Scott Powers, Author at Florida Politics - Page 6 of 116

Scott Powers

Brightline brings in new CEO, moves other executives

Brightline, the private, for-profit intercity passenger railroad that plans to open service in South Florida this summer and one day send a 110-mph train to Orlando, announced the hiring of a new CEO and other executive moves Wednesday.

Dave Howard, a former Major League Baseball executive from New York, was named chief executive officer.

Former Brightline President Michael Reininger was named executive director of Florida East Coast Industries, Brightline’s parent company, where he will lead new development and growth opportunities.

Patrick Goddard was promoted to chief operating officer of Brightline.

Brightline, formerly known as All Aboard Florida, plans to open service between West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami this summer with trains that travel up to 79 mph. Sometime in the future – the timetables are in flux due to litigation and financing issues – the company wants to extend service from West Palm Beach to Orlando, with trains traveling up to 110 mph for most of the route, and up to 120 mph between Cocoa and Orlando International Airport.

“We are poised for tremendous success this year and excited to complete our leadership team as Brightline makes the dramatic transition from building to customer operations,” Reininger stated in a release. “Dave Howard is a proven executive with the leadership qualities that will ensure our customer service and experience are unparalleled.”

Howard has assumed full responsibility for all aspects of the passenger rail business, effective March 6. He previously served in the Office of the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, in expanding responsibilities with the New York Mets for more than 20 years, and as president of MSG Sports, the New York based cable and sports entertainment company that owns Madison Square Garden. The Brightline release praised him for having “customer-focused experience and hospitality orientation.”

Bill banning steroid use for racing dogs passes House panel

A bill banning the use of anabolic steroids on racing greyhounds was overwhelmingly approved by the Florida House Tourism and Gaming Control Subcommittee Wednesday after sponsor state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and industry lobbyists traded “fake fact” charges.

House Bill 743, sponsored by Smith and Republican state Rep. Alexandra Miller of Sarasota would ban dogs that test positive for testosterone and other anabolic steroids before or after races.

Smith, an Orlando Democrat, argued that the practice is routine at tracks of injecting female dogs with testosterone to keep them from going into heat; that there are no legitimate veterinary medicine purposes for such drugs for racing dogs; and that they cause longterm harm to the animals’ health.

He also argued that steroid use is cheating, in a sport where people bet.

“The reality is testosterone is a performance enhancing drug. Yes, it is tantamount to pre-game dog doping. It pushes dogs beyond their natural limits. It increases aggression in females, and unnaturally builds muscle mass,” Smith said. “This raises major questions about the integrity of the industry.”

While representatives from the greyhound industry disputed many of Smith’s claims and all said the animals’ safety and health were their top concerns, the debate about steroids actually goes further than just doping. Some committee members acknowledged they would like to see the racing stopped. And in lieu of that, banning steroids is a reasonable measure.

“Until we can get to that point we should do everything we can to improve the lives of these dogs,” Miller said. “And I think the expression, ‘death by a thousand paper cuts,’ we will have death of greyhound racing by a thousand animal welfare bills, as far as I’m concerned.”

Their bill came under sharp attack from the Florida Greyhound Association, the National Greyhound Association, and former Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, who all disputed Smith’s allegations that steroid use has no legitimate veterinary medical uses, that it’s widespread, or that it’s harmful.

“Nobody cares more about the welfare of the dogs than the dog owners,” said Kottkamp, representing racing greyhound dog owners.

Lobbyist Jack Cory, representing both the National and Florida Greyhound Association, accused Smith of working from a “fake fact sheet.”

“Steroids have no enhancement on performance,” Cory said.

Smith replied by referring to the “mistruths” provided by the industry.

There remains the prospect of an amendment that some members called for, and which others said it would render the bill meaningless. Smith and supporters of the bill such as the Grey2K organization, and the industry representatives, strongly disagreed about whether there are legitimate veterinary medicine reasons for racing dogs to get steroids. Some subcommittee members, such as Democratic state Rep. Joseph Geller of Aventura, and Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Orlando, expressed hope for an amendment down the road that would allow exemptions for medical necessities.

Smith and Democratic state Rep. Jared Moskowitz of Coral Springs urged against such a measure.

“That guts the bill,” Moskowitz said. “It guts the bill. all they have to do is have a veterinarian sign a form saying it was medically necessary.”

Carlos Smith, Jeff Clemens introduce decriminalize pot bills

Orlando Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith and Lake Worth Democratic state Sen. Jeff Clemens want people to stop going to jail or prison for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

The pair of lawmakers introduced bills this week that would make possession of one ounce or less of cannabis – described as a “personal use quantity” to be a civil violation, rather than a misdemeanor. Punishment would come in the form of fines and community service, rather than jail time.

Smith filed House Bill 1443 and Clemens Senate Bill 1662.

Unlike a similar ordinance enacted by Orlando last summer, in these bills police would not have the option of the civil penalty or a misdemeanor. When Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orlando Police Chief John Mina declared support for that ordinance Mina pointed out that extenuating circumstances, such as a belligerent violator, could lead police to choose an arrest over a ticket.

Smith cited data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that shows over 90 percent of misdemeanor drug arrests – about 40,000 a year – in Florida involved marijuana. The data also show a steady decline in such arrests, from 49,000 in 2010 to 39,000 in 2015.

He also cited an ACLU report that determined Florida spent $228 million enforcing marijuana laws in 2010.

“These draconian marijuana possession laws have wasted taxpayer dollars, unnecessarily filled up our state prison system, and distracted law enforcement from focusing on apprehending dangerous criminals,” Smith stated in a news release. “We should be creating opportunities for people to succeed – not creating obstacles and ruining lives over minor infractions or youthful indiscretions. It is past time for the legislature to end the unjust incarceration of Floridians for non-violent drug offenses. If Amendment 2 was any indication, public opinion on marijuana has changed drastically over the years. Tallahassee politicians must catch up with where a majority of Floridians already are.”

NASA’s $19.5B plan headed for Donald Trump’s desk

President Donald Trump will get his first chance to signal his vision for space now that both houses of Congress have approved a $19.5 billion bill cosponsored by both Florida senators to continue NASA’s programs.

The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the one-year spending plan late Tuesday, calling for continued support for commercial space companies launching from Kennedy Space Center, continued support for the International Space Station and the first steps in NASA’s planned Journey to Mars.

The U.S. Senate approved the Senate Bill 442 in February, creating the prospect that a NASA budget could be approved and signed for the first time since 2010. It would offer a slight increase over the $19 billion NASA operated under last year. The bill is largely lifted from the one the Senate passed late in the last session, too late to be considered by the House.

The bill is entitled “NASA Transition Authorization Act of 2017” but it largely funds a continuation of NASA’s current policies and programs, with some new demands from Congress for clarifications of what NASA wants to do.

The spending plan is largely good news for Florida, authorizing and funding programs that are redefining Kennedy and adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station as rocket-launching home to a growing private space industry. It also calls for reports from NASA to Congress on how the private sector is doing in taking over lower-Earth orbit space activity.

“This legislation that secures Florida as a key player in future efforts and successes of the aerospace industry and space exploration,” said Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, the state’s space industry development corporation.

“This bill reaffirms the framework for sustainability of the space program, further supporting Brevard’s growing government and commercial space companies,” stated Lynda Weatherman, president & CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.

It recommits to NASA’s desire to build a Mars mission in coming decades and provides funding for development of the agency’s Space Launch System super rocket and Orion crew capsule, but also requires NASA to submit a detailed roadmap on exactly what it wants to do in deep space.

That report likely would clarify NASA’s next steps, whether it be the agency’s intended but sharply-criticized plan to visit and perhaps retrieve an asteroid from deep space, or to return to the moon.

“Florida remains an indispensable player on the cutting edge of our nation’s space program,” cosponsor Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio stated in a news release. “This bipartisan legislation will foster innovation, support NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion programs, improve collaboration between the agency and commercial space sector, and benefit thousands of workers across Florida, particularly at Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center.”

“This bill marks the beginning of a new era of American spaceflight by explicitly directing NASA to put humans on Mars and helping our commercial space industry continue to grow,” cosponsor Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, which oversees NASA, stated in his own news release.

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, a Republican from Lake County who sits on the House Subcommittee on Space, called the spending vital to national security, international standing, and economic growth and innovation in Florida’s public and private sectors.

“This bill invests in critical research programs and provides policy guidance for future manned space exploration projects,” Webster stated. “The reauthorization received broad bipartisan support, which is a clear indication of the breadth of support that exists for our space program. This is a good first step to make America’s Space Program more successful and reaffirms our commitment to reaching our next frontier – a manned mission to mars.”

Added U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, a Democratic member of the House Subcommittee on Space:

“This is an important bill that deserved overwhelming bipartisan support – charting a path to new horizons for our nation’s space program. When NASA and the aerospace industry wins, Florida is a beneficiary, growing our state’s innovation capacity and economy.”

Emily Bonilla clashes with other Orange commissioners over parks appointee

New Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla has to be getting used to being a kicked-around rookie on the Board of Commissioners, especially as an outspoken Democrat on a Republican-dominated panel, but Tuesday she got taken down by all of her fellow commissioners.

“I feel it is pretty disrespectful,” Bonilla told them during Tuesday’s meeting, after none of the other six members, including Mayor Teresa Jacobs, agreed to second her nomination of her trusted advisor to the county’s 11-member Parks and Recreation Advisory Board.

That brought strong retorts from others, including Democrat Commissioner Victoria Siplin, who insisted she meant no disrespect but essentially told Bonilla she needed to learn how it’s done. But Bonilla stood by her indignation.

The spat involved involved a parks advisory board seat that is designated for a representative from her District 5, covering northeast Orange County. The incumbent, Bobby Beagles, was nominated to the panel by Bonilla’s predecessor, Republican Ted Edwards, whom she beat in November after a highly-contentious election campaign. Even though Beagles’ term has not expired, Bonilla wanted him off, replaced by University of Central Florida naturalist Ariel Horner.

Several commissioners, led by Jennifer Thompson, objected, arguing that Beagles was respected, that he had done nothing to deserve to be thrown off the board, and that he was a key player, arranging for a $1 million grant, in establishing a new park in the district, in the hamlet of Christmas. You just don’t throw someone like that off a county board without cause, Thompson argued.

Jacobs then lectured Bonilla on commission protocol, particularly about respecting political rivals and their appointees. Jacobs also told her to not think of the District 5 parks seat as hers, but rather simply as one to which she could make recommendations, that the appointment always would be up to the full board, and the board had no obligation to back her.

Bonilla tried anyway, got no second, and then expressed deep frustration that the other board members refused to support her.

The dispute, Bonilla’s frustration, and Jacobs’ rebukes signal something deeper than just a simple board appointee. Bonilla was a smart-growth activist who toppled an institution in Edwards, and while she came onto the board promising to work closely with all commissioners, she also came with the expectation that she has a reform agenda to pursue, and she has pushed it. In just three months, on a board not accustomed to open fighting, she and Jacobs already have clashed frequently in open meetings, and the mayor has lectured her on protocol on several occasions.

Tuesday, Thompson and Jacobs suggested a compromise, which Bonilla reluctantly accepted, and the board unanimously approved. It leaves Beagles as the District 5 representative, but puts Horner into another open seat on the parks board, one set aside for a natural resources expert.

“It had nothing to do with him,” Bonilla said later of Beagles. “It had to do with my vision for someone I can work with.

“I can still work through her [Horner] for what our district needs,” she added.

Protests at Marco Rubio’s office say focus is on access, not booting him

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio lost leases on his offices in Tampa and Jacksonville in part because of landlord’s impatience with the incessant barrage of protests out front.

Is Orlando next?

The plaza in front of the downtown Orlando office building housing Rubio’s Central Florida office was the site of another protest Tuesday, as it has been almost every Tuesday this year.

This time, it was For Our Future and other groups pressing a combination of state, local and federal liberal causes as part of the statewide Awake The State rallies.

The building itself was occupied by protesters for most of a day and night last July when more than a hundred people staged a sit-in, demanding that Rubio consider gun restrictions in response to the horrific massacre at the Pulse nightclub just a couple miles away. Ten protesters were arrested for refusing to leave that night.

On Monday to the Florida Times-Union (and again Tuesday morning for FloridaPolitics.com), a Rubio spokeswoman in Jacksonville charged that the leases were yanked not because protesters were explicitly targeting the Republican senator but because they were targeting President Donald Trump,  using Rubio’s offices as a platform.

“For the second time in another major region of the state, the unruly behavior of some anti-Trump protesters is making it more inconvenient for Floridians to come to our local office to seek assistance with federal issues,” Christine Mandreucci asserted in a statement she had earlier provided to the Times-Union.

Orlando’s protesters aren’t entirely disputing that Rubio is not the primary target of their ire, but said as long as the senator refuses to respond to them they would assume he is doing nothing to address their concerns. Tuesday’s protest, for example, largely focused on state lawmakers and Trump, though most speakers called on Rubio to get involved in issues ranging from health care to Muslim bans, and from abortion to Israel.

“We would like to remind people like Marco Rubio who said that he would be a check on Donald Trump. He refuses to met with people, he refuses to have a town hall, he refuses to talk to us, so we’re holding it here,” said Mitch Emerson of For Our Future.

And they said they have no interest in causing the senator any problems with his landlord — Seaside Office Plaza is managed by Highwoods Properties.

“Truthfully, the one goal that I have, and the one goal that we have in general, is we would like our voices to be heard,” said Melanie Gold, a primary organizer of the Tuesday rallies.

 

Planned Osceola Parkway extension through park draws fire in Orange meeting

Osceola County Expressway Authority plans to run a new highway through an Orange County nature park drew strong fire Tuesday at the Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting, but Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the commissioners were uncertain they could do anything about it.

Several dozen people came to the meeting to appeal to Jacobs and the commissioners to take a stand against the expressway authority’s planned route for an eastward extension of the Osceola Parkway, a multi-lane, divided, limited-access tollroad, because those plans now call for it to enter south Orange County for a few miles and then cut through the middle of the Split Oak Forest Forest Park, which is on the Orange-Osceola counties line.

That preserve offers 2,000 acres of undeveloped scrub oak forest with what supporters call unique habitats for wildlife and plants, and was set up more than 20 years ago as a mitigation bank, and became a popular hiking and nature spot. Numerous speakers from the Audubon Society, the League of Women’s Voters, other groups, and individual conservationists and environmentalists lined up Tuesday to urge the commission to stop the road, or at least to move the alignment so it does not go through the park.

“We’re here to get your commitment to protect Split Oak,” said Marge Holt, chair and conservation chair of the Sierra Club Central Florida Group. She offered them a proposed county resolution and urged them to put it on a future agenda.

Consultants Paul Cherry and S. Clifton Tate of Kimley-Horn told the board that the Split Oak alignment was selected in part for safety reasons, because other potential alignments would force tight curves to get around area lakes and development. They also noted the proposed $250 million highway extension would cost far more in other alignments due to far more home relocations.

The Osceola County Expressway Authority’s plans are longterm, part of the authority’s 2040 vision to circle Kissimmee and St. Cloud with expressways connecting into those in Orange County. But at the authority’s April meeting its board will consider signing off on the planned route.

Yet that might be all the Osceola County Expressway Authority does. That agency is currently in plans to merge with the Central Florida Expressway Authority, which would then take over all of the Osceola authority’s roads, projects and plans.

And that left Jacobs and the Orange County commissioners in a potential difficult situation. The Orange commissioners might have the power to stop an Osceola project from extending into Orange County. But, except for the fact that Jacobs and Orange Commissioner Jennifer Thompson have seats on the nine-member CFX board, they would have no direct power to tell the Central Florida Expressway Authority what it can or cannot do.

With a potential resolution in hand, Jacobs asked the board’s legal counsel to check to see what the county could do.

“I think when it’s Osceola we probably had authority. I’m not sure when it becomes Central Florida Expressway Authority,” Jacobs said. “Once it transfers, I don’t think we do.”

The Central Florida Expressway Authority may be taking the plan back to square one. Because the authority will inherit all of Osceola County Expressway Authority’s projects, it also will inherit all of that agency’s liabilities and longterm construction and maintenance commitments. As a result, the Orlando-based Central Florida Expressway Authority is negotiating with Kimley-Horn to conduct an entirely new feasibility study for the Osceola Parkway project. That is a very early step in the process of road planning.

Democratic gubernatorial maybes Philip Levine, Gwen Graham, Andrew Gillum weigh in Rick Scott speech

Three current or potential Democratic candidates for governor criticized Gov. Rick Scott‘s State of the State speech Tuesday for what he did not talk about, with Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine critical of low-wage jobs, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum of Scott’s reading of the Pulse nightclub massacre and former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham his priorities.

Gillum, the first major Democrat to enter the 2018 gubernatorial race, blasted Scott’s speech Tuesday for not addressing two issues Democrats have tied to last year’s Pulse nightclub massacre: Gun law reform and support for the gay community.

“No mention of common sense gun law reforms, nor the continued discrimination against the LGBTQ community in @FLGovScott’s State of the State,” Gillum tweeted after the speech.

Graham also weighed in, criticizing Scott and other notable Republican leaders — led by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, though she did not mention names — for fighting with each other rather than working together for Florida.

Levine took Scott’s side in his battles with Corcoran over support for Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida, but said the governor is saying and doing little to attract good-paying jobs to Florida.

“Florida has clearly become a low-wage, high-cost state,” Levine said. “The governor didn’t offer any idea in how do we create good-paying jobs in our state. We get to tourism, and I’ll say it again. We love tourism. We love Disney World. But how can we make sure that all Floridians can visit Disney World, not just folks from outside the state?”

Before the speech, Gillum anticipated that with a prebuttal statement that said Floridians are looking for someone to champion “the issues and values that matter to us, and sadly Governor Scott will not and cannot rise to that level.”

Scott spent much of the opening minutes of his speech discussing the Pulse shooting, in which madman Omar Mateen, who declared he was inspired by ISIS and who avowed hatred of gays, killed 49 people and wounded 53 in Orlando’s popular gay nightclub last June 12. He spoke of meeting with families in the days that followed, and with police and other first responders, and praised Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings and Orlando Police Chief John Mina.

Yet Scott spoke, as many Republicans do, exclusively of Islamic terrorism behind the attack, not hatred of gays, which most Democrats refer to first.

Nor did the governor talk of any of the efforts by Orlando Democrats to call for restrictions on the rapid-fire assault rifle or the high-capacity ammunition magazines Mateen used, or address President Donald Trump’s efforts to stop Muslim immigrants from entering the United States.

“We all join the governor in mourning the tragic mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub, but the governor continues to fail to put forward common-sense gun safety reforms we need to keep our communities safe,” Gillum stated in his prebuttal.

“Instead of standing up to President Trump on his unconstitutional Muslim ban or his immoral executive order on sanctuary cities, Governor Scott appears poised to be silent, even when our values are threatened.

“Times like these call for champions on the issues and values that matter to us, and sadly, Governor Scott will not and cannot rise to that level,” Gillum concluded.

“Rather than fighting for the people of Florida, Rick Scott and Republicans leaders are wasting time fighting each other,” Graham responded in a statement. “We need leaders who put the people of Florida before their own political self-interests.

“Through this session and every day at the state Capitol, the top priorities should be helping workers get ahead, protecting our environment and improving schools,” she added. “We need our leaders to fight for families, children and seniors — not fighting each other.”

Another announced candidate, Orlando businessman Chris King, has indicated he is declining public discussions until he formally launches his campaign April 1.

Orlando attorney John Morgan, who said he might run for governor but wouldn’t decide until late this year, said he did not hear Scott’s speech.

Janet Cruz and Oscar Braynon slam quality of Rick Scott’s jobs

Democratic leaders Janet Cruz of the House of Representatives and Oscar Braynon of the Florida Senate slammed Gov. Rick Scott‘s primary focal point — jobs creation — Tuesday by arguing that the jobs he’s attracting are low-wage, low-benefit.

Scott boasted that Florida “is on the verge of becoming the job creation capital of the world!” and cited the 1.26 million private sector jobs added since he was elected in 2010, including 237,000 last year, in his annual State of the State address Tuesday.

“But let’s talk about the kind of jobs the governor is focused on creating because that’s the dirty little secret he wants to keep from you,” Cruz, of Tampa, responded.

“The governor, and Republican leadership in this state, want to create low-paying jobs that benefit the largest corporations because lower wages means higher profits for those at the top of the economic ladder,” she alleged in a written statement. “There’s no disputing the facts: Florida continues to lag behind the nation in median income for our families.”

Braynon, of Miami Gardens, took on the same theme early in his written response.

“Everyone needs work; everyone needs a job. The problem is the kind of jobs he’s been bringing home to Florida,” Braynon stated. “Because the majority of his jobs are great for teenagers, or someone just starting out, but not for someone with skills, with training, with a strong work history, or a family to support.

“They’re not the kind of jobs that let you save for that new car, that down payment on a new house, or your kid’s future education,” he continued. “They’re not the kind of jobs that invest in the people. And it’s that commitment to investing in the people that’s been missing from too many areas in the seven years since Governor Scott first took office.”

The two Democratic leaders in the Florida Legislature did not stop with criticism of Scott’s jobs record. Both also blasted him for not securing Medicaid expansion for Florida and for supporting national Republicans’ efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and both went after him on education and environmental issues.

Braynon tied the matters to economic development, charging that Scott cannot attract high-caliber businesses and jobs because he’s not investing in the base corporate leaders want.

“Business executives want what the rest of us do, and it all comes down to quality of life: good schools and top-notch universities, quality, affordable healthcare, efficient transportation, and clean water and air,” he stated. “They want more than just a state that sells itself as ‘cheap.'”

Cruz broadened her criticism beyond Scott to include all current Republican leaders in Florida, and for the past 20 years, charging that they were driven by ideology and priorities that do not serve most Floridians.

“Whether it’s through tax breaks that only benefit the privileged few and the largest corporations or the relentless, ideological drive to privatize core functions of your state government, the Republican solution to every issue facing our state has been to find more ways to line the pockets of the wealthy and the well-connected at your expense,” she declared.

“If you take one thing away from my remarks today I want it to be this: Florida’s problems do not lie in our revenues or our spending. Florida’s problems lie in the misplaced priorities of 20 years of Republican leadership,” Cruz stated.

Victor Torres seeks to save call-center jobs

State Sen. Victor Torres has introduced a bill to force call center operators to give extended notices if they intend to shut down or move call-center jobs out of state or overseas.

The Orlando Democrat filed Senate Bill 1632 to require call centers that reduce their staffs by more than 30 days relocate outside of Florida to give notice to the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation 120 days in advance.

It also requires the department to establish an inventory list of call centers and numbers of employees, and create financial penalties for companies not in compliance with notification requirements. The bill also would bar non-compliant companies from obtaining certain state grants, loans, or tax benefits for five years.

Torres’ bill is a companion to House Bill 815, which state Rep. Robert Asencio, a Miami Democrat, filed last month. They have dubbed the bills the ‘Save Florida Call Center Jobs Act of 2017.’

Both Miami and Orlando have numerous call centers, and a press release issued by Senate Democrats said nearly 350,000 Floridians are currently employed in customer service and support call center jobs today in the Sunshine State. The release also states that those jobs are draining away, as companies outsource to states or countries with cheaper labor.

“Off shoring and out-sourcing of jobs may be good for the corporate bottom line but it has tragic consequences for the working men and women of Florida,” Torres stated in the release.

Under federal law, large employers already are required to submit 60-day “Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification” notices to the state Department of Economic Opportunity for large layoffs or closings.

Asencio said there is a cyber security issue involved in job center relocations.

“Call center workers often handle sensitive financial, health care and personal information that Floridians have a right to know is secure and protected,” he stated in the release. “When that interaction involves state business, it is only proper that their tax dollars are being used to support a secure and professional call center here in Florida. Not only is this about the good jobs that call centers support in communities across the state, it is about ensuring that we are at the forefront of data security.”

This bill will require existing call centers planning to relocate outside of Florida, or reducing their staff by more than 30 percent, to notify the Department of Business & Professional Regulation 120 days in advance of any relocation or downsizing. It also authorizes DBPR to establish an inventory list of call centers and number of employees and create a financial penalty for companies not in compliance with the notification requirements. Once on the non-compliance list, the bill would also bar these companies from certain state grants, loans and tax benefits for five years.

The AFL-CIO has expressed support.

“We thank the sponsors of the new legislation for their leadership and for recognizing that taxpayer money should go to strengthen Florida’s economy. It shouldn’t be used to ship jobs overseas,” Don Abicht, President of CWA Local 3122, which represents Florida’s communication workers said. “The ‘Save Florida Call Center Jobs Act of 2017’ is an important bill that would help American workers, protect American communities, and benefit American consumers’ safety.”

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