Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.
“Last week, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists descended on Charlottesville, Virginia. It was a gruesome chapter in American history. But exactly one week from those terrible events, Florida Democrats from all over the state rallied to organize over 25 successful voter registration drives,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Stephen Bittel. “While they bring hate, we will work twice as hard to bring hope and promote democracy. This is how we win: by expanding our democracy and having the conversations that matter with our friends and neighbors. This is just the start of a year-round organizing effort by Florida Democrats to flip Florida blue.”
Organized less than week in advance, local Democratic parties also gathered signatures for the Voting Restoration Amendment and signed up registered voters to vote by mail.
And now for some good news out of Tallahassee, the Florida Lottery this week announced, “it has reached the $32 billion mark in contributions for the state’s” education fund.
Maybe Lottery Secretary Jim Poppell’s‘housecleaning’ is paying off?
“We are extremely proud of this achievement and what it means for Florida’s students and schools,” Poppellsaid in a statement. “Under Gov. Scott’s leadership, the Lottery is committed to doing everything we can to help ensure Florida’s children have the resources they need to compete in the new global economy; it all begins with a good education.”
The Lottery’s profits go into the state’s Educational Enhancement Trust Fund, which pays for Florida Bright Futures Scholarships, among other things.
“For 15 consecutive years, the Lottery has transferred more than $1 billion to education, while remaining one of the most efficiently operated lotteries in the nation,” a news release said. “The Lottery has also contributed more than $5 billion to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program, sending over 750,000 students to college.”
A little background: Poppell was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to replace Tom Delacenserie, now the head of the Kentucky Lottery. Poppell had been the Department of Economic Opportunity’s chief of staff.
In July, Poppell got rid — er, accepted the resignations — of three top officials, including the department’s general counsel, legislative affairs director and deputy secretary of administration.
There had been “a lot of complaints about the Lottery, mostly from vendors about the department’s procurement process,” one source told us this summer.
“I think Poppell was given a mandate to clean house as the Lottery is a high priority for Gov. Scott … Three top people just don’t coincidentally decide to quit at the same time.”
Two of those spots have since been filled, with DEO attorney David Guerrieri now general counsel, and Samantha Ferrin moving from the Department of Management Services to become the Lottery’s deputy chief of staff and legislative affairs director.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Jim Rosica, Peter Schorsch and Andrew Wilson.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
‘Rebels’ in the news — After violence at last weekend’s white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, claimed the lives of an activist and two state troopers, attention turned to Confederate symbols in Florida. An effort to move a Confederate monument in Hillsborough County garnered thousands of private dollars, including donations from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Tony Dungy. Save Southern Heritage Florida, an activist group, said it would sue in federal court to prevent the move. Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic candidate for Governor AndrewGillum called for the removal of a Confederate memorial in front of the old Capitol; Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, called for a special session to address replacement of the statue of a Confederate general representing Florida in the U.S. Capitol; and Rep. Shevrin Jones, a West Park Democrat, said he’ll file legislation “to immediately remove all Confederate statues, signs, and names from public property in Florida.” Jones was part of the effort to rename three streets in Hollywood that were named after Confederate generals.
Do you back Jack? — Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala of Pinellas County this week formally declared his bid for governor in 2018, launching his campaign with events in Hialeah, Clearwater and Panama City. “I will be the candidate who tells it to you straight,” he said. The current Appropriations Committee chair’s challenge is to translate his decade and a half of experience in Tallahassee into statewide appeal. He stumbled early, however, in answers to questions about the Charlottesville violence — “I wasn’t there” — and was faced with a vexsome new website, “Liberal Jack Latvala,” which said he “can’t be trusted.” The website, it turns out, was backed by Mac Stevenson, “a longtime political consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam,” according to POLITICO Florida’s Matt Dixon.
Negron shuffles the Senate — Senate President Joe Negron shook up budget-related and other panels, embarking on an aggressive round of leadership changes in advance of the 2018 Legislative Session. Negron appointed new heads of five budget subcommittees, while changing the leaders of committees that oversee policy areas involving the environment, agriculture, utilities and elections. Also, the Stuart Republican added members to numerous committees. “In the era of term limits, I believe it is important for each Senator to be considered for the opportunity to participate in the committee process based on demonstrated competence, expertise and interest,” Negron wrote in a memo to senators. The biggest changes announced affect appropriations subcommittees, which play an important role in drawing up the state budget.
Corcoran rearranges the chairs — House Speaker Richard Corcoran released his committee assignments for the 2018 Legislative Session with just a few changes from 2017, notably some freshmen getting vice chairmanships and new chairs for the Ways and Means and Commerce Committees. His changes in committees look more like midterm adjustments, rather than the wholesale reshuffling that Negron embarked on. With the departure of former Commerce Committee chairman Jose Felix Diaz to run in a special Senate election, Rep. Jim Boyd of Bradenton will slide over from chairing the House Ways and Means Committee to chair Commerce, with Paul Renner of Palm Coast taking the chair of Ways and Means. Otherwise, the committee assignments reward a handful of freshmen with new vice chairmanships of committees and subcommittees, and give Rep. Jamie Grant of Tampa a chairmanship, that of the Health Quality Subcommittee of the House Health & Human Services Committee.
Incumbents win PSC nods — Art Graham andRonald Brisé won nominations Thursday to be returned to their seats on the Public Service Commission, which regulates investor-owned utilities in the state. If selected, both men would serve third terms; each was first appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010. ThePublic Service Commission Nominating Councilalso decided on six people — including former state Rep. Ritch Workman — to fill the unexpired term of former Commissioner Jimmy Patronis, who stepped down to replace Jeff Atwater as state Chief Financial Officer. Patronis’ term is up at the end of 2018. Losing candidates include Greg Evers, a Baker Republican who left the Senate to run last year for Northwest Florida’s Congressional seat, falling to Matt Gaetz; and current state Rep. Tom Goodson, a Brevard County Republican who chairs the House Agriculture and Property Rights Subcommittee and is term-limited next year.
Ballard again on top
Should we be surprised? Ballard Partners is No. 1 in median income among legislative lobbying firms for the second quarter of 2017, according to a LobbyTools analysis.
Ballard reported $2,407,000 for April-June, with Southern Strategy Group coming in second at $2,402,000. Rounding out the top 5 is Ron Book’s firm with $2,090,000, Capital City Consulting with $1,505,000, and Greenberg Traurig at $1,320,000.
Also, a medical marijuana concern is now in the top 5 for quarterly client spending.
AT&T was first with $255,000 in median spending, and Reinhardt vs. The School District of Palm Beach County came in second with $235,000. U.S. Sugar also ponied up $235,000, and San Felasco Nurseries, a medical marijuana grower, spent $193,000.
Closing out the top 5 was Florida Power & Light, at $165,000.
Scott plugs Hispanic Heritage Month contests
Gov. Scott and First Lady Ann Scott announced contests for Hispanic Heritage Month that will give five K-12 students and three teachers some serious awards.
Students in grades 4-12 can win a four-year Florida College Plan scholarship by participating in an essay contest. Three winners will be selected: one elementary school student (grades 4-5), one middle school student (grades 6-8), and one high school student (grades 9-12). Two scholarships will also be awarded to younger children who enter an art contest.
The theme for both student contests is “A Recognition of the Role of Hispanic-Americans in Shaping Florida Today,” and students to demonstrate — whether by essay or art — how Hispanic Floridians have impacted the state’s history and culture.
Three teachers — one each for elementary, middle and high school — can also be nominated for an “Excellence in Education Award” by a principal, teacher, parent/guardian, or student. Winners will receive a prize at the Governor’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration in Tallahassee later this year.
Scott seeks supermajority vote before raising taxes
Scott is wanting voters to approve a constitutional amendment in 2018 ballot to make it tougher for Florida lawmakers to raise taxes.
Before any tax or fee increase, the governor’s plan would have the House and Senate first seek a supermajority vote. Scott will ask the Legislature and the Constitutional Revision Commission to place the plan on next year’s ballot.
“As we grow this economy we can invest in what we care about,” Scott said in a Lake Mary news conference announcing the plan. “We want jobs, we want our kids to get a good education, and we want to keep people safe.”
Scott also noted that in the seven years since taking office, taxes have been cut more than 75 times, saving taxpayers more than $7 billion.
Scott touts Jax as best choice for new fighter squadron
Gov. Scott joined the ranks of Florida politicians calling for Jacksonville’s 125th Fighter Wing to be home to a new squadron of F-35A Lightning II fighter jets.
In a letter to U.S. Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis, Scott said Florida was the “most military friendly state” in the nation and that the First Coast provides military families with great opportunities in addition to being “one of the best places in the country to live and raise a family.”
“A recent site survey found that the 125th FW meets all of the requirements identified by the U.S. Air Force,” Scott wrote. “The benefits of the 125th FW include the exceptional airspace and range capacity for training, low cost for facility construction and modifications, access to joint training opportunities, and the ability to meet other regulatory criteria.
The Bold City is one of five finalists for the squadron, which experts say could make a $100 million economic impact and keep hundreds of jobs in the area that may otherwise disappear when the military eventually phases out the F-15 Eagle.
Scott announces first wave of speakers for Latin American Summit
Scott announced 13 speakers for the 2017 Latin American Summit and said there would be more to come in the weeks leading up to the Oct. 2 event in Miami.
On the list are three members of the Florida congressional delegation: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Mario Diaz-Balart and Francis Rooney. Also getting behind the lectern is former Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, who represented the Sunshine State from 1994 through 2011.
The other nine speakers announced: Donna Hrinak, President of Boeing Latin America; Archbishop Thomas Wenski; Emilio T. González, Director and CEO of Miami-Dade Aviation Department; Paul F. Browning, President and Chief Executive Officer of Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems Americas; Romaine Seguin, President of UPS Americas Region; Paulo Cesar de Souza e Silva, CEO of Embraer S.A.; Susan Segal, President and CEO of Americas Society/Council of the Americas; Marcelo Mindlin, Chairman and CEO of Pampa Energía S.A.; and Juan M. Kuryla, Director and CEO of PortMiami.
Scott announced winners for a pair of awards and recognized an Army veteran with the Medal of Merit during a Cabinet meeting Wednesday.
U.S. Army Specialist Christopher Allyn received the medal for pulling car crash victims out of burning wreckage after witnessing an accident in Cape Coral last year. Allyn has also been recognized by the Cape Coral Fire Department and Cape Coral Police Department for his lifesaving heroics.
The Volunteer Champion of Service award went to Lynne Gassant. The Palm Beach County resident was recognized for her work at Scholar Career Coaching, a nonprofit she founded that sets South Florida high school students up with mentors. The group has helped more than 50 students since it formed in 2012, many of whom speak English as a second language.
A Business Ambassador Award was also given to Tallahassee-based small business Lucky Goat Coffee. Owner Ben Pautsch said he was “honored” by the award and said he and the Lucky Goat Team “have a passion for our specialty grade coffee and strive to provide our customers with a custom experience.” Scott, as he is wont to do, credited tax cuts and slashed regulations for the coffee shop’s success.
The week in appointments
Scott adds three to Continuing Care Advisory Council— The council, which sets Office of Insurance Regulation rules for continuing care retirement communities, cycled out three members to add the new blood.
Former Hewlett-Packard higher up Dudley Geyer of Saint Johns replaces Walter Hood on the council; Sarasota resident Raymond Neff, president of Neff and Associates Home Office Services, will take over for Charles Paulk; and Clifton, Larson, Allen, LLP principal Sue Bunevich of Tampa succeeds Marshall Gunn III.
Geyer and Neff got one-year terms, while Bunevich will serve through Sept. 30, 2019.
Restocking the bench — Scott appointed two to the Miami-Dade County Court to replace a pair of judges he elevated to the 11th Judicial Circuit Court.
Joseph J. Mansfield is a longtime Assistant State Attorney and Cleveland — Marshall College of Law alumnus. Renatha Francis is in private practice at Shutts & Bowen, LLP and is an alumna of Florida Coastal School of Law.
The pair fill vacancies created by the promotion of Judge Victoria del Pino in December and Judge Jason E. Dimitris in April.
Instagram of the week
Dozens of communities get DEO grants
The Department of Economic Opportunity spread $1.2 million in CPTA grants across four dozen Florida communities this week.
“DEO is committed to using our resources to make a positive impact on the future of Florida communities. Through Community Planning Technical Assistance grants, DEO helps communities reach their economic development goals,” department head Cissy Proctor said.
The one-year grants ranged in size from $5,000 for Altha, a small town in Calhoun County, to $75,000 for the East Central Florida Regional Planning Council, which benefits St. Johns, Volusia, Brevard, Putnam and Flagler counties. The average award clocked in at $25,000.
The grant money is awarded to cities and counties meeting performance requirements set by DEO. Regional Planning Councils can also get some CPTA cash for projects benefiting more than one community.
Insurance Commissioner going after AOB in 2018
Florida Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier told Gov. Scott and the Cabinet that he will push for lawmakers to make changes to a practice known as “assignment of benefits,” where policy holders sign away their rights to a claim for quick repairs from a third-party.
Critics say AOB is jacking up rates for Floridians with homeowners policies, but the practice has also crept into auto windshield repairs.
“We are aware of situations in which consumers are told that there is a crack in their windshield, and `we can replace it right here in the parking lot for you. We just need to sign this form please,’ ” Altmaier said at a Wednesday Cabinet meeting.
Altmaier said the practice leads to disputes between repairmen and insurance companies, which leads to litigation and higher costs for auto coverage.
“We believe that over the past several months and the past couple of years, we have accumulated a lot of very compelling information that would demonstrate that this is certainly an issue for our policyholders,” he said.
FAAST names Darryl Rouson “Legislator of the Year”
The Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology named St. Petersburg Democratic Sen. Rouson as its 2017 “Legislator of the Year.”
The disability advocacy and awareness group said it chose Rouson for sponsoring a bill to revise rules surrounding assistive technology for disabled students in order to allow them to use the devices outside of school.
The Legislature ended up passing the House version, HB 371 by Tallahassee Democratic Rep. Loranne Ausley, with a unanimous vote. Gov. Scott signed the bill into law in June and it went into effect July 1.
Rouson was presented with the FAAST award at a Wednesday event in Safety Harbor.
Florida Realtors recognize Republican lawmakers
The state trade association for Realtors named eight lawmakers — four senators and four representatives — as its 2017 “Legislators of the Year.”
Sens. René García, Tom Lee, Kathleen Passidomo and Kelli Stargel and Reps. Jim Boyd, Colleen Burton, Byron Donalds and Holly Raschein received their awards at the Florida Realtors annual Convention and Trade Expo in Orlando this week.
The group said its picks made the cut for sponsoring bills to cut the commercial rents sales tax, capping estoppel fees charged by community associations, and passing a bill to put a permanent homestead exemption on the 2018 ballot.
Five senators get top marks from School Board Association
Three Republicans and two Democrats will take home a “Legislator of the Year” award from the Florida School Board Association.
“We are proud to recognize these legislators for their continued efforts to fight for the highest quality public education opportunities for Florida’s students and families. We are particularly grateful to be able to honor the courage these fine men and women displayed in defending public education and local control this year,” said Executive Director Andrea Messina.
FSBA announced Republicans Rene Garcia, Denise Grimsley and David Simmons, as well as Democrats Gary Farmer and Bill Montford will the awards either at a School Board meeting in their districts or at the association’s annual meeting in Tampa later this year.
All but Montford are first-time recipients, the group said.
Moody’s says LIP is good for credit
Moody’s Investors Service said the five-year renewal of Florida’s Medicaid 1115 Waiver is credit positive for safety-net hospitals.
“The five-year extension is credit positive for Florida’s (Aa1 stable) not-for-profit and public hospitals because it will help them defray the cost of providing services to uninsured patients. The largest beneficiaries include safety-net hospitals, children’s hospitals and providers treating a high percentage of Medicaid, uninsured and underinsured patients,” the report read.
The Aug. 3 renewal will increase Low Income Pool, or LIP, funding from $607 million to $1.5 million. Hospitals that put up matching funds from a local government or special taxing district will be able to draw down the money.
Moody’s said Shands Jax and Public Health Trust of Miami-Dade County stand to benefit the most from the extension since they treat a high percentage of low-income patients and LIP funding already accounts for the bulk of their cash flow.
State holding scammer education ‘fairs’
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services announced a series of “Consumer Protection Fairs” across the state which aims to give Floridians the smarts to avoid rip-offs and fraudsters.
“One of our top priorities is protecting Floridians and visitors from fraud, and these consumer protection fairs help educate consumers so they can avoid scams,” said Commissioner of Agriculture and GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam.
The first stop was in Homestead Tuesday. Upcoming fair dates are below:
Aug. 30: Eisenhower Regional Recreation Center, 3560 Buena Vista Blvd., The Villages.
Sept. 19: One Senior Place, 715 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs
Oct. 13: Sun City Center Community Hall- 1910 S. Pebble Beach Blvd.
Oct. 26: Lynn University, 3601 N. Military Trail, Boca Raton
Nov. 11: Bayview Senior Center, 2000 E. Lloyd St., Pensacola
Cyber soldiers get cyber training
The Agency for State Technology and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement teamed up to get Florida IT workers locked and loaded for a “cyber battle.”
“We often say, it’s not a matter of IF — but WHEN, a cyber security incident will occur. We need to constantly train our security professionals since the types of threats are always evolving,” said AST director Eric Larson.
FDLE IT chief Gray Johnson said “the cyber threat is real” and that the law enforcement agency is honored to team up and bring their cyber defense tactics to state employees working in the digital realm.
The employees who got the training were put to the test with mock cyberattacks, based on real-world threats, which they had to “identify, mitigate and remediate.”
Ken Detzner paints the arts as economic booster
The Florida Department of State is partnering up with local agencies to put on the “Arts and Economic Prosperity in Florida Tour,” Secretary of StateKen Detzner announced.
Detzner said the tour will spread the word on a new study from Americans for the Arts, which showed the Sunshine State’s arts and culture industry supports 132,000 jobs and generates nearly $500 million in revenue for state and local governments.
The tour stops in Jacksonville Aug. 30, Orlando Oct. 4, and Tallahassee Jan. 23-25. The tour will swing through Miami in November and Pensacola in March 2018, but exact dates were not released.
DEP gifted pricey parcels in Rookery Bay
Two tracts of land worth a combined $236,750 were gifted to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection by the Conservancy of Southwest Florida.
The Collier County land is located within the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and is adjacent to other state-owned lands. Florida Coast Office Director Kevin Claridge said the donation would “improve management efficiency while also protecting valuable sea turtle and shorebird habitat.”
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida said the donation was part of their dedication to protecting the Rookery Bay Reserve, which sits on the western edge of the Everglades and runs to the Gulf Coast.
The move was commended by fellow environmental group Audubon Florida, which has also been heavily involved in the reserve since it was created.
Dem lawmakers head to Belle Glade
Sen. Kevin Rader and Rep. Joe Abruzzo, both Democrats, announced a joint town hall set for Aug. 23 in Belle Glade.
The two South Florida lawmakers will answer questions and brief constituents on the 2017 Legislative Session, including the 2017-2018 state budget, educational funding, improvements to the Herbert Hoover Dike, and environmental legislation.
The town hall will start at 6:30 p.m. at the West Technical Education Center.
Democrats sound off on Charlottesville
Florida Democrats put out plenty of news releases in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one dead and 19 injured.
U.S. Rep. Joe Geller called the attacks “domestic terrorism” and a “sickening symbol of bigotry, hatred and divisiveness,” adding that he condemns all forms of white supremacism. The Aventura congressman didn’t speak on President Trump’s remarks after the attacks, but state Rep. David Richardson didn’t mince words.
“What the country witnessed yesterday was a United States president losing all moral authority to govern,” he said in an email calling on Trump to resign. “His defense of neo-Nazis, KKK members and white supremacists is not just ‘Trump being Trump’ or one more opportunity for Republicans to condemn the sin while continuing to prop up the sinner.”
Lantana state Rep. Lori Berman took a different approach. Instead of excoriating the president or taking jabs at the hate groups in Charlottesville, she asked Gov. Scott to call a special session to replace Florida’s statue of Confederate Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, something lawmakers failed to agree on in the 2017 Legislative Session.
Windermere mayor installed as FLM president
Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn was named president of the Florida League of Mayors during the group’s annual meeting held this week in Orlando.
FLM Executive Director Scott Dudley gave Bruhn a vote of confidence, saying he’s been a longtime member of the league and “is ready to lead this organization.”
Bruhn is in his fifth term on the FLM Board of Directors and is also a member of the Florida League of Cities Board of Directors and the West Orange Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. He also holds a spot on FLC’s Municipal Administration Legislative Committee.
FLC, the parent group of the League of Mayors, gave Bruhn its first ever “Home Rule Hero Award” back in 2009. Before becoming mayor, Bruhn had a 30-year career with Lockheed Martin.
Amy Mercado helps pupils with supplies
With help from the Office Depot Foundation and the National Foundation for Women Legislators, freshman state Rep. Mercado handed out school supplies at Orlando’s McCoy Elementary this week.
“I’m thrilled to be able to partner with these great organizations to help out our students in need,” the HD 48 Democrat said. “These sackpacks will give each child the essential tools they need to kick off a successful school year!”
Each colorful drawstring bag included a ruler, four crayons, a pen, a pencil, a pencil sharpener and an eraser.
Mercado and the organizations teamed up as part of the National Backpack Program. Office Depot started participating in 2001, and NFWL joined in five years later. The office supply chain said its participation has helped more than 4 million children overall.
FDA wins ‘Association of the Year’
The Florida Dental Association (FDA) received the Florida Society of Association Executives’ (FSAE) 2017 Association of the Year Award at the association’s annual conference in West Palm Beach, it announced this week.
“Our Association of the Year Award recognizes organizations that have demonstrated outstanding efforts, excellence and innovation that benefit their industry,” said Frank Rudd, FSAE’s president and CEO, in a statement. “The Florida Dental Association exemplifies this achievement, and we commend their dedication and commitment on behalf of the members and industry they serve.”
As examples of its good work, the FSAE cited FDA’s annual “Florida Mission of Mercy, a two-day event hosted by the FDA Foundation and held in a different city each year to provide critical dental care, at no cost, to patients. This year’s event, held in Pensacola, provided more than 1,900 patients with approximately $1.4 million in donated dental care services.”
It also noted “Florida’s Action for Dental Health, a comprehensive, collaborative initiative to improve the oral health of all Floridians by supporting and promoting programs and policies to address obstacles to dental care in Florida.”
“The FDA is dedicated to leading the way for oral health in Florida,” said Drew Eason, the FDA’s executive director and CEO. “We achieve that goal by supporting our members, helping them better serve their patients and championing statewide programs and policies that benefit Floridians’ oral health.”
Don’t look now …
Everyone knows starting at the sun is bad for the eyes, but the state Department of Health really means is this time.
“The solar eclipse is a once-in-a-lifetime event that I’m sure many of us will want to experience,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip. “I look forward to viewing the eclipse safely using approved solar eclipse glasses, and I encourage all of Florida’s residents and visitors to practice caution while driving or walking outdoors during the period of darkness.”
The Sunshine State isn’t on the path for a total eclipse, but experts say a partial eclipse will be visible from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday, with the best view coming between 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.
DOH said to avoid watching through a camera, telescope or binoculars, and to go ahead and toss out eclipse glasses if they have scratches. Reputable spectacles are listed by the American Astronomical Society.
Richard Reeves, a veteran lobbyist who founded his own firm before joining another that merged with GrayRobinson last year, now is leaving the firm, he told Florida Politics Friday.
“I wanted to be out on my own again,” he said in a phone interview. “The opportunity to work with Dean (Cannon) was tremendous. He’s a great mentor and leader and friend.”
Cannon, a former House Speaker (2010-12), formed Tallahassee’s Capitol Insight, where Reeves also worked. It then merged with GrayRobinson.
His departure “was a friendly decision,” added Reeves, 46. He says he will continue to work with Cannon on projects that benefit their mutual clients.
“Richard is a great friend and asset to us at GrayRobinson, so it is bittersweet to see him go,” said Cannon. “However, we are happy he is going to form his own firm and looking forward to collaborating with him in the future.”
Reeves’ new firm will be called RLR Consulting, and he plans to rent space in the downtown building near the Capitol co-owned by Jennifer Green‘s Liberty Partners of Tallahassee and Tampa-based lobbyist Ron Pierce‘sRSA Consulting.
Reeves, who became GrayRobinson’s Senior Director of Government Affairs in Tallahassee after the merger, began his career in Florida politics working for now-U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, during Nelson’s 1990 gubernatorial campaign, according to his bio.
In 1995, Reeves moved to Tallahassee to serve Nelson in his role as Insurance Commissioner, acting as an external affairs liaison, including board appointments and legislative affairs related to what is now Citizens Property Insurance Corp. and the Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA).
Reeves later served as campaign director for Nelson’s 1998 re-election campaign. After the re-election, he went on to become Finance Director for Nelson’s successful U.S. Senate Campaign in 2000.
In 2001, Reeves formed his own firm and began lobbying, “specializing in education, workforce development, insurance, utilities and appropriation issues,” his bio says.
He also has served as a political consultant for political committees and candidates, including now-U.S. Sen. MarcoRubio, a Republican, in 2004-05. Reeves was finance consultant during Rubio’s successful campaign to become Speaker of the Florida House.
After initially planning to run in 2018 to try to replace House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, Republican Christopher Licata this week switched races to run for an open Pinellas County House seat.
Licata filed paperwork with the state Division of Elections to run in House District 69, which will be open next year because Rep. Kathleen Peters has decided to seek a seat on the Pinellas County Commission. In a letter to the Division of Elections, Licata said he had been living temporarily in Cruz’s House District 62 but grew up in House District 69.
The change sends a ripple through the races in both districts. It left only four Democrats — Michael Alvarez, Carlos Frontela, John Rodriguez and Jose Vazquez Figueroa — running to replace Cruz in her Hillsborough County district.
It also led to a GOP primary opponent for Madeira Beach Republican Raymond Blacklidge, who had been the only candidate running to replace Peters in District 69.
Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Mitch Perry, and Jim Rosica.
Good morning. Let’s start with ‘welcome to the world’ messages for two sets of parents in The Process. Congrats Ashley Ligas and Franco Ripple on the birth of Carson Alexander. He came in Wednesday evening at a healthy 9 pounds 5 ounces. We’re told big brother Evan is excited to meet his new sibling. Meanwhile, Jennifer and Brock Mikosky are “thrilled” to announce the arrival of Collins Elizabeth. Brock says everyone is happy, healthy and doing well.
Now, on to politics …
— DON AND RICK —
Some Florida Republicans are condemning President Donald Trump‘s reaction to events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Others are tiptoeing around the issue, or remaining silent.
Florida’s governor, meanwhile, went on a lunch date with him Thursday, reports Brendan Farrington of the Associated Press.
Gov. Rick Scott dined with Trump at his New Jersey golf club, even as the president continues to draw criticism for saying that protesters and counter-protesters share blame for violence at a white nationalist rally that turned deadly. Trump also said that the group of white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis included some “very fine people.” Trump’s comments were the last straw for executives on a presidential business council, who decided to disband.
And Trump added to the debate Thursday, by criticizing people who want to remove Confederate monuments.
But a spokesman for Scott, John Tupps, said the subject of Charlottesville and Confederate monuments never came up during their lunch, which was scheduled before the violence in Virginia.
“Governor Scott was solely there to promote Florida,” said Tupps said, adding that “a wide-range” of subjects were discussed. “Additionally, they discussed the terror attack in Barcelona and the efforts President Trump is taking to keep America safe.”
Scott’s condemnation of white nationalists Wednesday did not include criticism of Trump, though he did say the president and other elected officials need to focus on unity and love. Asked what he thought of Trump’s comments, Scott told a reporter: “You can ask President Trump what he said.”
“Instead of condemning President Trump’s heinous remarks, Rick Scott did what he always does: put his own political ambitions and self-interest ahead of what’s right for Florida,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein said in a press release. “Instead of sitting down to eat with President Trump, Scott should have stood up to him.”
Corcoran was there to support the plan — but clearly, he was also there to make his presence known to a Jacksonville press corps often obtuse when it comes to statewide issues and pols.
Corcoran was quippy, making jokes about how he’d be a “horrible statewide candidate” since he couldn’t feign enthusiasm about teams outside of Tampa. And he was relatable, extolling Mayor Lenny Curry with specificity. In turn, Curry extolled Corcoran for his consistent political philosophy.
Democratic candidates for Governor have been playing in the Duval sandbox (Gwen Graham primarily, though Andrew Gillum also has shown up). However, the expectation is that Jacksonville will mean much more in GOP primaries and it’s interesting to see how everyone is playing it.
Adam Putnam has been through the area off and on since declaring his candidacy, and he can always count on coverage, though it’s hard to think of anyone in the local press corps who really “gets” Putnam or gets particularly excited about covering him.
Jack Latvala was through here earlier this month to meet with political allies at the Fraternal Order of Police.
In statewide general elections, Democrats don’t make aggressive plays here (see, Patrick Murphy 2016, Charlie Crist 2014, Alex Sink 2010). In part, it’s because the kind of milquetoast, vaguely center-left campaigns run are tailored for the I-4 Corridor, not for Jacksonville’s brand of Dems.
It will be, in 2018, a Republican year. And expect every Republican with a shot to come through and kiss Curry’s ring.
He has multiple friends in this race, and expect Curry to let the process play out before he endorses.
November sentencing for Corrine Brown
On Wednesday, motions filed by former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown for a new trial and acquittal were denied, setting the stage for a November sentencing.
Brown’s motion for a new trial was predicated on a claim that a discharged juror was incorrectly removed.
Judge Timothy Corrigan rejected that premise: “Corrine Brown is entitled to a fair trial with an impartial jury that reaches a verdict in accordance with the law. That is what she received.”
“I determined beyond a reasonable doubt that there was no substantial possibility that he could base his decision on the sufficiency of the evidence and the Court’s instructions,” Corrigan added.
Regarding the acquittal motion, Corrigan said that “Suffice it to say there was more than sufficient evidence to justify the jury’s verdict on each count of conviction.”
Brown’s contention was that she was careless with her finances, leaving herself open for exploitation by her former co-defendant and chief of staff. However, Corrigan said the evidence said otherwise — that Brown was active in the scheme to defraud.
Confederate monuments to go?
Jacksonville City Council President Anna Brosche seeks the removal of Jacksonville’s Confederate monuments in the wake of Charlottesville. The Jacksonville Civic Council backs her play.
The mayor thinks Jacksonville has some bigger issues than statues, meanwhile. And Brosche’s Council colleagues … well, let’s just say there is no consensus on this one yet.
Those close to Curry have their concerns. One person wondered why this had to be hot-shotted in the way he believes it has been, when a more deliberate, less headline-grabbing process would have been more appropriate.
Regardless of timing, the band-aid has been ripped off. Jacksonville will have its own dialogue on Confederate reliquary.
For our writers, that means readers. For city officials, including those charged with public safety, more existential challenges — such as activists on the left and on the neo-Confederate side — are posed.
Mayor warns of ‘chatter’ from Confederate enthusiasts
During a Jacksonville press gaggle Tuesday, Curry warned of “chatter” heard by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office in the wake of Brosche‘s proposal to remove Confederate monuments.
Curry commented in the wake of questions posed to Gov. Rick Scott and him regarding the proposed removal of these monuments — a proposal fraught with controversy locally, with that controversy even extending to the Council.
“I do think it’s important when we talk about public safety to recognize that how this is pursued in our community is important,” Curry said.
“I get briefed by the Sheriff regularly. I can tell you right now from discussions with him, based on Council’s wanting to outright say they want to remove these — there’s chatter from these outside groups. People in Charlottesville are already talking about coming to Jacksonville. We want to keep those groups out of our city, and we want to work together as a community to have a civil discourse.”
“I’m not proposing we remove these monuments,” Curry said. “Certainly, if the public wants to have that conversation — now the Council President has said this is her priority to remove them.”
“I urge the Council to have that discussion, that debate, Whatever they decide, I’ll evaluate it when it lands on my desk at that time,” Curry said, refraining from a commitment to sign or veto the bill when asked.
Brosche addressed Curry’s comments later Tuesday afternoon, saying that she’s “kicked off a process for defining an orderly and respectful solution for consideration by the Council and Mayor. I hope the community can allow that process to work.”
Spotted — Former Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown at this weekend’s annual Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s policy conference in Tunica, Mississippi hosted by Mississippi Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson.
Hate mail hits Council President’s inbox
More fallout still from the proposal to remove Confederate monuments, in the form of emails to the Council President.
One such email purported to be from a senior administrator at a local university which, it turns out, had a cybersecurity breach that this episode uncovered.
“I find your caving-in to nasty commie anarchist hebes and their black jungle-bunny friends to be repulsive,” the email wrote.
“You are an Asian! You don’t belong here. You aren’t from here. You just can’t cave-in to these sorry people and screw everyone else. You should not even be on the city council,” the email added, saying “liberals and their n*** allies are making you look bad.”
We asked Brosche her thoughts.
“While I’ve received an email with a closing salutation of ‘FU,’ that was the worst email so far. It does not change my position either way,” Brosche said.
Red light cameras to go
Good news for those who hate red light cameras in Jacksonville; this is the last year for them, per Sheriff Mike Williams.
The technology isn’t where it needs to be, Williams said.
“That contract will end in December. We wanted to add crash avoidance to a number of intersections in Jacksonville,” Williams said, “but the technology just isn’t there yet.”
“That was the appeal of having a red-light camera to me. If we can’t do that, we know from the data that it’s not really reducing crashes in the intersections, maybe we just let this contract sunset and take a look at it years down the road,” Williams said.
One suspects that may be many, many years down the road.
White males abound on Jax boards and commissions
The slogan du jour: One City, One Jacksonville. But the city’s boards and commissions are mostly white and male. However, that could change soon.
Of 332 people currently serving, 65 percent are male — a number not substantially different between City Council appointees (64 percent male) and appointees from other parties, such as the Mayor (66 percent).
Seventy percent of all appointees: Caucasian. The percentage of Council representatives is even higher: 80 percent, per the most recent Boards and Commissions diversity report.
This ratio holds true, more or less, no matter who is in office.
And some would contend that needs to change.
On Wednesday morning, Brosche held a public-notice meeting to that end.
“The meeting is intended to increase awareness of opportunities to serve in hopes of broadening the pool of candidates that apply,” Brosche said.
“I will always choose the most qualified candidate among the pool of applicants that apply; I’d like to have a ‘pool’ of candidates larger than one application,” Brosche added.
Brosche has made an active push in diversity/social justice initiatives, as seen by her push to remove Confederate monuments from public display in Jacksonville just this week.
JEA nuclear deal safe from failed project fallout
Despite a major blow to the nuclear power industry this week, JEA is still on track to add nuclear to its fuel mix around 2020.
After a South Carolina nuclear project was scuttled Monday, the Waynesboro, Georgia, plants being built by Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia became the only active nuclear construction project in the country.
The owners of the dead South Carolina project pointed to Westinghouse Electric Company’s recent bankruptcy filing as the culprit. The Toshiba-owned company was contracted to construct the new nuclear reactors and was also at one point the contractor for the Georgia plants.
JEA has a 20-year agreement in place to purchase nuclear power from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia plants.
Emails between city officials reveal that track may be in one of the highest-visibility areas in the city.
A Friday email from Chief Administrative Officer Sam Mousa laid it out.
Mousa wrote that “the JTA has approached the City about utilizing a section of asphalt pavement (driveway) in the Sports Complex as a test track for their autonomous vehicle program. The driveway is located south of and adjacent to Lot K, and controlled for the City by SMG. The City, SMG and the JTA have met and based on the attached memo, all seem to be in concurrence with this driveway use, pending further plan development, coordination, etc.”
AVs are the next generation for JTA’s fleet, intended to supplement and eventually replace the outmoded Skyway vehicles.
Mystery deepens on Times-Union ownership
Jacksonville residents are still trying to figure out what the recent sale of the Florida Times-Union means, and a recent Jax Daily Record write-up may or may not offer clarity.
It was previously reported that Gatehouse bought the T-U and other Morris Communications papers. And while that’s true, Gatehouse itself has an external owner after a 2013 Chapter 11 restructuring.
“New Media was created just four years ago to take control of the newspapers owned by GateHouse Media Inc. in a prepackaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring … formed by a real estate investment trust called Newcastle Investment Corp,” writes the Record’s Mark Basch.
The Times-Union has branded itself as aggressively local journalism — and that branding has stepped up in the last year, especially after a Morris mandate to endorse Donald Trump for President. The paper has gone hyper local with niche publications for Downtown enthusiasts (“J”) and aging scenesters (“Jack.)
Will the future of this branding and these initiatives change soon? Re-orgs are always interesting.
What the donor class can buy
Marc and Nicole Padgett are among Curry’s strongest supporters, and the Jax Daily Record reports that their future fundraisers for the Mayor will be held in fine style.
The couple is building a multi-story mansion in Fort Caroline, an older neighborhood in Arlington that has some of the highest terrains in the city.
Mrs. Padgett reckons that on a clear day, the couple will be able to see Fernandina Beach from the top floor of their building.
Mr. Padgett is on the Downtown Investment Authority; Mrs. Padgett, on the city’s Planning Commission.
What Aaron Bean is up to
On Monday, Aug. 21, state Sen. Bean will speak to the University of North Florida Student Government Senate at their first meeting of the fall semester, beginning 7 p.m. at 1 UNF Drive In Jacksonville.
The Fernandina Beach Republican will then speak to the Joseph E. Lee Republican Club Thursday, Aug. 24 to give an update on the 2017 Legislative Session, beginning 6 p.m. at The Salem Centre, 7235 Bonneval Road in Jacksonville.
Bean will give another 2017 legislative session update Monday, Aug. 28, at the Republican Club of West Jacksonville’s monthly meeting beginning 6 p.m. At the Harvest Time Church of God, 4502 Old Middleburg Road in Jacksonville.
The next day, Tuesday, Aug. 29, Bean will also give an update to the Rotary Club of South Jacksonville at 12:30 p.m., River City Brewing Company, 835 Museum Circle In Jacksonville.
Save the date
Atlantic Beach kickbacks?
Eleventh-hour drama in the Atlantic Beach Mayor’s race, where Mitch Reeves is dealing with an untimely ethics flap two weeks before Election Day.
“Atlantic Beach resident and mayoral candidate Ellen Glasser brought the possible conflict to the attention of city officials when she filed a complaint about Reeves July 27. In the letter, she said she believes his employment with G.T. Distributors is a violation of Section 66 of the Atlantic Beach City Charter,” reports the Florida Times-Union.
“Glasser said she felt she needed to raise the issue after looking over city emails and transactions between the city and G.T. Distributors since October 2016. Reeves is a copied recipient of at least four emails regarding specific sales between the company and the city,” the T-U adds.
Not a good look.
Three candidates will face off Aug. 29. If a runoff is needed, that will be in November.
Amazon in NW Jax: Ready to start processing orders
The Jax Daily Record reports that Amazon has begun hiring associates in NW Jax, with the fulfillment of orders set to begin Sept. 1.
All told, the Pecan Park Road center will focus on small goods, and employ 1,500 people.
The Cecil Commerce Center location will focus on large goods, opening later in September.
“The city and state approved $25.7 million in incentives for the two large fulfillment centers. [The] legislation says the company’s total investment will be $315 million,” the Daily Record report adds.
Appointed — Mike Bell to the District Board of Trustees, Florida State College at Jacksonville. Bell, 53, of Fernandina Beach, is the vice president of public affairs at Rayonier, Inc. He succeeds Dr. Patricia White and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2021.
Loop Nursery wins medical marijuana license
Jacksonville-based Loop’s Nursery & Greenhouses, Inc. reached an agreement with the Florida Department of Health, reports the Daytona Beach News-Journal. The arrangement settles an extended legal dispute over the license and brings the number of firms approved to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana to 12.
Loop’s struggle to get a license began in 2014, after the passage of a law allowing the use of non-euphoric cannabis for limited types of patients, such as children suffering from epilepsy. The law, which opened the door to wider medical-marijuana legalization, created a process to award one license in each of five different regions of the state. Competition for those licenses sparked lawsuits from several growers, including Loop’s, ultimately reaching the 1st District Court of Appeal.
State Surgeon General Celeste Philip, who is secretary of the Florida Department of Health, signed an order this week approving the settlement and Loop’s license. The DOH now has 10 days to formally license and register Loop’s as a “medical marijuana treatment center.”
Editorial: Deepen JAXPORT for stronger Jacksonville, Florida
A Florida-Times-Union editorial says for Jacksonville’s port to stay competitive, it should not turn away “from all the opportunities before it.”
“That means deepening the port, as has been done for over 100 years,” the T-U writes. “Ships are getting bigger. With federal and state help, Jacksonville is on the way to funding a necessary port deepening plan.”
History of the port is filled with naysayers, the paper notes, including the “black hat” who sought to retain the status quo a half-century ago, keeping intact the “corrupt city government and an underperforming County government.”
Deepening the harbor will have a significant economic impact on both Jacksonville and the state of Florida.
Data from the Florida Department of Transportation shows that for every dollar invested in the deepening project will return $16 to $24 to the state’s economy: “JAXPORT is likely to be at the high end of that ratio, given its growing stake in the Asian trade market — which has increased by 57 percent in a five-year period.”
Conservatively, the Port supports about 130,000 jobs in Northeast Florida — more than 24,000 directly in Jacksonville — with the dredging creating 15,000-plus new jobs.
Uber, JAA reach agreement over trip fees
Action News Jaxreports that Jacksonville’s main airport and ride-sharing service Uber have come to an agreement in principle over per-trip user fees.
In a statement, Uber gave details of the agreement: pickup fees for transportation network companies and taxi companies will be set at $2.50, changing to $3.25 for both as of Sept. 1, 2017.
“We thank the airport’s leadership for working to ensure that Jacksonville residents continue to have access to affordable and reliable transportation options, said Uber Florida General Manager Kasra Moshkani.
Uber Florida Public Affairs Manager Javi Correosotold reporters JIA had been charging Uber $3.25, while Gator City cab paid $2.50 for the same per-trip fee.
“We are willing to pay fees at the airport, but we are just asking the leadership at the airport to be fair,” Correoso said.
After early scoring, Armada ends North Carolina match in draw
Jacksonville Armada FC scored twice early and held on for a 2-2 draw against league leaders North Carolina FC (NCFC) in Cary Saturday night.
Recently acquired forward Tony Taylor scored his first goal of his career with the club in just the third minute. In the 18th minute, Jack Blake scored on a penalty kick after a foul on Tony Taylor in the area to give the Armada a 2-0 lead. Just before halftime, North Carolina midfielder brought his club within one goal after a turnover in the Jacksonville box.
“You give yourself no breathing room when it’s 2-1,” said Armada Head Coach Mark Lowry. “North Carolina has a lot of bodies coming forward, a lot of players going past you, and is a very hard team to go against if you don’t take your chances.”
“The first half we were good,” said Lowry. “One moment we fell asleep in the box, we didn’t clear our lines properly, we switched off for a second, and we got punished to make it 2-1. Then the second half was a completely different game.”
Following the break, North Carolina’s strong attacking play continued. NCFC broke through to level the match in the 69th minute when Lance Laing was in the right place at the right time for his seventh league goal of the year. The score remained level at 2-2 for the duration.
“If you take away the first 10 minutes, we were exceptionally good,” said NCFC Head Coach Colin Clarke. “But, you can’t to do that, so we’re still answerable for those poor goals we gave up at the beginning. The reaction after [Jacksonville’s] early goals was very good with our play and passing. With a little bit more luck and some better finishing, we could have gotten all three points.”
The Armada play Puerto Rico FC at Hodges Stadium Wednesday.
Last Call – A prime-time read of what’s going down in Florida politics.
ICYMI today: On Twitter and in a Medium blog post, Tallahassee PR man Kevin Cate (or “communications savant,” as we call him) took apart the case for keeping a Confederate memorial in front of the old Capitol.
The heretofore little-paid-attention-to stone monument was dedicated in 1882, and was moved to its current location near Monroe Street in 1923. It honors “the heroic patriotism of the men of Leon County who perished in the Civil War….”
But Cate starts off noting it “misspells and misplaces Gettysburg, Pennsylvania — and that may be its least egregious error. It’s full of fake Confederate history — the most common kind in Florida.”
Cate, for instance, challenges the Battle of Natural Bridge, which has its own memorial plaque near Tallahassee, saying “Confederate archives … make it clear that on [the Confederate] side hardly anyone did any fighting at all, which explains the near-nonexistence of Confederate casualties.”
And he fact-checks the Battle of Olustee, fought in Baker County on February 20, 1864, and re-enacted yearly.
“Confederates had ‘overwhelming force’ and won, but instead of chasing down the Union troops, ‘no serious attempt [was] made to pursue’ because as one field officer put it, they were ‘too busy shooting n*****s, sir,’ ” Cate writes. Well then.
In other news, Gov. Rick Scott’s office gave no clue late Thursday as to which way he was leaning on a list of names to fill openings on the state’s Public Service Commission. “We will review the list,” spokesman McKinley Lewis said.
But his office did release a statement on his lunch today with President Donald Trump in Bedminster, New Jersey, which was on his daily schedule.
Scott dined with Trump “following an invitation from the White House last week. Gov. Scott was solely there to promote Florida,” said the statement, issued by communications director JohnTupps.
“They discussed a wide range of topics including the President’s commitment to partner with Florida on needed repairs to the federally-operated Herbert Hoover Dike at Lake Okeechobee,” he added. “Gov. Scott wants to do all he can to protect Florida’s environment and President Trump is very supportive to help. Additionally, they discussed the terror attack in Barcelona and the efforts President Trump is taking to keep America safe.”
So there’s that. And no word what was on the menu.
Quote of the Day
“A festering wound and every Wednesday they keep ripping the scab off.” —Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, on a vote to remove a Confederate monument in that city’s downtown.
Gubernatorial candidate Jack Latvala will make a couple more stops in Orlando tomorrow. At 9 a.m. the Clearwater Republican will speak to the Association of Florida Community Developers at the Marriott Orlando Airport, before taking a 30-minute drive across town to the Marriott World Center where the Florida League of Cities is holding its annual shindig. He’s expected to hit the stage at 11 a.m..
Latvala have to wrap it up quick, however, because he’s got a 6:30 p.m. cocktail hour with fundraisers and other top Senate Republicans at Ascent Lounge in New York City. Joining him for drinks are Senate President Joe Negron, future Senate Presidents Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson and Lizbeth Benacquisto, Rob Bradley and Anitere Flores.
Philip Levine, who has toyed with running for governor as either a Democrat or an independent, will also be on the move. The Miami Beach Mayor will spend his Friday afternoon about as far away from home as he can be without leaving the Sunshine State when he speaks to the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club in Pensacola at noon.
Tampa’s Tiger Bay Club will also host an event Friday, alongside the Florida League of Women Voters. The joint meeting will focus on voting rights restoration, and several speakers are on the docket. Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw will be the only lawmaker behind the mic, though Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, clemency attorney Reggie Garcia, Florida Rights Restoration Coalition CEO Desmond Meade and ACLU of Florida regional development director Joyce Hamilton Henry are also expected to speak.
With all the 2018 talk, it’s easy to forget about the guy still in office. Don’t feel too bad for Rick Scott, though, as the “jobs governor” is likely to toot his own horn after the Department of Economic Opportunity drops its July unemployment report tomorrow morning.
Pro-telemedicine expansion group The Telehealth Advisory Council will meet at 9 a.m. at Orlando Health; The Task Force on Involuntary Examination of Minors will talk about the use of the Baker Act on minors at 10 a.m. at the Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek; and AHCA will meet at its Tampa office at 1 p.m. to discuss changes to Medicaid waivers.
State Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa has never been shy about discussing his ambition to become Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, but he has stopped short of formally declaring his candidacy to run in 2018.
That likely is about to change.
“It’s my intention to run for the Republican nomination (for CFO) in 2018 and it is my intention to announce my candidacy this fall,” he told me.
Lee lost to Democrat Alex Sink in the 2006 general election for CFO. He is likely to face a tough primary challenge this time against current CFO Jimmy Patronis of Panama City.
Patronis was recently appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to fill the vacancy created when Jeff Atwater resigned to take the job as CFO for Florida Atlantic University. While the power of incumbency along with what certainly will be strong support from Scott will make Patronis a formidable opponent, Lee has a lot of reasons to believe he can win the nomination.
Lee could benefit from an expected strong turnout in Central Florida because of the presence of Bartow’s Adam Putnam on the ballot for governor, and locally in the Tampa Bay market with Ashley Moody’s campaign for attorney general.
Lee also has strong name recognition and about $2 million in the bank for his political committee, while Patronis is a relative unknown statewide.
Lee also has been quietly making the rounds, concentrating on fund-raising and lining up support. That will continue until he officially decides to join the race, perhaps as soon as next month.
Lee first served in the state Senate in 2000 and was re-elected two years later. He left Tallahassee after losing to Sink, who is the last Democrat to win a statewide election in Florida, but returned in 2012 in District 24.
He was re-elected essentially without opposition two years later, but had to run again in 2016 in the new District 20 after court-ordered re-alignment. He was unopposed in both the Republican primary and general election.
Lee’s blunt style and history of not always toeing the party line has sometimes rankled GOP regulars. He created a stir last March when he called for a thorough financial audit at Tampa International Airport over the facility’s $2.6 billion expansion.
Lee dismissed the backlash, saying he was just trying to make sure the money was being spent properly.
On the floor of the Florida Senate, Pinellas Republican Jack Latvala likes to say that no one in the Legislature has worked as hard as he has to take care of the state’s first responders, particularly local police and firefighters.
For example, during this past session, Latvala saw to it that firefighters qualify for “in the line of duty” pension benefits if they contract certain types of cancer.
Because Latvala has had their backs so often, firefighters in Miami and Orlando are now returning the favor, providing Latvala’s gubernatorial campaign with its first endorsements.
Technically, its the Miami Association of Firefighters Local 587 of the International Association of Fire Fighters and Orlando Professional Firefighters Local 1365 which are backing Latvala.
Their endorsements come less than 24 hours after Latvala formally kicked off his campaign with stops in Hialeah, Clearwater and Panama City.
“I stood with more than 100 first responders when I kicked off my campaign outside Fire Station #7 in Hialeah yesterday to show my continued support for the men and women who work so tirelessly to protect all Floridians,” Latvala said.
Freddy Delgado, the president of the Miami firefighters union said that Latvala’s capacity for making tough decisions is why his organization is supporting Latvala.
“The firefighters of this state have forged a very strong bond with you and you have proven capable of making the difficult decisions to ensure that your firefighters are afforded equitable safety condition and benefit levels,” said Delgado. :Some of those decisions have included protection of our current defined benefit retirement and fighting for firefighter cancer presumption in the State of Florida.”
In a separate statement, Orlando firefighter union leader Ron Glass commended Latvala for his “ability (to) reach consensus with members of both parties” and that Latvala was “instrumental in providing firefighters from across the state of Florida with stable careers, better working conditions and a pension that allows them to retire with dignity.”
Latvala, 65, has served two stints in the Senate, the first from 1994 to 2002, when he left because of term limits. He returned to the Senate in 2010 and will again be term-limited next year. He is the current Senate budget chairman and has previously led the chamber’s efforts to tighten ethics in state government and require political candidates to be more transparent about fundraising and campaign spending.