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Scott Powers

Andrew Gillum picks up Julian Castro’s endorsement in Governor’s race

Democrat Andrew Gillum has picked up the endorsement of former HUD Director Julian Castro in his quest for the Florida governor’s office in 2018.

Castro, from San Antonio, was U.S. secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama.

He also will participate in a fundraising event in Miami early next month for Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee, Gillum’s campaign announced.

“Our nation is at its best when it matches hard work with real opportunity. That’s the essence of the American Dream,” Castro said in a news release issued by Gillum’s campaign. “I’m proud to support Andrew Gillum for Governor because Andrew, the son of a construction worker and a bus driver, has worked hard to achieve his own dreams — and he’s worked just as hard to ensure that Floridians from every walk of life can achieve theirs.”

Gillum faces former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King heading toward a Democratic primary. So far Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has the Republican path pretty much to himself.

“When Andrew is Governor, he will fight so that every child in Florida has the opportunity to grow and succeed in the Sunshine State,” Castro continued. “He is the candidate Democrats can best trust to stand with the courage of conviction, even when it’s not politically convenient,” Castro continued.

Gillum called Castro’s endorsement an honor.

“As HUD Secretary and San Antonio’s Mayor, Julian has put children’s health, well-being and opportunity at the forefront of his work. He has worked to ensure all of our children — no matter if they grew up in a big city or rural town — have every chance to succeed,” Gillum said. “It is an honor to have his endorsement as we continue sharing our vision for a Florida that works for everyone.”

Linda Stewart urges Rick Scott to veto education bill

Democratic state Sen. Linda Stewart is urging Gov. Rick Scott to veto the late-passed education bill, charging its new funding formula would cut public school budgets in a non-recession year for the first time in memory.

“This bill has a consequential, negative impact to our state’s school system, and not only hurt our state’s children, but would, for the first time in memory of our state’s professional educators, actually cut budgets in a non-recessionary year for public school districts,” Stewart argued in a letter she sent to Scott.

The Florida Legislature conference committee substitute for House Bill 7069 was unveiled to and then approved by the Florida House and Florida Senate on May 8, the extra day of the session. It passed the Senate 20-18.

Stewart, who, like all Democratic senators, voted against the bill, argued that it bypasses the state’s principal funding formula for public education to deny teachers permanent eases “they so richly deserve in favor of a yearly ‘bonus’ that may or may not be funded.” She said no fewer than 18 counties would receive fewer funding formula dollars, and local tax dollars the districts raise would have to be shared with for-profit, out-of-state charter school companies.

“Negotiating the final, 274-page amendment on the final day of session was inconsistent with the pledges of transparency and openness our state’s constitute,” its laws, and its long tradition requiring scrutiny of the budget,” Stewart wrote.

She urged Scott to “heed the calls of our state’s teachers, superintendents, parents, and exercise the prerogative of your office by vetoing this bad bill.”

Ron DeSantis condemns Turkish violence in D.C., Turkish president

Republican U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis Friday condemned the security forces of Turkish President Recep Erdogan for attacking protesters in Washington D.C. and also condemned Erdogan.

DeSantis, of Ponte Vedre Beach, chairs the House Subcommittee on National Security. His First Coast district includes Volusia County.

In a news release issued Friday morning, DeSantis did not address how he feels about President Donald Trump inviting Erdogan to the White house earlier this week, but he expressed nothing but contempt for the Turkish leader.

DeSantis also expressed outrage over the attacks that happened outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on Tuesday, documented in videos. He said Erdogan must be held accountable.

He called Erdogan’s security detail “a goon squad.”

The New York Times is reporting today that new videos show that Erdogan was in a car. An aide spoke to someone in the car, then spoke to another aide, who went off to the group of Turkish security forces. The Turkish security forces then charged the protesters, attacking them. Nine protesters were injured requiring hospital treatment.

“It’s bad enough Turkish President Recep Erdogan refuses to recognize freedom of speech and religion at home and has suppressed political opposition to his rule. It’s worse that he stands at the nexus of support for nefarious jihadist groups,” DeSantis stated in the release.

“That his security detail has now engaged in such behavior on our own soil against American protesters is unconscionable. The Erdogan government must be held to account immediately and apologize for their anti-democratic violence,” DeSantis continued.

“The men responsible for this brutality should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. At the very least, this goon squad should be declared persona non grata and removed from the country forever. Nobody is immune to violations of the laws of our land when it involves mass violence against our people,” he added.

“Mr. Erdogan must be reminded that he cannot stomp on the rights of the citizens of the United States. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave, not an Islamist tyranny.”

Scott Boyd declines HD 44 race, backs John Newstreet

The special election race for Florida’s House District 44 became clearer Friday morning when former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd said he has decided to not run and will back Republican John Newstreet instead.

“Solid guy, absolutely the best qualified individual for this position,” Boyd declared of Newstreet in a message to Orlando-Politics.com.

Newstreet, the chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, entered the race Thursday, challenging former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski for the Republican nomination.

The race also has a long-shot Republican, Dr. Usha Jain, and Democrat Paul Chandler, an Orlando businessman. The western Orange County district is considered fairly safe for Republicans, especially if there is a low-turnout special election. And it could give the winner a legs-up as a candidate for Florida House Speaker.

The seat is open because Republican state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving take a judicial appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals. A special election primary and general election are yet to be set.

Boyd, whose confirmed earlier this month that he was contemplating a run in HD 44 himself. His county commission seat, which he won for two terms before being term-limtied out, covered much of the same territory.

On Friday he wrote, “I’m out; 150 percent behind Newstreet.”

Bobby Olszewski fundraisers set for Orlando, Miami in HD 44 race

Republican House District 44 candidate Bobby Olszewski is rolling out his endorsement backers for two major fundraisers late this month as he gears up for what will be a big special election primary battle in Orange County.

One fundraiser, set for the Shutts and Bowen law firm in Orlando on May 30, features the trio of honorary hosts U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

It also features 30 other hosts who cover a who’s-who of local politics in west Orange County, where HD 44 is located.

The other fundraiser is set for the next night at SMGQ Law Firm in Coral Gables.

The HD 44 race has not been scheduled for a special election yet, but it will be, because incumbent state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving for an appeals court judicial appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals,

And earlier this week the HD 44 Republican primary contest, seen by Republicans as an important seat with a strong track to a speaker’s job, became a battle, with the entry of Kissimmee chamber CEO John Newstreet.

Olszewski has spent the past couple of months lining up endorsements, and he’ll be rolling out those people at his Orland fundraiser.

Among dozens of other hosts listed are Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley, Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn, Belle Isle Mayor Bill Brooks, Orange County School Board Members Joie Cadle, Christine Moore, and Linda Kobert, former Orange County Clerk of Courts Eddie Fernandez, Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson, Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, Orlando Commissioner Tony Ortiz, Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks, and Winter Garden Mayor John Rees.

Susie Plakon honored for role in passing HB 883 for memory disorder clinic

Susie Plakon, wife of state Rep. Scott Plakon, was honored Thursday for inspiring HB 883 for the creation of a memory disorder clinic at Florida Hospital – a victory for a woman who is herself battling Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Florida-based hospital unveiled a  plaque Thursday declaring, “Florida Hospital proudly honors Susie Plakon for her courage and inspiration to help pass HB 883. The Maturing Minds Clinic was created to address the growing need for care of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.”

“That was a really nice moment this morning,” said Scott Plakon, a Republican from Altamonte Springs.

Scott Plakon, a Republican from Altamonte Springs, publicly announced last summer that his wife of 32 years was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

HB 883, which establishes the 16th memory disorder clinic in Florida, was approved 119 to 0 in the Florida House and 35 to 0 in the Florida Senate. Plakon and Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park sponsored it, and it had a list of bipartisan cosponsors, including Republican state Reps. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Spring and Larry Metz of Yalhala, and Democratic state Reps. Amy Mercado of Orlando and Matt Willhite of Wellington. Republican State Sen. David Simmons of Longwood sponsored a Senate version.

Plakon spoke of his wife being an inspiration to his colleagues.

“Even though her words are becoming fewer, her voice is still being heard,” Scott Plakon said.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Brian Mast spearhead letter to save Everglades program

Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Republican U.S. Rep. Brian Mast are leading a bipartisan effort of Florida members of Congress to try to convince President Donald Trump to not zero out funding for a EPA program monitoring water quality related to the Everglades and other sensitive areas.

The South Florida Geographic Initiative, begun in 1992, measures and monitors phosphates and other pollutants from farms, ranches and development from the Florida Keys to the Indian River Lagoon, and from the Everglades to its headwaters in Central Florida.

Trump’s budget proposal zeros out federal funding for it.

The letter Wasserman Schultz of Weston and and Mast of Palm City wrote and sent to Trump Thursday also was signed by eight other Florida members of Congress: Republicans Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Miami and Carlos Curbelo of Kendall; and Democrats Val Demings of Orlando, Al Lawson of Tallahassee, Frederica Wilson of Miami Gardens, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, and Alcee Hastings of Miramar.

“We urge you to reverse course and support funding for this vital piece of Florida’s – and our nations – conservation efforts, and we look forward to working with you to ensure its continued success,” the members of Congress wrote.

“For more than 20 years, the SFGI has been monitoring the threat of toxins such as mercury, phosphorus, and other potentially damaging nutrients in our ecologically-fragile region,” they argued. “The multibillion dollar federal and state partnership on Everglades restoration relies on SFGI data.

“The SFGI also supports water quality monitoring in our valuable estuaries and costal waters including Florida Bay, Biscayne Bay, the Caloosahatchee Estuary, and the Indian River Lagoon, as well as waters along the Florida Reef Tract from Martin County through the Florida Keys,” they added.

 

Carlos Guillermo Smith, Amy Mercado say special session needed to end cannabis legal limbo

Saying that the current limbo of law is bad for doctors and patients, Democratic state Reps. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Amy Mercado pleaded with Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Legislature leaders to call a special session to deal with medical marijuana.

“We are here because 71 percent of Florida voters approved the constitutional right to medical cannabis. But we also are here because unfortunately once again Tallahassee politicians have thwarted the will of the people and they have refused to implement Amendment 2, medical cannabis,” said Smith, of Orlando. “They should be ashamed.

“While the out-of-touch, old-fashioned conservative majority in Tallahassee continues its hand-wringing over whether or not cannabis is actual medicine… or whether they can actually get over themselves and listen to the voters, qualified patients are dying, qualified patients are waiting,” he continued. “And there is no question that the governor, the Senate president of the senate and the speaker of the House need to be leaders and officially call for a special session and demand that the Legislature implement the will of the voters immediately.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran has called for a special session to pass implementing legislation to fill out the laws for the Amendment 2 medical marijuana initiative approved by 71 percent of the voters in November. Senate President Joe Negron and Gov. Rick Scott have not. The Florida Legislature failed to pass the implementing bill on the last day of Session earlier this month.

Cannabis activist and author Gary Stein argued that the lack of implementing laws means that the qualifying patients – and the doctors who assist them – are caught in legal “fog” between what should be authorized under Amendment 2 and what little cannabis law and regulation exists based on the 2014 “Charlotte’s Web” bill the Florida Legislature approve.

Mercado, also of Orlando, talked about how her grandmother went through chemical and radiation therapy for stage 4 cancer, and she and the family wanted to try everything and anything. “Had medical cannabis been available, I’m pretty sure we’d have tried that too,” she said. “So we need to make sure, and ensure, that no one gets the way of patient access to medication that makes them feel better.”

Smith and Mercado also called on the Florida Department of Health to lift rules that would not be allowed under Amendment 2, but which slow down or prevent people from using medicines derived from cannabis.

Among them, they called for Florida to:

– Waive the 90-day waiting period for patients to access the medicines after they have been certified as qualified patients.

– “Stay out of the sacred patient-doctor relationship.”

– Stop rules that prevent qualified patients from getting access.

– Protect employees who can be legally fired from their jobs for using medicines derived from cannabis in their homes.

– Expand qualified conditions to include non-malignant chronic pain.

– Open the market to allow more competition, including to minority-owned businesses.

– Allow for smokable cannabis.

Kissimmee chamber chief John Newstreet enters HD 44 race

Orlando Republican John Newstreet, chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce and a former aide to U.S. Sens. Mel Martinez and Marco Rubio, announced he’s entering the House District 44 race going to a special election this summer.

“I’m honored by the number of people in the community, and across the state, who have encouraged me to enter this race and represent West Orange County in the Florida House,” Newstreet stated in a news release from his campaign. “I believe I’m prepared and qualified to successfully champion the conservative values that will grow our economy, strengthen our schools, keep our taxes low, cut job-killing regulations and protect our Second Amendment rights.”

Newstreet enters a race in which former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski had established himself as the early front-runner, even before Republican state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving to take an appointment from Gov. Rick Scott as a judge on Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals.

Republicans covet as a potential springboard to the House speaker’s position because of its relative safety, and because the special election winner will have a leg up on the freshmen of 2018. Dr. Usha Jain of Orlando also is in the Republican primary race.

The Democratic candidate is Orlando businessman Paul Chandler.

No dates have been announced for the special primary or special general election for the seat, but they are expected this summer.

Newstreet is a native Floridian who grew up in a home of nine children, and says that gave him the ability to “bring people together for a common goal.” Newstreet also is a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard and a graduate of University of Central Florida. His degree is in business administration.

“My time in the Coast Guard was a tremendous gift that helped shape who I am today,” Newstreet said in the release. “Should I earn the trust of the voters, I will be a passionate advocate for our veterans and our military service men and women.”

A resident of the Orange Tree community in the Dr. Phillips region of Orlando, Newstreet began his professional career as a financial advisor. He also has served as state director for the American Legion. For the past three years he has led the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce. That group’s board voted unanimously to allow him to run for the state representative post.

His volunteer service includes numerous charities such as Give Kids the World, as well as a leader for business and industry at the Osceola County Emergency Operations Center. Newstreet currently attends Holy Family Catholic Church.

“Serving community, lending a helping hand and doing what’s right is what we were taught growing up,” Newstreet said. “Those are the same values I will take with me to Tallahassee as West Orange’s next State Representative.”

Scott Plakon shares Facebook post from neo-Nazi site, insists he had no idea what it was

The headline may have been funny, even in a bipartisan way: “Breaking: FBI Uncovers Evidence that 62 Million Trump Voters are All Russian Agents.” But the source and the link embedded in a Facebook post Rep. Scott Plakon shared Wednesday night was neo-Nazi and white supremacist.

When alerted by FloridaPolitics.com Thursday morning that he shared a link to a notorious neo-Nazi site, Plakon expressed shock, immediately took down the post, and declared that he had no idea.

He said never followed the link on his own Facebook post, and he said he had never looked at the site before he was alerted Thursday morning.

“Wow,” he said after glancing at the site, dailystormer.com. “First, I apologize to those that were offended by my careless post. Second I detest and condemn the disgusting ideas that are represented by that site.”

The site, run by Andrew Anglin, is universally described in mainstream media as a neo-Nazi, white-supremacist site that specializes in sending out memes and trolls throughout social media. Earlier this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center declared the site to be “the top hate site in America.”

“I had no idea,” Plakon insisted.

Plakon is a conservative Republican from Altamonte Springs who said he often shares funny-sounding things on social media, but sometimes, as in this case, hasn’t bothered to check out the source. He said he does not recall from whom he shared the post.

“I saw a headline of an article that said, “62 million Trump voters were Russian agents,” and I thought that was funny. But I guess the site I was linking to, which I did not check out, was not at all funny,” he said.

Plakon’s post was up for about 12 hours linking to the site.

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