Staff Reports, Author at Florida Politics - Page 2 of 176

Staff Reports

Lobby Up: Hurricane cleanup firm AshBritt Environmental hires Ballard Partners

AshBritt Environmental, a “rapid-response disaster recovery and special environmental services contractor” in Deerfield Beach, has hired Ballard Partners‘ namesake Brian Ballard and its Christina Daly Brodeur.

Veteran influencer Ron Book also remains the company’s lobbyist, according to lobbying registration records accessed Wednesday.

Daly Brodeur, formerly Secretary of Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice under Gov. Rick Scott, joined Ballard’s firm last month.

The new registration comes as the Gulf coast cleans up and starts rebuilding after category 4 Hurricane Michael ravaged it and a swath of north Florida last week.

AshBritt rose to prominence in the disaster mitigation industry after Hurricane Andrew passed through South Florida in August 1992.

At the time, founder Randy Perkins and his wife were running a small landscaping company which borrowed two wood chippers to help with Andrew as a local hurricane cleanup contractor.

Since then, AshBritt has become one of the nation’s leading disaster-recovery and debris cleanup firms, assisting after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina, 2012’s “Superstorm” Sandy and last year’s Hurricane Irma. 

The firm’s history is not without controversy. “With the company’s success came accusations that Perkins overcharged the federal government, stiffed a consultant and subcontractors and used campaign donations to influence politicians to give him no-bid government contracts,” TCPalm has reported.

And the Miami Herald last month reported that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general now “is conducting an audit of debris-removal contracts in the Florida Keys approved right after Hurricane Irma ransacked the island chain.” Contracts were with six companies, including AshBritt, the paper reported.

Perkins self-funded an unsuccessful bid for Florida’s 18th Congressional District as a Democrat in 2016. He reportedly was worth about $200 million as of last year. 

Former Congressman Patrick Murphy vacated the Treasure Coast seat to mount a run for U.S. Senate. Murphy lost to incumbent Republican Marco Rubio; Perkins later lost to Republican Brian Mast.

State Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Coral Springs Democrat, is AshBritt’s general counsel and director of government relations, according to his member page

The company was named after two of Perkins’ daughters, Ashley and Brittany, who is now its CEO.

In 2016, Perkins stepped down as CEO “to focus on the AshBritt Foundation, his work with mental health, and other business and philanthropic endeavors,” his website says. “The AshBritt Foundation supports communities impacted by disaster or crisis and internal and external workforce development and job training programs, with a focus on working with veterans.”

Perkins also sits on the board of directors of Lauren’s Kids, the child sexual abuse prevention organization founded by Ron Book’s daughter, Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book of Plantation.

Remediation contractors insist AOB deals getting bum image

Amid post-Hurricane Michael warnings to homeowners against signing assignment of benefits (AOB) agreements comes a defense of these contracts from the Restoration Association of Florida.

“We are extremely concerned about multiple advisories warning homeowners not to sign any contracts containing assignment of benefits (AOB) language,” association spokeswoman Amanda Prater said in a written statement. The trade association represents water, fire and mold remediation contractors.

“The assignment of benefit language is perfectly legal and is an extremely common insurance practice,” Prater said. “Many homeowners we are meeting with understandably do not have the money to pay out of pocket for emergency services such as water dry-out, mold, tree service, roof repairs, etc.

“… The AOB language is there to allow covered repairs to be made to one’s property immediately — and the contractors will bill the homeowner’s insurance company directly.”

State officials have warned insurance policyholders to be wary of AOB agreements.

So have business organizations including the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Florida Realtors, and Citizens Property & Casualty Insurance Co., the state’s insurer of last resort.

As if on cue, the Chamber-backed Consumer Protection Coalition issued a fresh warning to Panhandle residents against signing assignment of benefits agreements. Its “multiplatform” campaign includes cautions by coalition personnel at “insurance villages” in Tallahassee and Panama City.

“Consumers need all the information they can get to help navigate making repairs to their homes and vehicles, and we’re working hard to provide resources to help prevent Floridians from becoming victims of AOB scams,” Chamber president Mark Wilson said.

Prater conceded that “there may be certain groups trying to take advantage of the current situation.”

Homeowners, she said, should “read all contracts carefully to ensure they are only agreeing to an assignment of benefits for a limited scope of services that are being provided by that specific contractor.”

But she added that “every one of our members are professionally licensed and only use contracts with this limited scope language.

“It is the mission of the Restoration Association of Florida to serve any homeowner with the highest quality service and we are willing to work with any homeowner and accommodate any concerns they may have with our contracts.”

Critics, including the Chamber, argue that unscrupulous contracts exploit the agreements to inflate claims and instigate costly litigation against carriers.

The coalition suggested consumers confer with their agents or insurance companies before signing anything, and avoid vendors who require an AOB before beginning work. It suggested they shun work crews that rove door-to-door soliciting business.

Delegation for 10.16.18 — Insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State

Delegation focused on Hurricane Michael aid

Nearly a week after Hurricane Michael hit the northern portion of the Gulf Coast, local officials were still trying to account for everyone. Along with the local effort, state and federal officials were working together on behalf of a region devastated by the power of a near-Category 5 hurricane striking Florida.

As the storm gained strength, Gov. Rick Scott requested President Donald Trump declare parts of Florida a major disaster area. Florida Senators Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio joined with 20 bipartisan members of the delegation in supporting Scott’s request.

Rick Scott and Donald Trump talk with reporters after arriving at Eglin Air Force Base to visit areas affected by Hurricane Michael, Monday. (Image via Evan Vucci/AP)

Politics made its way into the looming storm. With voter registration closing last Tuesday, the Florida Democratic Party went to federal court after Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner agreed only to accept new registrations one day after his office reopened Monday.

“(Detzner’s) ‘solution’ is insufficient and confusing,” the lawsuit reads. “It does not adequately protect the voting rights of Florida citizens who cannot register to vote by the October 9 registration deadline.”

With Tyndall Air Force Base taking a direct hit, Nelson, Rubio and Republican Rep. Neal Dunn wrote to Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. The request, written the day after landfall while the process of digging out had only begun, was intended to remind military officials they would help get any necessary funding through Congress.

Like they have on several issues before the hurricane, Nelson and Rubio continued to work in tandem.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to help these communities recover, but @marcorubio and I are doing everything we can to make sure folks affected by this storm get access to all the federal resources they need,” he tweeted the day following Michael hit Florida. In another, Nelson said: “Sen. Rubio and I are making sure all federal resources are available to help folks rebuild.”

Dunn, who represents the area taking the direct hit, Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Fort Walton Beach, and Democratic Rep. Al Lawson of Tallahassee, also had significant numbers of constituents directly affected. Along with both Senators, all three were visible throughout their districts following the disaster and either provided or forwarded information to those able to hear or receive it.

Lawson and delegation Democrats wrote to Scott requesting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other benefits for those affected in North Florida. The members said, “we implore you to consider all available federal food assistance programs … that are designed to root out hunger in the unfortunate instances of natural disasters and catastrophe.”

According to a Lawson tweet, Scott had already approved SNAP benefits for several Panhandle counties two days before the hurricane hit, but Gadsden and Leon County were not included. The two counties were subsequently added.

Trump, along with First Lady Melania Trumptoured the damage in Florida and Georgia on Monday. The President, accompanied by Scott during the Florida visit, described what he saw as “total devastation” and the day’s biggest goal was “just making sure everyone is safe, that they’re fed.”

Enthusiasm gap closing?

What are the chances Democrats gain the 23 seats needed to retake the House of Representatives and will Florida contribute to flipping some seats? The odds are in their favor for the former, but they may have difficulty even winning a seat most analysts have considered to be in their camp for a year (see CD 27 below).

Perhaps a better pickup opportunity comes from Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who is now within a point of Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District, according to a recent Mason Dixon poll.

After the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Republicans seemed to be closing the enthusiasm gap. But polls tell a different story.

The Real Clear Politics average of polls have the Democrats with a slightly more than a 7-point advantage in the generic ballot. Much of that advantage is fueled by three recent polls, all taken after the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, which gives Democrats double-digit margins.

If Republicans were thought to have begun closing the enthusiasm gap following the Kavanaugh hearings, these polls would indicate that is not the case. Despite GOP donations spiking, all three of these surveys show Democrats with a huge advantage.

Republicans would point to the makeup of the surveys. The ABC/Washington Post poll of registered voters released on Sunday showing an 11-point Democratic lead, had a breakdown of 33 percent Democratic respondents, 25 percent Republican and 35 percent independent.

Pollsters, especially in the latter stages of campaigns, try to anticipate the turnout on Election Day, instead of merely polling an equal percentage of the parties. However, this same poll showed Hillary Clinton with a 12-point lead over Trump only two weeks before Election Day.

The CNN survey showing a 13-point Democratic margin, had a sample of 31 percent Democrat and a whopping 44 percent of independents in their survey to only 25 percent of Republicans. The independent figure is an outlier.

Finally, the Ipsos poll showing Democrats up by 12, also had 6 percent more Democrats than Republicans, but independents made up only 13 percent of their respondents.

I a sign of some GOP awakening, some of the battleground Senate races are tilting slightly toward Republicans over the past two weeks. Nelson clings to an inside-the-margin-of-error lead over Scott.

The House still favors Democrats. Real Clear Politics shows Democrats leading in 205 races, Republicans in 200 with 30 seats, mostly held by Republicans, rated as toss-ups.

In the end, if Republicans make up only 25 percent of the voters as these polls project, they will lose and lose big, putting more than one delegation seat in jeopardy. If the GOP really has closed the enthusiasm gap, control of the House could come down to a handful of seats in California.

Nelson sides with Trump (sometimes)

During the process leading up to the confirmation of now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh, Nelson was under a microscope on how he would vote. We now know the three-term Democrat would have paid a steep price with the base had he joined West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin in voting “yes.”

Nelson has cast himself as a moderate who votes on an issue, not by party. In the era of “resist Trump” at every turn, a new analysis by CQ Roll Call shows he comes down on the same side as Trump on several occasions.

Bill Nelson insists he ‘resists Trump’ at every turn. His voting record says otherwise.

For example, earlier this year, Nelson agreed with Trump to extend warrantless spying in some circumstances. He also decided to roll back some banking regulations contained in the Dodd-Frank legislation that passed following the 2008 financial crisis.

While the previous two examples were not close votes in the Senate, Nelson bucked most members of his party and voted to confirm Gina Haspel as the Director of the CIA after Mike Pompeo left to become the Secretary of State. That vote was 54-45 for confirmation.

Overall, Nelson was on the same side as Trump 55 percent of the time over a 20-month period. Only 7 of the remaining 41 Senators in the Democratic caucus voted with Trump more often.

In 2018, he has voted with Trump 63 percent of the time. While it will not matter with most Republicans, Democrats and some independents will decide if that was a good thing.

Rubio promises consequences if Saudi journalist was murdered

As the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi grows, Americans, including members of Congress, want to know whether he was murdered in Turkey. Rubio wants the U.S. government to take a tough stand.

On the Sunday talk shows, he floated the idea that business as usual between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia should not go on. The Senator told CNN that Treasury Steve Mnuchin should not attend an upcoming investment conference in the kingdom.

Marco Rubio warns of repercussions if journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered.

“I don’t think he should go,” Rubio told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” adding that he doesn’t think any US officials should continue with their usual business in Saudi Arabia until Washington gets to the bottom of Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“I don’t think any of our government officials should be going and pretending it’s business as usual until we know exactly what’s happened here,” Rubio said.

Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post, disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2. Many believe he was murdered while in the consulate.

If Khashoggi is found to have been murdered, Rubio promised “a very strong Congressional response.”

Parkland father endorses Scott in new ad

For Andrew Pollack, who lost his daughter in the Valentine’s Day shootings in Parkland, the issue was not about gun control. Pollock has blamed the lack of school safety at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for the tragedy that occurred.

He was heavily involved with the effort to get the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act passed, which was ultimately signed by Scott. On Monday, Pollack endorsed Scott for the U.S. Senate in a new ad called “Meadow,” the name of his murdered daughter.

To view the ad, click on the image below:

“I just didn’t want to believe it that out of all the people that it could’ve been my daughter on that third floor,” Pollack says in the ad. “And I also lost a big part of my life that day. I might as well have been buried with her because I’ll never be the same.”

That bill raised the minimum age to buy a gun in Florida from 18 to 21. It also banned bump stocks, the type of modification used in last year’s Las Vegas shooting, among other new restrictions.

Other Parkland parents have endorsed Nelson for his stance on gun control.

“Rick Scott wasn’t worried about the politics that came with that bill, and he did what he thought was right,” Pollack said. “We need a politician that’s going to do what’s right. I truly believe that, that Rick Scott loves this country, and he wants to get up to Washington and make a difference.”

Nelson and Scott were scheduled to debate on CNN Tuesday night, but Hurricane Michael forced a postponement. It could turn in to cancellation if Scott stops campaigning entirely to focus on hurricane recovery.

The Scott campaign said First Lady Ann Scott and surrogates would keep his campaign commitments at least for the next two weeks and possibly for the remainder of the campaign.

Climate change major topic on Sunday shows

The topic of climate change has long been an issue that has divided the two parties. On Sunday, it returned on prominent Sunday programs following the release of a U.N. report on climate change calling for placing a “high price on carbon.”

The UN Climate Change Conference believes the world should enact a “high price on carbon.”

During his appearance on CNN’s State of the Union, Rubio repeated his position that includes not denying climate change, but he is unconvinced of the scope of the role of human activities. Rubio told host Jake Tapper he would not “destroy the economy” through extensive government mandates to combat climate change.

For his part, Trump has previously called climate change a “hoax.” During a spirited 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl on numerous subjects, the President acknowledged the climate is changing, but will “change back again.”

Trump, like Rubio, does not wish to put the U.S. at a disadvantage with an aggressive government response.

Crist thanks USDA for considering rules to protect animals

Representative Charlie Crist is thanking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in a letter for considering rules that would protect animals from inhumane breeding practices. The rule contains language similar to legislation Crist co-sponsored in Congress.

Charlie Crist’s animal welfare bill protects animals (real, not LEGO) from inhumane breeding practices.

Crist’s WOOF Act (Welfare of our Friends) would prohibit the issuance or renewal of licenses to breeders whose licenses had previously been revoked or suspended as a result of severe animal care violations. It would also prohibit immediate family members at the same address from obtaining a new license or license renewal.

“In some cases, commercial breeding facilities with multiple, serious [Animal Welfare Act] violations are able to maintain their license to operate,” the letter explains. “Breeders whose licenses have been suspended or revoked as a result of such violations can obtain a new license under another family member’s name.”

“This end-run around the rules allows bad actors to breed on the same property, committing the same abuses year after year.”

Crist described heartbreaking abuse including dogs with gaping wounds that go untreated, underweight dogs with their bones protruding and dogs caged without protection from frigid weather conditions.

He posted the letter to Facebook Sunday.

The USDA’s proposed rule stop breeders from side-skirting already existing laws protecting the welfare of animals. Crist offered his support for the rule and asked the USDA to expedite its approval process to protect dogs better.

Mast, fishing advocates celebrate new reservoir

The Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) has cleared the Senate by a 99-1 vote, sending it to the President’s desk for approval. The Florida delegation and advocates for Everglades restoration, fishing and other environmental interests are pleased with the action.

Among the items authorized is the creation of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee, which will absorb much of the discharges of toxic water from the lake. The schedule for the releases will also be adjusted, all of which is designed to stop the harmful algal blooms that are creating numerous problems in several waterways in South Florida.

Brian Mast is praising passage of the Water Resources Development Act, which authorizes a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

“After years of hard work, passing this bill will help us send the water south and cut discharges! Now, our fight continues for funding and changing the Army Corps’ priorities to account for public health and safety,” said Republican Rep. Brian Mast of Palm City. “Our fight is not over, but today is a momentous move in the right direction.”

Mast touted nine sections of the WRDA bill he authored. Last month, he joined with Nelson and Rubio to announce a deal that included the reservoir in the final legislation.

The American Sportfishing Association also praised the bill’s authorization of the reservoir as well as restoration of the Kissimmee River.

“Passing WRDA is a monumental step in restoring the Everglades and providing clean water for our fisheries, and we greatly appreciate the leadership of Florida’s Congressional Delegation in securing its passage,” said Kellie Ralston, Southeast Fisheries Policy Director of the American Sportfishing Association. “We will continue to work with Congress to ensure that sufficient funding is available to carry out the Act’s provisions,”

Frankel introduces bill promoting education for girls

Democratic Rep. Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach has introduced legislation bringing attention to the system barriers preventing girls from accessing secondary education. The Keeping Girls in School Act, coinciding with the International Day of the Girl, was jointly filed by Frankel and Republican Rep. Susan Brooks of Indiana.

Frankel and Brooks are the co-chairs of the Congressional Women’s Caucus.

Lois Frankel and Susan Brooks (shown with Paul Ryan) are co-chairs of the Congressional Women’s Caucus.

“When girls are educated and given the skills to support their families, we uplift communities, reduce poverty, and create a more peaceful and prosperous world,” Frankel said in a news release. “This bill puts empowering adolescent girls front and center by addressing obstacles keeping them out of school, like gender-based violence and child marriage.”

Along with highlighting some of those barriers, the bill would “authorize a budget neutral funding mechanism where USAID is directed to enter into results-based financing and/or traditional grant project proposals to reduce these barriers adolescent girls face. These proposals will utilize public-private partnerships, development impact bonds, and other innovative financing mechanisms to leverage real results with measurable outcomes.”

 The bill would also require the review and update of the U.S. Global Strategy to Empower Adolescent Girls.

Poll: Salazar holds surprising lead

Florida’s 27th Congressional District was almost considered a slam dunk for Democrats after Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced she would end her long career in Congress. But according to a recent poll, the seat is up for grabs

In a district won by Hillary Clinton by double digits in 2016, a survey by Mason-Dixon revealed Republican Maria Elvira Salazar is slightly leading Democratic nominee Donna Shalala by two points. Pundits believed Ros-Lehtinen’s personal popularity enabled her to overcome such odds, but another Republican would not have the same ability.

Maria Elvira Salazar is taking a slight, yet surprising, lead over Donna Shalala.

An inkling that a close race may be on the horizon came last month when internal polls from both campaigns showed Shalala might have work to do. Salazar’s polls showed her up by 9 points while Shalala’s showed the former Clinton Cabinet member and University of Miami President leading by only four points.

The Shalala campaign described the Mason Dixon poll as “an outlier.” According to Shalala campaign spokesperson Mike Hernandez, the poll “does not match our internal polls both in terms of what the electorate will be or voter intention.”

The Salazar campaign, through campaign manager Jose Luis Castillo, said: “these numbers really reflect that her message, her ideas and vision are continuing to resonate throughout with voters in District 27.”

On Saturday the two candidates, joined by independent local attorney Mayra Joli, participated in a debate aired on Telemundo. Shalala pointed to her experience in Washington while Salazar highlighted her years as a journalist covering issues in the local community.

Heading into the primary, Shalala had a cash-on-hand advantage of more than two-to-one. As the latest fundraising reports were about to be announced, Salazar released a new advertisement touting her commitment to environmental protection.

On this day in the headlines

October 16, 1991 — The Senate barely confirmed Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, after his confirmation hearing was roiled by accusations of sexual harassment by a former employee. By a vote of 52-48, the narrowest margin in history, Senators decided that sexual harassment charges by a former employee should not keep Thomas from the nation’s highest court.

Eleven Democrats joined 41 Republicans, including Republican Sen. Connie Mack in voting for Thomas. Democratic Sen. Bob Graham, who voted no, said: “I must accept as essentially a factual statement of the circumstances that which was presented by Ms. (Anita) Hill … and with that, I cannot vote for Clarence Thomas to be a member of the United States Supreme Court.”

October 16, 2014 — In a weird start to their gubernatorial debate, Gov. Scott initially refused to take the stage because his opponent, former Gov. Crist, insisted on using a fan to keep him cool. Crist has routinely used a fan when speaking from a podium.

“Are we really going to debate about a fan? Or are we going to talk about education and the environment and the future of our state?” Crist asked. “I mean, really.”

Despite getting back on message as the debate progressed, Scott supporters fretted the fan incident could become a defining moment of the campaign. Both candidates got in some digs on their opponent.

taxes

Backers press case for Amendment 2

Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to keep the 10 percent non-homestead tax cap pressed their case at a Tuesday press conference.

“I’m asking Florida voters to vote ‘yes’ on Amendment 2 this November,” said Anna King, owner of a Tallahassee salon.

“As a business owner who rents my salon space, the 10 percent non-homestead tax cap is one of the few protections I have, along with every other non-homestead owner and business owners,” she said. “Amendment 2 is a protective of every Florida citizen including renters and consumers.

“If my landlord’s taxes go up, it will be passed on to me. That will impact my ability to keep my costs of the salon services at a competitive, fair, affordable price.”

The press conference was organized by Everybody is for Amendment 2, supporters of passage of the amendment who include thousands of small business owners across Florida, and residential renters.

Ten years ago, Florida voters realized that property taxes were getting out of hand and approved a temporary 10 percent cap on non-homestead properties, which includes businesses, residential rentals, and vacant lots.

“After seeing the positive effect it has had since then, we need to make it permanent by passing Amendment 2,” said Robert Weissert of Florida TaxWatch.

“It allows for businesses to keep their prices at a degree of stability as they can accurately project their budgets for months and even years to come, and this benefit is passed on to the consumer, every Florida citizen.”

Added French Brown, a tax attorney with Dean Mead: “The largest number of non-homestead properties are used for residential rentals. So if Amendment 2 fails, renters will get hit first and hardest.”

State Senate now suing to stop federal harassment probe

A federal judge has set a hearing for next Tuesday in the state Senate‘s lawsuit to put an end to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigation into a top aide’s sexual harassment and retaliation claims.

Rachel Perrin Rogers, chief assistant to Senate Republican Leader and future Senate President Wilton Simpson, says former Sen. Jack Latvala repeatedly groped her and made unwelcome comments about her body over a four-year period.

The Senate’s legal complaint, filled earlier this month, counters that “the ongoing EEOC action violates the Florida Senate’s sovereign and constitutional rights,” including “violat(ing) the Senate’s sovereign immunity.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The Senate is first seeking a “temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction” to suspend that inquiry.

But Senior U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle faulted the Senate’s lawyers for not giving any notice of that request to Perrin Rogers herself.

“The Senate should take note (that) the likelihood that preliminary relief will be granted without giving Ms. Perrin Rogers notice and an opportunity to be heard is low,” he wrote Monday.

The hearing next Tuesday is for “only matters of timing and procedure, not matters of substance, (and) the conference will be conducted entirely by telephone,” Hinkle wrote.

He said “attorneys for all parties must confer … in a good faith effort to reach agreement on the scheduling of a hearing on the motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction and on other procedural and substantive issues.”

Perrin Rogers first lodged harassment allegations last year against Latvala, the once-powerful Senate Appropriations Committee chair and Republican gubernatorial candidate from Clearwater.

An internal Senate investigation led to a special master’s report finding probable cause to support the allegations. Latvala resigned Dec. 19. A separate criminal probe ended in July without any charges being brought.

Perrin Rogers since filed a complaint with the EEOC, saying she was the victim of discrimination and retaliation after she came forward. Her case has been assigned to EEOC Administrative Law Judge Alexander Fernandez.

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Updated 2 p.m. — Holland & Knight attorney Tara Price, outside counsel for the Senate, told the court Tuesday her client “did not name Ms. Perrin Rogers as a defendant out of respect for and as a courtesy to her.

“(The Senate) did not think it appropriate — and indeed, thought it would be heavy handed and inappropriate — to seek … relief against Ms. Perrin Rogers as a private citizen …

“However, (the Senate) has no objection to Ms. Perrin Rogers appearing before the court and participating in this action in whatever manner the court deems appropriate … Also, (the Senate) has already taken steps to alert” all of the defendants in the case, Price said.

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Orlando correspondent Scott Powers, Tallahassee correspondent Danny McAuliffe, and Senior Editor Jim Rosica contributed to this post.

Mixed success in post-Hurricane Michael power restoration

Municipal utilities and Gulf Power Co. reported progress Monday in restoring power to customers left in the dark by Hurricane Michael.

But restoration in the most populated areas of Bay County could stretch into the middle of next week.

At the same time, roughly 90 percent of municipal power customers in Tallahassee had their lights on, and transmission lines had been restored in Quincy and Chattahoochee — a major step toward normal.

Seventy-four percent of customers in Chattahoochee lacked power Monday, and 84 percent in Quincy, according to the Florida Municipal Electric Association.

Blountstown remained severed from the grid, meaning that every customer there was without power. Electric supply to Havana, on the other hand, had been completely restored.

Still, 16,500 customers remained disconnected Monday, notwithstanding round-the-clock efforts by hundreds of workers from Florida and 15 other states.

Meanwhile, Gulf Power customers in downtown Panama City, Callaway, Parker, Lynn Haven, Youngstown, and surrounding areas will have to wait until midnight of next Wednesday, that company said.

In Panama City Beach, more than 95 percent of customers east of Highway 79 to the Hathaway Bridge had power — meaning approximately 62,000 had been re-connected.

That beat the company’s estimated restoration time by 18 hours.

“Our ability to get the lights on even quicker than our earlier estimate on Panama City Beach is a testament to the great teamwork and commitment of the entire team from across the country that have come to assist us,” vice president for power delivery Adrianne Collins said.

“We are glad to get these homes and businesses powered up and together, we will continue the work to restore hope to all of the families we serve.”

The company cautioned that the figures represent customers able to accept power — meaning they were not too damaged by Michael.

A map showing Gulf Power’s restoration progress is here.

Health officials warn of silent killer after storm

With thousands of people still without power after Hurricane Michael, the state’s Department of Health is warning of the danger of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Generators “can cause CO to build up in a home and poison the people and animals inside,” a Monday press release said.

“CO is found in fumes produced by burning fuels such as gasoline, natural gas, propane, kerosene, charcoal and wood,” it said. “Large amounts of CO can quickly overwhelm a person without warning, which leads to greater risk of illness or death especially with increased exposure time.”

Added Dr. Celeste Philip, Florida’s Surgeon General: “Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that can cause illness and death within a short period of time.

“It is invisible, tasteless, odorless and non-irritating, which is why taking precautions is vital and having sufficient working CO alarms in your home is critical. Proper use of generators, gas powered tools and grills can protect you and your family from the potential tragedy of an accidental poisoning.”

Common signs and symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, nausea, weakness, abdominal discomfort or pain, dizziness and confusion. Children, pregnant women and individuals with heart conditions are most vulnerable.

Anyone who suspects CO poisoning should have the person immediately go outside the home or building to breathe fresh air and seek medical attention.

If a person has collapsed or is not breathing, move them outside and call 911 for emergency medical assistance immediately.

Tips to help prevent CO poisoning include:

— Never use a portable generator or a fuel-powered tool indoors or in other enclosed or partially enclosed areas.  Always place portable generators outdoors on a dry surface far away (at least 20 feet, further if possible) from doors, windows, vents and air conditioning equipment that could allow CO to enter.

— Never use outside equipment like a charcoal grill, hibachi, lantern, portable camping stove or propane or natural gas grills/burners inside a home, tent, or camper.

— Never leave the motor running in a vehicle parked in an enclosed or partially enclosed space, such as a garage.

— Install battery-operated CO alarms or plug-in CO alarms with battery backup inside a home at least one per level and bedroom cluster.

For more information, call the Florida Poison Information Center at 1-800-222-1222. To learn more about carbon monoxide poisoning prevention, click here or the call the Radon and Indoor Air Program at 1-800-543-8279.

Harris Corp., NY company merge to form 6th largest defense contractor

In a combination of North and South, Melbourne-based Harris Corp. and New York-based L3 Technologies announced Sunday that they had agreed to an all-stock “merger of equals,” creating the sixth largest defense contractor in the U.S.

Billed as “the largest merger in defense history,” the new company — L3 Harris Technologies —  is expected to generate $16 billion in yearly revenues and has 48,000 employees worldwide, a press release said.

Harris CEO Bill Brown will serve as chairman and CEO, and L3 Technologies CEO Christopher E. Kubasik will serve as vice chairman, president and COO.

The company would be ranked about 180 on the latest Fortune 500 list, it added.

It will continue to have corporate headquarters in Melbourne, becoming the eighth largest company in Florida.

“This transaction extends our position as a premier global defense technology company that unlocks additional growth opportunities and generates value for our customers, employees and shareholders,” Brown said in a statement.

“Combining our complementary franchises and extensive technology portfolios will enable us to accelerate innovation to better serve our customers, deliver significant operating synergies and produce strong free cash flow, which we will deploy to drive shareholder value.”

Kubasik added, “This merger creates greater benefits and growth opportunities than either company could have achieved alone. The companies were on similar growth trajectories and this combination accelerates the journey to becoming more agile, integrated and innovative.”

“… By unleashing this potential, we will strengthen our core franchises, expand into new and adjacent markets and enhance our global presence.”

Back to school: FSU reopens Monday

Get ready to crack those books again, kids: Florida State University says it will reopen its main Tallahassee campus Monday morning.

Classes will resume and the main campus is expected to be fully operational, a statement said: “All faculty and staff should expect to return to normal schedules at 8 a.m.”

While there are no power outages on the main campus, the administration “is aware that some students living off campus, as well as faculty and staff, may not yet have power in their homes.”

By Sunday morning, 85 percent of the city’s power grid was back online, the Tallahassee Democrat reported: “Hurricane Michael (had) nearly plunged the entire city into darkness.”

“There remains about 18,000 of the 117,000 total city of Tallahassee customers without power, according to the city’s outage map,” according to the paper.

Also, FSU supervisors were “encouraged to be generous in approving annual leave for employees who are unable to return to work in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael,” according to the school’s statement.

Carlos Lopez-Cantera, Chris Sprowls selected for fellowships

Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and state Rep. Chris Sprowls have been selected for The Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowships in Public Leadership.

The program is “designed to bring together elected officials who have demonstrated an outstanding ability to work responsibly across partisan divisions and bring greater civility to public discourse,” its website says.

Lopez-Cantera and Sprowls are both Republicans.

“These men and women represent the very best among the new generation of America’s political leadership,” former Congressman Mickey Edwards, the program’s director, said in announcing the new class.

“They have each won the notice and praise of their constituents and their colleagues and have shown a dedication to public service that is an encouraging sign in a time of great challenge,” he added. “There are now nearly 300 Rodel Fellows, at all levels of government, working to ensure that Americans receive thoughtful and responsive leadership. We are very proud to have these outstanding leaders join their ranks.”

The Rodel Fellowship program is open by invitation only to men and women who are in publicly elected office and who are ideally between the ages of 25 and 50, the website explains.

“Selected on an annual basis, each class consists of 24 Fellows, identified by the program’s leadership as America’s emerging political leaders with reputations for intellect, thoughtfulness, and a commitment to civil dialogue,” it says. “The 24-month fellowship program consists of three weekend-long seminars, generally held in Aspen, Colorado.

“The Aspen Institute-Rodel Fellowship program recognizes that by working to develop thoughtful, committed political leaders, it will also help to produce a more bipartisan approach to America’s most important domestic issues such as health care, public education, and the environment. All of these issues transcend the usual partisan political divide and are central to fostering a better society for future generations.”

Outgoing Gov. Rick Scott picked Lopez-Cantera, of Miami-Dade County, to replace former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, who stepped down in 2013. He was then the elected Miami-Dade property appraiser after serving eight years in the state House, including stints as Republican whip and Republican leader.

Sprowls, of Pinellas County, is a former assistant state attorney first elected in 2014 and now chair of the Judiciary Committee. He’s in line to become speaker in 2020-22 after Jose Oliva.

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