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Staff Reports

Ballard Partners brings in more clients: Report

POLITICO reports that Ballard Partners continues to build its client list, taking advantage of its unique closeness with the White House.

New adds: Advanced Roofing, Inc., Crowley Maritime Corporation, and Hawkers USA.

Ballard, which opened a Washington DC office after President Donald Trump won the election, has been busy — signing 47 new clients, per POLITICO.

As we reported previously, Ballard’s next move seems to be into the global sphere; the government-affairs firm has formed a “strategic alliance” with Alber & Geiger, one of the most significant lobbying firms in the European Union.

Even as the Center for Public Integrity has scrutinized the close relationship between the lobbying firm and the White House, there is no indication that Ballard’s momentum will abate anytime soon.

Marco Rubio lauds Pres. Trump’s decision to leave UNESCO

Citing “anti-Israel bias,” the U.S. State Department announced its decision to withdraw from UNESCO at the end of 2018.

Sen. Marco Rubio backs the move.

“As ISIS commits genocide and destroys historical and cultural heritage sites throughout the Middle East, the majority of UNESCO’s member states have chosen instead to advance a discriminatory and counterproductive anti-Israel agenda,” Rubio said, “including the repeated passage of measures that deny any connection between Jews and Christians and the Temple Mount, the Western Wall, and other holy sites in Jerusalem.”

“Until UNESCO’s member states end their anti-Israel agenda,” Rubio added, “the Trump Administration is right to withdraw the United States from UNESCO and uphold U.S. laws that forbid American taxpayer money from going to this organization.”

In recent years, Sen. Rubio has pressed for disengagement from UNESCO, including urging the Barack Obama administration to withdraw taxpayer funding from the organization, and leading a letter to the U.N. Secretary General that objected to anti-Israel bias in UNESCO and elsewhere in the U.N.

Along with citing anti-Israel bias, the State Department outlined concerns with “mounting arrears at UNESCO, [and] the need for fundamental reform in the organization.”

In 2019 and beyond, the United States will be a non-member observer state relative to UNESCO.

Personnel note: Joe Garcia to join global strategy firm Mercury

Mercury, a leading global, bipartisan public strategy firm, is adding former U.S. Congressman Joe Garcia to expand its Miami team and capabilities both in Florida and across the firm’s national offices.

Garcia, who served Florida’s 26th Congressional District, joins the team at Mercury as co-chairman based in the Miami office.

“We are excited to welcome Joe Garcia to the Mercury family. His extensive policy experience will be invaluable as we expand our footprint in Miami, and across the Sunshine State,” said Mercury Partner Ashley Walker.

“I am thrilled to join Mercury, known across the country for their exceptional work across the public affairs, policy and political arenas,” Garcia said. “I look forward to growing the Mercury brand in Miami, and bringing my expertise to help clients achieve success.”

During his time in Congress, Garcia served on the Committee on the Judiciary, including the Subcommittee on Immigration Policy and Border Security, and the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law. Garcia was also an integral member of the Committee on Natural Resources, including its Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources; Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans and Insular Affairs; and Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation.

Before his time on Capitol Hill, Garcia served in the executive branch. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed – and the United States Senate unanimously confirmed – Garcia to the Department of Energy as Director of the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity. Garcia is also former Chairman and member of the Florida Public Service Commission, where he served on the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC,) and vice chair of the Southeastern Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (SEARUC.)

Throughout his career, Garcia held positions on a wide variety of state and federal projects, including: an adviser on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and member of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Joint Board. Garcia also served as board member and executive director of the Cuban American National Foundation, an advocacy voice for human rights issues, and as director of the Cuban Exodus Relief Fund, a refugee resettlement group organization.

Garcia is a member of the Florida Bar, and holds both his BA and JD from the University of Miami.

“We are pleased to welcome Congressman Garcia to the Mercury team. His extensive policy experience in the energy and utility sectors, as well as his deep relationships in Washington, will be a tremendous asset to our clients,” said Mercury co-founder and CEO, Kieran Mahoney.

Lawrence McClure defeats Yvonne Fry in HD 58 GOP primary

Lawrence McClure has defeated Yvonne Fry in the hard-fought Republican primary for Florida House District 58.

McClure, a 30-year-old Dover businessman, received 54.90 percent of the vote; Fry, a Plant City business executive, took 45.10 percent.

The two Hillsborough County natives ran an increasingly contentious campaign for the GOP nomination to fill the seat of former Rep. Dan Raulerson, who stepped down in August for health reasons.

Raulerson announced he suffers from spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spaces within the spine which causes numbness and pain in the neck, back, and legs.

In the race, both McClure and Fry fought to carry the conservative banner, with mailers – mostly from third-party groups – attempting to brand Fry as a “liberal” – definitely a black mark with voters in the staunch GOP primary.

HD 58 is a Republican-majority district that includes Plant City, Temple Terrace, Dover, Mango, Seffner, Thonotosassa, and parts of Tampa and East Lake-Orient Park.

The winner will now advance to the general election Dec. 19. They will face Democrat Jose Vazquez, Libertarian Bryan Zemina and non-party-affiliated candidate Ahmad Saadaldin.

 

Rick Scott wants generators required at nursing homes

Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday directed state agencies to “immediately begin the formal rulemaking process to permanently enact a rule requiring emergency generators at assisted living facilities (ALFs) and nursing homes.”

His edict went to the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and the Department of Elder Affairs.

“An emergency rule adopted Sept. 16 requires all ALFs and nursing homes to obtain ample resources, including a generator and the appropriate amount of fuel, to sustain operations and maintain comfortable temperatures for at least 96 hours following a power outage,” according to a press release. “The formal rulemaking process will permanently codify these life-saving measures and allow for extensive public comment through workshops and public meetings.”

“After the heartbreaking tragedy at the Rehabilitation Center of Hollywood Hills following Hurricane Irma, I implemented emergency rules to ensure nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the state would take immediate action to keep their patients safe,” he said in a statement.

“Today, I am directing the state to begin the formal rulemaking process to make these protections permanent,” he added. “Families rely on assisted living facilities and nursing homes to be fully prepared to care for their loved ones, and it is the responsibility of these facilities to provide a safe environment for their elderly and vulnerable residents.

“I will also be working closely with the Legislature to put this into law and I asked the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) to consider proposals that would also help protect the residents of these facilities. We will continue to explore every possible avenue in our fight to keep all residents safe.”

To view the Notices of Rule Development, click here and here.

Sports franchise bill passes only committee, heads to House floor

Florida sports franchises will be banned from constructing or renovating facilities on leased public land under a bill advanced Tuesday by the House Committee on Government Accountability.

Lobby Tools reports that HB 13, sponsored by Republican state Reps. Bryan Avila and Manny Diaz, is identical to HB 77, which died in the Senate during the 2017 Legislative Session.

Republican Rene Garcia filed a similar bill (SB 352) in the Senate, but it has not yet been assigned any committees of reference.

As for HB 13, Lobby Tools notes that Government Accountability was the bill’s only committee of reference, meaning it now heads to the House floor for consideration by all members during the 2018 Session.

Gas Pumps

AAA: Gasoline prices keep ‘drifting lower’

Florida gasoline prices “have been on a steep slide for the last three weeks and should drift even lower this week,” AAA reported early Monday.

“The state average declined for the 24th consecutive day on Sunday, falling a total of 19 cents during that time,” the auto club said in a press release. All average retail prices are for a gallon of regular, unleaded gasoline. 

“Florida motorists are paying an average of $2.54 at the pump, which is 8 cents less than last week,” it said. “However, pump prices remain 34 cents more than this time last year, as prices remain inflated from supply and demand issues related to recent hurricanes.”

According to the release:

— The largest weekly discounts in the past week were found in Tampa (11 cents), Orlando (10 cents), and Gainesville (10 cents).

— The most expensive metro markets are West Palm Beach-Boca Raton ($2.66), Miami ($2.66), and Fort Lauderdale ($2.61).

— The least expensive metro markets are Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater ($2.44), Orlando ($2.47), and Pensacola ($2.47).

“The state average is falling by about a cent a day, as retail prices continue to recover from the effects of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA-The Auto Club Group.  

“Gas prices remain inflated by about 20-30 cents, and should decline another 5-10 cents this week,” he added. “Hurricane Nate’s impact on the Gulf Coast region should not affect local prices.

“However, if refineries and oil rigs have a difficult time resuming normal operations, and futures prices spike, then the local gas price plunge could stall out. This is something that will take a few days to play out.”

AAA updates fuel price averages daily at www.GasPrices.AAA.com.

“Every day up to 120,000 stations are surveyed based on credit card swipes and direct feeds in cooperation with the Oil Price Information Service (OPIS) and Wright Express for unmatched statistical reliability,” according to the release. 

Philip Levine attributes lack of fundraising to hurricanes

A spokesman for Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is widely expected to jump into next year’s race for governor, Friday explained his political committee’s lack of fundraising for September.

“In the month of September, Mayor Levine was solely focused on helping a number of communities prepare and weather Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, and therefore made a decision to pause all fundraising activities for his political committee,” said Christian Ulvert, spokesman for Levine and All About Florida, the committee.

“Following Hurricane Harvey and its impact in Houston, Mayor Levine worked with the City of Miami Beach to organize relief efforts and personally donated $10,000 to the American Red Cross,” Ulvert added. “Then, with Florida bracing for Hurricane Irma, Mayor Levine was 100-percent focused on storm preparations and post-hurricane response and recovery.

“Over the closing days of September, (he) partnered with the U.S. Conference of Mayors to aid the Florida Keys. As reported last week, he also organized and sponsored an urgent trip to Puerto Rico to deliver needed supplies and coordinated efforts with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and local leaders to visit the island himself.

“When others are struggling to survive massive hurricanes and rebuild their lives, it is not a time for fundraising but a time for lifesaving. True public service means the public comes first.”

As of Friday morning, campaign finance records show All About Florida posted more than $4.7 million in total contributions through Aug. 31.

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