the American Senior Alliance, issued a press release that he had filed a state ethics complaint against Commissioner Brecht Heuchan for filing a “special interest proposal designed to boost the bottom line of one law firm.”

Complaints filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics are confidential and exempt from public record disclosure until there’s been some initial determination as to their merit.

But Hooper explained that Heuchan “is a paid, registered lobbyist for Wilkes & McHugh, a law firm that specializes in personal injury cases against nursing homes.”

Heuchan, an appointee and ally of Gov. Rick Scott, is a lobbyist and political consultant, and founder of Contribution Link, a political data analytics firm. 

His proposal came after a South Florida nursing home lost air conditioning during Hurricane Irma. Up to 14 residents later died, with 12 of those having been ruled homicides by the Broward County Medical Examiner.

Heuchan’s amendment “would make it far easier for law firms to sue nursing homes, revoking provisions of a law enacted in 2014 over Mr. Heuchan’s objections on behalf of his client Wilkes & McHugh,” Hooper said. 

Moreover, “several provisions of Mr. Heuchan’s proposal mirrors policy positions advocated by Wilkes & McHugh … This is as clear-cut a conflict of interest as one is likely to find,” he added.

On Wednesday evening, Heuchan shot back: “This out-of-state organization appears to be a shill for whatever industry is paying him. It takes some nerve to call into question my intentions and integrity when (Hooper) holds himself out to be something he is not.”

Heuchan suggested American Senior Alliance is what’s known as an Astroturf group working with the Florida Health Care Association, a nursing-home advocacy group that has slammed his proposal.

Its head, Emmett Reed, has similarly criticized Heuchan: “A professional lobbyist representing trial attorneys has ignored his broader obligations in order to serve the narrow interest of his clients. The proposed amendment is an egregious governmental overstep, one that overreaches to a monumental extent.”

American Senior Alliance is listed as an “associate member” of the Florida Health Care Association, according to its website.

The Alliance “is known for its consistent advocacy for seniors, including the quality of nursing center care in Florida, so it’s no surprise to us that they have taken an interest in this issue,” said FHCA spokeswoman Kristen Knapp.

“We have had discussions with Mr. Hooper about our mutual concerns regarding this proposal, which we don’t believe belongs in the state Constitution,” she said in an email. “It adds nothing to residents’ quality of life. We believe the organization is raising valid concerns and (we) will be following this closely.”

Still, Heuchan called the ethics complaint a “typical Tallahassee tactic: When you can’t win on the merits, attack the proposer. Oldest trick in the book.”

Barbara Pariente to stay on Rick Scott judicial appointments case

The “hot mic” has gone cold.

In a one-sentence order, the Florida Supreme Court denied Gov. Rick Scott’s request to disqualify Justice Barbara Pariente from a pending case over his judicial appointment power.

“The respondent’s motion to disqualify Justice Pariente is hereby denied,” it said, without elaboration.

Scott “expects all judges to be fair and impartial,” Scott spokesman John Tupps said in a statement.

“It is disappointing that today’s decision was made without providing any plausible justification or explanation for Justice Pariente’s comments,” he added. “Given the gravity of this case, Floridians deserve better.”

The governor’s request stemmed from a conversation between Pariente and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga that was caught on a ‘hot mic’ immediately after a Nov. 1 oral argument in the case.

The League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause Florida are challenging Scott’s authority to appoint three new Supreme Court justices on the last day of his term in 2019.

They say he can’t name successors to the court’s liberal-leaning triumvirate of Justices Pariente, Peggy A. Quince and R. Fred Lewis — only the governor elected after Scott can.

Moments after the argument ended, Labarga can be heard on a video of the courtroom saying what sounds like, “…anything on there, Panuccio.”

Jesse Panuccio, once Scott’s general counsel and a former head of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, is a member of the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission.

Pariente then can be heard saying what sounds like “crazy.”

Scott’s filing said that was “an apparent reference either to Gov. Scott or to (his) appointees to the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission—the constitutional body that will be responsible for nominating her successor.”

The groups had responded Tuesday there was “no there there” in Scott’s complaint, saying the conversational fragments that can be made out don’t paint a picture of “bias or prejudice.”

In fact, they said, “it is simply impossible to tell what the remark referenced.”

As is its usual practice, the court has not signaled when it will rule.

Constitutional change on candidate residency OK’d by panel

Candidates for legislative office would have to live in their districts when they qualify to run under a constitutional change cleared Wednesday.

The Constitution Revision Commission‘s Legislative Committee OK’d the proposal (P50), filed by Commissioner and former state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, unanimously and without debate. Diaz also chairs the committee.

The constitution now says a legislator has to be “an elector and resident of the district from which elected and shall have resided in the state for a period of two years prior to election.”

Courts have interpreted that to mean living in a district at the time of election.

Diaz’s proposal says “each candidate for the legislature shall, at the time he or she qualifies, be a resident of the district from which the candidate seeks election, except at the election next following a reapportionment.”

The difference between the two dates, which Diaz says isn’t burdensome, is about 4 ½ months. So why bother?

“Because it’s important for the purity of the election,” he told Florida Politics after Wednesday’s committee hearing. “People have run for districts that are way outside of their county just to play spoiler. I had that happen to me.”

But Diaz, a Miami-Dade Republican who left the House after nearly seven years to run unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat this year, said he wasn’t motivated to file the constitutional amendment by the Daisy Baez controversy.

Baez, a former House member from Coral Gables, quit her District 114 seat as part of a plea deal. She was charged with misdemeanor perjury for lying about her address on a voter-registration form.

That cut short the Republican-controlled House’s plans to put her on trial for breaking its own internal rules on member residency.

Baez, a Democrat, was elected last year to represent House District 114, but questions soon arose whether she really lived in the neighboring District 112, represented by Democrat Nicholas Duran.

“This has nothing to do” with that, Diaz said. “She didn’t reside in her district at qualifying or at election.”

His proposal now moves to the full commission for consideration. If approved, it will go on the 2018 statewide ballot, where it must be OK’d by 60 percent to be added to the state constitution.

Voting restoration amendment has 900,000 signatures

The main backer of a proposed constitutional amendment that would automatically restore some felons’ voting rights after they complete their sentences told Florida Politics his effort now has collected over 900,000 signatures.

“Knowing that we set the goal of collecting 1 million, the fact that we are less than 100,000 petitions away from our goal is an amazing attestation to the growing energy, excitement, and support around second chances,” said Desmond Meade, chair of Floridians for Fair Democracy and president of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, in a Tuesday email.

The Florida Division of Elections website showed as of the end of Tuesday that the citizen ballot initiative, known as “The Voting Restoration Amendment,” has 442,969 verified signatures.

Initiatives need 766,200 valid signatures for ballot placement. Signatures must be spread across Florida’s 27 congressional districts, with the total number due pegged to voter turnout in the most recent presidential election.

According to the ballot summary, “This amendment restores the voting rights of Floridians with felony convictions after they complete all terms of their sentence including parole or probation.

“The amendment would not apply to those convicted of murder or sexual offenses, who would continue to be permanently barred from voting unless the Governor and Cabinet vote to restore their voting rights on a case by case basis.”

Former state Senate Democratic Leaders Arthenia Joyner of Tampa and Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale separately filed the proposal with the Constitution Revision Commission, which has the power to put it directly on the ballot.

During his term as Florida governor, then-Republican Charlie Crist worked with Cabinet members Alex Sink and Charles Bronson to push through restoration of rights for more than 150,000 non-violent felons. That process was quickly halted by Gov. Rick Scott when he took office in 2011.

Current law requires Florida convicts to wait years after they complete their sentences to apply for rights restoration through the Board of Executive Clemency, made up of Scott and members of the Cabinet.

“This news has increased my level of excitement about what’s happening in Florida, and it has definitely increased my confidence that the desire of Florida voters to have this issue on the ballot will become a reality,” Meade said. “In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I am extremely thankful for the tremendous efforts of the grassroots, and the diversity of the growing support to this campaign.”

Flags at half-staff for Jefferson County Sheriff David Hobbs

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday announced he had ordered flags at half-staff to honor the late David Hobbs, Sheriff of Jefferson County in north Florida.

Hobbs, who had cancer, died after being hospitalized Monday. He was 58.

According to a news obituary in the Tallahassee Democrat, he was elected sheriff in 2004 after serving as a Florida Highway Patrol trooper, Jefferson County sheriff’s deputy and in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Monticello, the Jefferson County seat, is about 30 miles east of Tallahassee.

Scott ordered the state and U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff at the Jefferson County Courthouse, Monticello City Hall, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the Capitol in Tallahassee from sunrise to sunset this Saturday.

“Ann and I are saddened by the passing of Sheriff Hobbs,” Scott said in a statement. “He dedicated his life to serving our country in the military and the families of Jefferson County as Sheriff.

“We honor his service and all law enforcement officers for risking their lives to keep others safe,” he added. “I have spoken with his wife Brenda to let her know that our thoughts and prayers are with their loved ones during this difficult time.”

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