Jim Rosica, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 175

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.

Cost to protect Rick Scott now up to nearly $3 million

Protecting Gov. Rick Scott, First Lady Ann Scott, their family, and the Governor’s Mansion and grounds cost the state nearly $3 million last fiscal year, up from $2.6 million the year before.

The annual Report of Transportation and Protective Services, issued Tuesday by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, showed the cost to safeguard the governor alone rose roughly $218,000 from 2015-16, to almost $2.3 million in 2016-17.

Also last year, 75 “protective details were performed” at a cost of $304,000, the report says. All costs include agents’ and officers’ salary and any overtime, plus the cost of transportations and other expenses.

Those include “dignitary protection” details at the Republican Governors Association Policy Summit in Miami this May ($33,578), the Republican Governors Association Annual Conference in Orlando last November ($63,674) and a visit to Jacksonville that same month by former President Bill Clinton ($402).

Another $137,000 was spent to protect individual governors, their wives and other family members who attended the Orlando conference, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ($5,646, who came without wife Mary Pat).

Flags at half-staff for Marine Sgt. Joseph J. Murray of Jacksonville

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday ordered flags at half-staff for Marine Sgt. Joseph J. Murray of Jacksonville, who died last month with 15 others in a military plane crash in Mississippi.

“As a mark of respect for Sgt. Murray, I hereby direct the flags of the United States and the State of Florida to be flown at half-staff at the City Hall in Jacksonville, the County Courthouse in Duval County, and at the State Capitol in Tallahassee, from sunrise to sunset on Tuesday, August 15,” Scott said in a statement.

Murray was on a Marine Corps refueling plane that crashed and burned in a soybean field in the Mississippi Delta, killing all 16 military members aboard. The wreck scattered debris for miles and sent a pillar of black smoke rising over the countryside. It was the deadliest Marine crash — in the U.S. or abroad — since 2005.

In a statement last month, Scott said, “Ann and I join Americans across the nation in praying for the families and loved ones of the sixteen U.S. service members who lost their lives in this week’s tragic plane crash, including Marine Sgt. Joe Murray from Jacksonville.

“Sgt. Murray was well known as a beloved husband, father, son, and man of faith and service. We are heartbroken by this loss. Sgt. Murray and his fellow fallen service members will now be honored and remembered across our country as heroes. We pray that this legacy of heroism will bring Sgt. Murray’s family some comfort during this unimaginably difficult time.

“This tragedy is a stark reminder of the dangers our service members face each day as they selflessly protect our families and our freedom. The State of Florida is proud to be the home of brave heroes of like Sgt. Murray and we will continue to pray for the safety of all our service members at home and abroad.”


(The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.)

marriage wedding

Senate bill would ban marriage by minors

As expected, legislation was filed Monday in the Florida Senate to ban minors from getting married.

The bill (SB 140) repeals language now in state law governing weddings of those under 18, replacing it with, “A license to marry may not be issued to any person under the age of 18.”

It was filed by Rules Chair Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican.

Republican Leader and future Senate President Wilton Simpson, who co-introduced the measure, had advocated such a measure after the story of a Tampa Bay-area woman who was “forced to marry her rapist at age 11,” according to 10 News in Sarasota/Tampa Bay.

She “was raped repeatedly as a young girl, became pregnant and had a baby when she was 10 years old,” the report says. “The adults in her life thought it was best she just marry her rapist, who was closely connected to (her) family through their church.”

According to Unchained at Last, the “only nonprofit in the U.S. dedicated to helping women escape or resist arranged/forced marriages,” almost “a quarter-million children at least as young as 10 married in the U.S. between 2000 and 2010.”

In Florida, 16,417 children—one as young as 13—were married in the period of 2000-15, state Vital Statistics data shows, said Fraidy Reiss, the group’s founder and executive director. In one extreme example, a 17-year-old female married an 83-year-old man in 2004, Reiss said.

Overall, Florida data shows 80 percent of minors who marry are girls wed to adult men, she added, tracking the national average.

She called the bill “strong as written,” though she was concerned about outdated language defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 ruled that state bans on same-sex marriages are unconstitutional.

“I want to see what her thinking is on that,” Reiss said, referring to Benacquisto.

Otherwise, if passed, the legislation “will benefit children in Florida—especially girls—for years to come,” Reiss said.

Richard Corcoran, Paul Renner support tax amendment

House Speaker Richard Corcoran says he supports Gov. Rick Scott‘s call for a “constitutional amendment requiring super majorities to pass any future tax increases.”

“For almost seven years we’ve worked alongside our Governor to bring common sense back to governing. We cut taxes. We cut regulations. We cut fees. Now we need to make sure the taxpayers’ pocketbooks are protected,” the Land O’ Lakes Republican said in a Monday statement.

“Requiring in the Constitution a super majority to raise any tax or fee will do this,” he added. “It’s pro-family, pro-future, pro-worker, and pro-taxpayer. It’s anti-government waste, anti-politician, and anti-pork barrel spending. I’m proud to offer my support to Gov. Scott on this bold initiative and will do all I can to see that it is successful.”

Scott, a Naples Republican considered to be planning a run for the U.S. Senate next year, has not yet exactly outlined what would be covered by the proposal or how large a supermajority would be needed. He wants the measure to go before voters on the 2018 statewide ballot.

If the amendment is passed by 60 percent, state legislators could not pass any future taxes or fees without a supermajority legislative vote. Several other states, including California, have similar restrictions.

Scott wants the Florida Legislature to place the amendment on the ballot. But the governor said he may also ask the Constitution Revision Commission to consider the proposal.

House Ways and Means Committee chair Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican slated to take over the Speakership in 2022-24, also supports the plan.

“I look forward to working with the Speaker and my colleagues to provide Floridians the opportunity to vote on this much-needed amendment,” he said. “Florida is a place of prosperity and opportunity because we have put our trust in free people and free markets … This amendment, along with our requirement to balance the budget, will help protect Florida’s long-term economic future.”

(The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.)

George Gainer takes a licking on social media

Social media reaction was hard and swift this weekend against state Sen. George Gainer, the Panama City Republican who filed legislation last session to remove liability for drivers who “unintentionally” hurt or kill protesters or others “obstruct(ing)” traffic.

On Saturday, Gainer tweeted, “If I do not love, I am nothing,” quoting Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

That was in response to a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, Virginia, where an alleged white nationalist drove his car into another car, which struck a crowd of counterprotesters, according to a New York Times report.

Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old Charlottesville paralegal, was killed; 19 others were injured. Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe later declared a state of emergency.

“Says the guy who wants to legalize murdering protesters with vehicles,” the first reply to Gainer on Twitter said. “Guess who I won’t be voting for next year,” said another.

“You have blood on your hands from the tragedy in Charlottesville. America will be better off when you no longer represent it,” said still another, followed by, “So how does the love go along with murdering protesters? Just asking.”

Gainer was not immediately available Monday morning, nor was state Rep. Jayer Williamson, the Pace Republican who filed an identical companion bill in the House. Both men were first elected last year.

The measures died in committees during the 2017 Legislative Session. A similar bill has not yet been filed for 2018.

Last session’s bill would have created a misdemeanor for anyone who “obstruct(s) or interfere(s) with … traffic on a public road, street, or highway during a protest or demonstration for which a public assembly permit or other applicable special event permit has not been issued by a county or municipality.”

The language at issue says a driver “who unintentionally causes injury or death to a person who obstructs or interferes with the regular flow of vehicular traffic” under the first section “is not liable for such injury or death.” That person would have had the legal “burden of proving that … (an) injury or death was not unintentional.”

Similar bills were filed in at least 18 states earlier this year, after the election of President Donald Trump, the Washington Post reported.

Pam Bondi asks court to end lawsuit over charities

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office is asking a court to put an end to a lawsuit claiming she forces businesses to donate millions of dollars to unregistered charities as part of settlements in consumer protection cases.

Bondi’s motion for summary judgment in part says “there is no statutory requirement that … settlements under (Florida law) be made to a charity, much less to a registered charity.” Summary judgments allow parties to win a case without a trial.

Another motion asks Circuit Judge Charles Dodson to suspend “discovery” in the case — the gathering of information from Bondi’s office in preparation for a possible trial.

Orlando entrepreneur John D. Smith had been investigated on a consumer fraud allegation by Bondi’s office in 2015 for his Storm Stoppers plastic panels, marketed as a “plywood alternative” to protect windows during storms.

He sued, saying some of the unregistered charities Bondi makes settling parties give money to is her own “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” award and various “scholarship funds designated by the Attorney General.”

Scott Siverson, Smith’s attorney, said in a previous hearing that one of Bondi’s defenses is that donations to groups that weren’t registered as charities were OK because they were “unsolicited,” or not asked for.

“There is only one way for is to find out about that, and that’s to get discovery from” their office, Siverson told Dodson.

Since she first assumed office in 2011, Bondi’s office settled enforcement actions with 14 businesses in which they wound up paying more than $5.5 million to 35 unregistered charities, Smith’s suit says.

Smith also said Bondi was improperly directing contributions to her office’s nonprofit, Seniors vs. Crime, which is a “conflict of interest,” the suit says. Two of its directors work for Bondi.

Not so, Bondi’s office said. “(T)he two agency employees do not serve on the Board of Directors for Seniors vs. Crime, Inc., thus rendering this claim moot,” according to the motion.

Smith, in an email to Florida Politics, said state corporation records show that both Statewide Prosecutor Nicholas Cox and Victoria Butler, director of Bondi’s Tampa office, “have been listed on the Seniors vs. Crime Board of Directors since 2015.”

In a separate filing, Siverson asked Dodson to take “judicial notice” of the corporate filings, reserved for—among other things—”facts that are not subject to dispute because they are capable of accurate and ready determination by resort to sources whose accuracy cannot be questioned.”

Bondi has called the legal action “meritless” and “harassment.” A hearing on her motions is set for Aug. 28.

It’s official: Jack Latvala opens up campaign account to run for Florida governor

As if we should be surprised, state Sen. Jack Latvala on Friday opened a new campaign account and filed paperwork with the state’s Division of Elections to run for Florida governor.

“My papers were filed by 5-year-old Rays fan Cooper Bishop!” the newly minted candidate tweeted shortly after noon, including a picture of a smiling boy wearing a Tampa Bay Rays uniform holding Latvala’s paperwork.

Latvala still plans to make an official announcement about his 2018 plans next Wednesday. Still, these filings are necessary first steps under Florida law for him to launch a gubernatorial campaign.

The Clearwater Republican, who chairs the Senate’s influential Appropriations Committee, had said he would announce his future political plans on Aug. 16. He’s term-limited in his Senate District 16 seat next year; Latvala was previously in the Senate 1994-2002.

“As a small-business owner and public servant, I have a track record of getting things done and solving problems,” Latvala has said. “One thing you can always expect from me too is when I give you my word, I will keep it.”

The announcement was certainly expected. A clear signal of a gubernatorial run came when FloridaPolitics.com reported that Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee” retained prominent GOP ad maker Fred Davis.

Last week, Latvala sharply criticized House Speaker Richard Corcoran, particularly over the House’s efforts to overhaul VISIT Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm, say9ing it was “all about making political points, all about trying to make headlines, trying to raise your name identification, whatever.”

Corcoran defended the legislation as an effort to bring “more transparency and accountability” to the marketing program.

Although Latvala is a fixture in Tampa Bay politics, he has never run a statewide race, and first must overcome a relative lack of name recognition throughout Florida.

Moreover, Latvala’s “Florida Leadership Committee,” has about $3.85 million on hand for the same period. But since he wasn’t actively running for office in 2018, Latvala had no on-hand campaign funds.

The only major Republican now officially running for governor is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. Between his campaign account and fundraising committee “Florida Grown,” Putnam finished July with a little under $12 million on hand.

Also considering a gubernatorial run are Corcoran and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, who has a supporting committee that raised nearly $1.3 million through the end of July.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post, with permission.

Adam Putnam: More Florida firefighters heading west

The Florida Forest Service is sending another 40 of its firefighters to help “wildfire suppression efforts” in the western part of the country, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced Thursday.

“The two hand crews of 20 firefighters each are part of the department’s ongoing effort to help combat one of the worst wildfire seasons in U.S. history,” Putnam said in a statement. The Forest Service is part of his Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

“Our firefighters will continue to provide unwavering support to other states in need of assistance to fight wildfires,” he added.

The Forest Service’s two crews are from various districts around the state, the release said, and will be joined by three other crews from Georgia and Puerto Rico, totaling 100 firefighters. The crews will fly from Tampa to Oregon, where they will receive specific assignments.

“The Florida Forest Service has deployed a total of 343 firefighters to the western United States this year, and we applaud their dedication to helping protect lives, property and our country’s natural resources,” State Forester Jim Karels said.

Senators begin filing general bills for 2018 Session

State senators on Wednesday filed the first tranche of general bills for the 2018 Legislative Session, with an assortment of new ideas and old stand-bys.

The old: Sen. Lauren Book, a Broward County Democrat and mother of twins, filed for the second year legislation to exempt diapers from the state’s 6 percent sales tax. An effort this year, which included baby wipes, died in committee.

Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, filed the “Florida Competitive Workforce Act,” a measure that aims to expand legal protections against “sexual orientation and gender identity” discrimination. A version of the bill has been filed for nearly a decade.

The new: Sen. Greg Steube, a Sarasota Republican, introduced a bill that would create a legal right to sue by concealed weapon license-holders who weren’t allowed to take their gun into a place of business and then were injured “as the result of an unlawful or reckless act by another person, or an attack by a vicious or wild animal.”

And Sen. Dorothy Hukill, a Port Orange Republican, filed legislation to create a third-degree felony of “animal hoarding.” It’s defined as “keeping a large number of companion animals in overcrowded conditions” and “failing to provide such animals with minimal standards of nutrition, sanitation, shelter, and medical care.”

In all, 36 bills had been filed by midday Wednesday, according to the Florida Senate websiteSession begins Jan. 9, with the first committee week this Sept. 12-15.

Greg Evers, Ritch Workman, others move ahead for PSC opening

Former lawmakers Greg Evers, Rich Glorioso, and Ritch Workman and current Rep. Tom Goodson have been selected to be interviewed to replace Jimmy Patronis on the Florida Public Service Commission.

Another noteworthy applicant, former state Comptroller and retired Marine general Bob Milligan, was shut out of the process, receiving no votes from the Public Service Commission Nominating Council, which met Wednesday in Tampa.

The 84-year-old had said he was only interested in serving out Patronis’ current term, which is up at the end of 2018. Patronis stepped down to replace Jeff Atwater as Florida’s chief financial officer. Atwater left for a similar job at Florida Atlantic University.

Other applicants picked to be interviewed for the seat on the panel, which regulates investor-owned utilities, include:

— Former state Rep. Kenneth Littlefield, a Pasco County Republican who once chaired the House Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. Littlefield is a former PSC member, having been put on the commission by former Gov. Jeb Bush in 2006. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist replaced him the following year.

— Bill Conrad, former mayor of Newberry in Alachua County.

— Clay Lindstrom, who until recently was director of the Fort Pierce Utilities Authority. Lindstrom was fired recently after a controversy over businesses not paying utility deposits.

Anibal Taboas, an Illinois-based consultant and former U.S. Department of Energy official.

— Associate Public Counsel Erik Sayler. The Office of Public Counsel represents the interests of ratepayers before the commission.

Jody Ann Newman, who currently chairs the Florida Board of Nursing.

Ted Schrader, a former Pasco County commissioner and Tampa Bay Water board member.

Evers, a Baker Republican, left the Senate to run last year for northwest Florida’s Congressional seat, losing to Matt Gaetz.

Glorioso, a Plant City Republican and retired U.S. Air Force colonel, served in the House 2004-2012.

Workman, a Melbourne Republican, lost a bruising primary battle last year to fellow GOP Rep. Debbie Mayfield for Senate District 17.

Goodson, a Brevard County Republican, chairs the House Agriculture and Property Rights subcommittee and is term-limited next year. He’s a “road contractor” by trade, according to his House member page

Also Wednesday, the council decided to interview Commissioners Ronald Brisé and Art Graham, who have re-applied for their seats; their terms are up at year’s end.

Also selected to be considered for those seats were Conrad, Lindstrom, Littlefield, Newman and Taboas, who cross-applied.

The council ultimately will make its recommendations to Gov. Rick Scott, who will decide on the appointments. Interviews and a “final selection” for the three vacancies will be held next Thursday in Orlando. The council “shall nominate no fewer than three persons for each vacancy,” according to its rules.

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