Jim Rosica, Author at Florida Politics - Page 4 of 171

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.

UberEATS launches Thursday in Tallahassee

Uber, the online ride-booking company, is expanding its UberEATS on-demand food delivery service to the state’s capital starting Thursday.

J.P. Restrepo, general manager for UberEATS in Florida, said Tallahassee is the fifth city to come online in the state, after Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and Gainesville, another college town. It’s also available in 100 cities around the world.

In Tallahassee, the service goes live at 11 a.m., with about 60 restaurants signed up, he said in a Wednesday interview. The UberEATS app, available for download now, will link to a user’s existing Uber account.

“It’s a very interesting combination of small places and chains that people know and like,” Restrepo told Florida Politics. “This is a convenient way for people to get delivery to their office or their house, to get food when they want it, where they want it.”

Noteworthy local eateries include Madison Social, Centrale, Township, Taco Republik, Tijuana Flats, and 4 Rivers Smokehouse, down to the new and cozy Café 21, a breakfast and lunch spot that has a handful of tables.

Menus and prices will be shown in the app, avoiding to need to toggle between the app and a restaurant’s website.

What Uber is selling is ease and reliability of delivery, with about 1,000 driver-partners now in Tallahassee.

Customers can filter by kinds of food, price, and time of delivery, Restrepo said. It also will provide the same Uber experience by tracking food preparation and delivery. User can also select whether to get their delivery door-to-door or curbside.

And, in a take on Yelp and other restaurant-rating sites, users can grade the food and delivery. Uber also will be able to identify food trends in a given area, what sells and what doesn’t, helping restaurants and customers with orders.

Driver-partners don’t even need a car, Restrepo said: “They can use a bike or a scooter.”

Updated 12 noon from an Uber press release:

“The coverage area … includes Downtown, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, Florida State University, Tallahassee Community College, Midtown, and the Market District. In celebration of the launch, Tallahassee UberEATS users can receive $5 off their first UberEATS order when they refer a friend, who will receive $5 off their first two orders … Delivery is available from 8 a.m. to 3 a.m., seven days a week, and there is a $4.99 delivery fee for orders. If the restaurant is shown as open and serving on the UberEATS app during that time, customers will be able to place an order.”

Villages, health care cut big checks to Rick Scott-chaired super PAC

The super PAC chaired by Gov. Rick Scott has posted over $270,000 in fundraising for May and June, with $100,000 of that kicked in from the holding company for The Villages, according to a new report filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

The New Republican PAC, a national committee aimed at “rebranding and reinventing” the Republican Party after the election of Donald Trump, also paid out almost $50,000, leaving it with around $250,000 in cash-on-hand.

Other contributors include South Florida-based Dosal Tobacco ($25,000), former Senate President Mike Haridopolos‘s PAC “Friends of Mike H” ($25,000), and Gulf Coast Health Care, a Pensacola-based long-term care provider ($40,000).

POLITICO Florida reports that Gulf Coast is behind a major push to shift from a Medicaid cost-based approach for paying nursing homes to the use of a formula-based daily rate applicable to all providers.

The issue has caused a rift in the industry, with LeadingAge Florida opposing the switch, while the Florida Health Care Association favors it. Jamey Richardson, Gulf Coast’s president, wrote an opinion piece on FloridaPolitics.com defending the change.

Before giving New Republican the $40,000, the only other federal level donation by Gulf Coast Health Care was $5,000 to Republcvian Congressman Matt Gaetz, who represents Pensacola. At the state level, however, Gulf Coast has been a frequent donor.

As for The Villages, POLITICO Florida notes that it was also a big winner during the 2017 Legislative Session, primarily through a carve-out in a telecommunications bill that allows telecom giants to attach 5G wireless technology boxes to telephone polls on public property. While municipalities opposed the proposal, arguing it violates home rule and limits what telecom companies had to pay, an amendment exempted The Villages.

The PAC’s treasurer is Mori Hosseini, the Daytona Beach homebuilder whom Scott appointed to the University of Florida board of trustees last year. Hosseini, a member of INFLUENCE Magazine‘s 100 most influential Floridians list, previously served as the chairman of the State University System’s Board of Governors.

The PAC is “focused on how do we rebrand the Republican Party,” Scott told FloridaPolitics.com reporter A.G. Gancarski last month.

“The Republican Party ought to be the party of open government, choice, bottom up economy,” Scott said. ” … Younger voters should be voting Republican. We should target everybody because they believe what we believe in. People want a job.”

With a goal of “get rid of all our tired old political jargon and clichés,” New Republican was founded in 2013, but rebranded in May by Republican strategist Alex Castellanos, who serves as senior adviser. Former Scott Chief of Staff Melissa Stone serves as executive director; Taylor Teepell, finance director. The PAC states its primary goal is to raise $20 million.

According to the New Republican website, the group will focus on three issues:

— When a politician says deregulation, people’s eyes glaze over. It’s not sexy; no one really wins elections on it. But the simple truth is this — excessive regulations are the number one thing that keeps our private-sector economy from working. In Florida, we have cut taxes many times, and that has been important, but deregulation is what has really made our economy take off. We will aggressively back the President’s push to take the leg irons off this economy and reinvent government.

— We will appeal to and target younger voters. Let me be clear: We are not going backward. This is not a nostalgic effort to go back to Ronald Reagan.  Instead, we are going to do for our party in our time what Ronald Reagan did for his party in his time:  Attract young voters, the voters of the future.  We are going to bring a generational change to the Republican Party.  This is crucial.  We have a great message for younger voters.  Our focus on open systems fits the experience of younger voters, and our focus on bottom up organic solutions as opposed to top down antiquated government systems is a perfect fit for younger voters.

— We will win Hispanic voters. In both of my campaigns for Governor, I refused to accept the idea that Republicans cannot win the hearts and minds of Hispanic voters.  It’s an absurd notion.  In my re-election, I received about half the Hispanic votes — and this was two years after Romney had only gotten about one-quarter.  In my experience, Latinos want to pursue the American dream with a gusto that puts a lot of other folks to shame.  They should absolutely be Republicans. I will summarize it this way: The idea of the emerging Democratic majority is a fraud.

Some operatives, like Democratic consultant Steve Schale, see New Republican as a possible platform to expand Scott’s voter base ahead of a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

“I don’t think the Republicans have an outreach problem with African-American and Hispanic voters; they have a policy problem,” Schale told the Orlando Sentinel earlier this year. “Until they’re willing to address that they can raise all the money in the world for entities like [New Republican], and it’s not going to change the fact that Donald Trump has people knocking down doors and taking children and deporting them.”

Election dates set for Dan Raulerson’s House seat

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday set the dates for elections to fill House District 58, recently vacated by GOP state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who stepped down for health reasons.

Scott signed an executive order setting Oct. 10 for the primary election and Dec. 19 for the general election.

Raulerson’s resignation is effective Aug. 15, meaning the seat will be empty during the committee weeks leading up to the 2018 Legislative Session, which begins Jan. 9.

Raulerson, a CPA and former Plant City mayor, has been in the House since 2012, representing the northeast Hillsborough County district. He cited serious, ongoing back problems as the reason for his leaving the office.

Vazquez (via Facebook)

An appeal still is pending from Raulerson’s Democratic challenger in the last election. 

Jose N. Vazquez Figueroa claimed Raulerson’s candidacy was invalid because his notary had incorrectly used “correction fluid” on his filing paperwork, which is prohibited by the state’s notary manual.

A Tallahassee judge ruled against him in January, agreeing with Raulerson’s lawyer that the courts couldn’t decide the case because the House of Representatives is the sole judge of its membership under the state constitution.

On Tuesday, Vazquez said in a phone interview he had not yet decided whether he will run again for the seat.

Greyhound group asks state to reverse decoupling decision

As promised, the Florida Greyhound Association is asking state gambling regulators to “reconsider” their decision to allow Miami’s Magic City Casino to discontinue live dog racing.

The association filed a “motion to intervene” Tuesday.

Ending racing there “will put (its) members … out of business,” the motion says. “The purpose … is to forever end greyhound racing at the track. Many members are family owned businesses that have raced greyhounds at the race track for generations.”

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, last month approved a request from the Havenick family to drop dog racing at its Miami facility in a first-of-its-kind ruling.

The motion, drafted by former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, the association’s general counsel, says the state incorrectly allowed the track and casino to convert its gambling license to a summer jai alai permit, which allows it to stop racing but keep offering lucrative slot machine play.

Usually, pari-mutuels in Florida are required to continue running live dog or horse races to have slots and card games that make those facilities more money. A move afoot called “decoupling,” removing the live racing requirement, has failed in the Legislature in recent years, including this past session.

“There appears to be no showing that (Magic City) meets the statutory qualifications to convert their permit to summer jai alai … since (it) is now the only greyhound race track operating in Miami,” it says.

Moreover, “it cannot be said that the Legislature intended to allow for the conversion of a pari-mutuel permit to a summer jai alai permit at a facility that operates slot machines,” the motion adds.

Statewide voters in 2004 approved a constitutional amendment legalizing slots at existing jai-alai frontons and horse and dog racetracks only in Miami-Dade and Broward counties and only if voters there OK’d it in referendums. The caveat was that tracks had to continue racing dogs or horses.

Jason Altmire to depart Florida Blue in advance of new book

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire is leaving Florida Blue to promote his new book on political polarization, “Dead Center,” to be published this fall.

“You only get one chance to do it right on something like this, so I’m going to go all-out to promote it and see where it leads,” he told FloridaPolitics.com. “I’m really excited. It will be an adventure, and the timing is perfect.”

His last day with Florida Blue will be Friday, Aug. 11.

Altmire, a Keystone State native and known as a centrist Democrat, represented the western Pennsylvania’s 4th Congressional District.

He lost a 2012 primary to a fellow Democrat, Mark Critz of Johnstown, when their two districts were redrawn into the 12th Congressional District by a GOP redistricting map.

Later, he accepted a post with Florida Blue, the state’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield health insurer, as a senior vice president for public policy, government and community affairs.

Altmire was a health care lobbyist for University of Pittsburgh Medical Center before his election to Congress in 2006. He is also a graduate of Florida State University and served on the staff of former Florida Rep. Pete Peterson.

Although Altmire voted against President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act in 2010 – despite pressure to support reforms — as senior vice president of Florida Blue, he later became an advocate for enacting the law.

Ironically, much of Altmire’s job with Florida Blue was to travel across Florida, explaining to different audiences how the ACA works, and best ways for businesses to implement a law he initially opposed.

Most of his efforts focused on exchanges — the online marketplace where Florida Blue and other health insurers competed for customers.

“From where I am right now, the key point is we want the law to succeed,” Altmire told POLITICO about his 2010 vote, widely considered the reason voters ended his three-term House career. “There are certainly challenges on the implementation side,” he said referring to taxes, fees and coverage mandates on insurance companies. “The law is there to make sure people have coverage — we want that to succeed.”

After the law had passed, POLITICO notes that Altmire never supported full repeal of Obamacare. But he did favor some “target repeals” by Republicans, like pulling funding from Internal Revenue Service’s work on the law and insurance exchanges.

Groups get more time to respond in suit over Supreme Court justices

The progressive groups suing Rick Scott will get till next Thursday to respond to his request to toss out a lawsuit that aims to stop the Republican governor from appointing three Supreme Court justices on his last day in office.

The Florida Supreme Court gave the League of Women Voters of Florida (LWVF) and Common Cause till Aug. 10 to file a reply, according to a Monday order.

Scott said the lawsuit should be rejected because it deals with something that may or may not happen in 2019. Age limits could force three justices to retire on the day Scott leaves office in January 2019. He’s term limited next year.

Scott has said he plans to name the replacements for the court’s liberal-leaning trio of Justices R. Fred LewisBarbara Pariente and Peggy A. Quince that same morning.

The organizations filed a petition for “writ of quo warranto,” a court action against government officials to demand they prove their authority to perform a certain action.

Scott can’t replace those justices because he’ll be out of office earlier on the same day all three retire, and their terms last till midnight, the groups have argued. The Supreme Court, in a 2006 advisory opinion, said appellate vacancies may be filled by a governor only “upon the expiration of the term of the judge or justice.”

The petitioners also include LWVF President Pamela Goodman, former LWVF president Deirdre Macnab, and Liza McClenaghan, the state chair of Common Cause Florida. They’re represented by Tallahassee attorneys John S. Mills and Thomas D. Hall, a former Clerk of the Florida Supreme Court.

(Background from The Associated Press, reprinted with permission.)

More former lawmakers apply to replace Jimmy Patronis on PSC

As of last Friday’s deadline, three more former lawmakers applied for the now-empty seat on the Public Service Commission vacated when Jimmy Patronis stepped down to become the state’s new CFO.

Applying for the seat were former state Sen. Greg Evers, a Baker (Okaloosa County) Republican; former state Rep. Dave Murzin, a Pensacola Republican; and former state Rep. Ritch Workman, a Melbourne Republican, according to a list released late Friday by the Public Service Commission Nominating Council.

Murzin, who served 2002-10, also was Evers’ chief legislative assistant in 2013-16, according to his résumé. Evers ran unsuccessfully for Congress last year, losing the GOP primary to Matt Gaetz.

Workman ran for state Senate, losing that GOP primary to Debbie Mayfield in one of the nastiest races of the year.

They join former state Comptroller Bob Milligan and former Public Service Commissioner Kenneth Littlefield among the now 23 applicants for the opening, which pays $131,036 a year.

The appointment will be made by Gov. Rick Scott. The five-member commission regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities.

Other legislators in the mix include former state Rep. Rich Glorioso, a Plant City Republican and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel; and current state Rep. Tom Goodsona Brevard County Republican.

Littlefield also served in the Legislature in the early 2000s, chairing the House Utilities & Telecommunications committee. He was put on the PSC by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2006, then replaced by then-Gov. Charlie Crist the next year.

Bob Milligan vying to replace Jimmy Patronis on PSC

Former state Comptroller Bob Milligan has applied for the now-empty seat on the Public Service Commission vacated when Jimmy Patronis stepped down to become the state’s new CFO.

Milligan’s name is among 18 applicants so far for the seat, which will be vetted by the Public Service Commission Nominating Council and appointed by Gov. Rick Scott.

The deadline to apply is Friday; a working list was released Thursday. The five-member commission regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities.

In a phone interview, Milligan said he’s only interested in serving out Patronis’ current term, which is up at the end of 2018.

Though he doesn’t have any utility experience, he said his background in finance and economics qualify him. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, he got an MBA from the University of Rochester and studied economics at the University of Maryland.

“I think I can jump in there easily and do what needs to be done, but I’m not interested in making a career of it,” the 84-year-old said.

Milligan, who lives in Tallahassee, served on the Cabinet as the state’s elected comptroller in the 1990s. The state’s Chief Financial Officer now handles the comptroller’s duties since that position was abolished.

He also served 39 years in the military, retiring from the Marines as a lieutenant general in 1991. His career “culminated as Commanding General of Fleet Marine Forces, Pacific, and Marine Corps Bases, Pacific … responsible for two-thirds of the operating forces of the Marine Corps,” his official bio says.

Since retiring from state government, he’s served on a number of boards, including those for Mission San Luis, a reconstructed 17th-century Spanish mission in Tallahassee, and until recently was vice chair of the Volunteer Florida Foundation.

He also volunteers for the Florida Veterans Foundation, he said.

“I always have an iron in the fire,” said Milligan, who added he hasn’t reached out to Scott or anyone in his office about the application.

“If they’re interested, fine; if not, that’s the way it goes,” he said.

Other notable names on Thursday’s list include former state Rep. Rich Glorioso, then a Plant City Republican and a retired U.S. Air Force colonel; current state Rep. Tom Goodson, a Brevard County Republican; and former PSC member and former state Rep. Kenneth Littlefield.

Background material by The Associated Press, reprinted with permission.

Once a quick lube shop, now a marijuana dispensary

Arising from the shell of a former Super-Lube, Miami-based Knox Medical Thursday opened its first medical marijuana dispensary in the state’s capital.

Bruce Knox

When asked why he opened on a busy Midtown Tallahassee corner, sandwiched between two older residential neighborhoods, co-founder Bruce Knox mentioned the site’s “access and visibility.”

“This is a great location to serve the residents of Tallahassee,” he said during a media preview of the new dispensary.

Lesson one: Even in the retail medical marijuana business, it’s all about location, location, location. The store expected to open its doors for business by noon, Knox said.

Scott Klenet, the company’s PR man, later explained they get “walk-ins” at their other stores, people who ask about marijuana treatment and whether they’re eligible. “Our staff is trained to answer those kinds of questions,” he said.

Other stores are in Gainesville and Orlando, with more planned for Lake Worth, Jacksonville and St. Petersburg.

Knox’s Tallahassee store is far removed from the grease and grime of its predecessor, with an all-white exterior and wood-accented walls in the patient areas.

Mark Batievsky, the retail operations director, said they’re aiming for the “best retail customer experience.” That translates down to the staff uniforms, including identical black polos and Vans shoes.

Patients first walk into a “veranda” area, with a frosted-glass partition separating it from the “atrium.” That’s the patients-only area with display cases and cash registers.

Also on hand was Dr. J. Lucas Koberda, a Tallahassee neurologist who specializes in epilepsy. “For those who deny marijuana(‘s usefulness as a drug), it is easiest to point them to research that says otherwise,” he said. “I look at hard data.”

When medical marijuana was first OK’d by Florida lawmakers in 2014, the measure addressed only low-THC, or “non-euphoric,” marijuana to help children with severe seizures and muscle spasms. THC is the chemical that causes the high from pot.

Since then, state voters approved a constitutional amendment on medicinal cannabis last year. Lawmakers passed and Gov. Rick Scott also signed an implementing bill, passed during a recent Special Session. It gives guidance and instructions to state agencies on how to enforce state law.

Knox Medical is the retail arm of Winter Garden’s Knox Nursery, one of the first growers to be licensed under the state’s old system. The first medical cannabis store in the state, which also happens to be in Tallahassee, was opened by Trulieve.

Richard Corcoran announces 2018 leadership in House

In a Tuesday memo, House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced his leadership for the 2018 Legislative Session, including the committee weeks that lead up to the annual session.

Current Majority Whip Dane Eagle keeps that post, but now will be a member of the Republican leadership team.

Rep. Jim Boyd will chair the Commerce Committee, taking over from Jose Felix Diaz, who is running for state Senate.

Replacing Boyd at the helm of the Ways & Means Committee is Paul Renner, recently picked to become Speaker in 2022-24.

Other top positions remain the same, according to the memo. For instance, Jeanette Nuñez and Ray Rodrigues remain Speaker Pro Tempore and Majority Leader, respectively.

Speaker-designate Jose Oliva will continue as head of the Rules & Policy Committee, and Carlos Trujillo will again chair Appropriations for the chamber.

“Updated committee assignments will be made within the next few weeks,” Corcoran wrote. “If you are interested in serving as a subcommittee chair or on a particular committee, I strongly encourage you to speak with the chair of the full committee with jurisdiction over the subcommittee.

“As we did last year, subcommittee chair appointments will be made in collaboration with the full committee chairs,” he added. “I look forward to seeing all of you soon.”

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