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Staff Reports

Florida Chamber endorses Jose Felix Diaz in SD 40 race

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is throwing its support behind Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the special election to replace Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40.

In a statement Tuesday, Marian Johnson, the Chamber’s senior vice president of political strategy, said the Miami Republican has put Florida families and businesses first.

“Representative Jose Felix Diaz continues to put Florida families and businesses first, and has remained an advocate for free enterprise and job creation,” she said.” The Florida Chamber is proud to endorse Representative Jose Felix Diaz for the Florida Senate.”

Diaz faces former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Lorenzo Palomares in the July special primary to replace Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal.

The race for the GOP nomination is expected to be a bitter and expensive battle, with outside groups pouring thousands upon thousands of dollars into the race.

A government law attorney at Akerman, Diaz was first elected to the Florida House in 2010. He is currently the chairman of the House Commerce Committee, and has been the chamber’s point person on gambling legislation in recent years.

Diaz most recently earned the Chamber’s backing in 2016, when he ran for re-election in House District 116. The 37-year-old Miami-Dade Republican has resigned his House seat, effective Sept. 26, to run in the special election.

“If you ask the residents of District 40 what their biggest issues are – the answer is clear – jobs and the economy. The Florida Chamber of Commerce represents the biggest job creators in Florida, and I am honored to have their support for my State Senate race,” said Diaz in a statement. “I am proud of my record in support of low taxes and a responsible regulatory environment that both promotes sustained economic growth and protects consumers.”

The special primary election is July 25, with the special general election scheduled for Sept. 26.

Personnel note: Dale Swope named president of Florida Justice Association

Tampa attorney Dale Swope has been named the 58th president of the Florida Justice Association, the group announced in a press release Monday.


Swope took the presidency at the Association’s 2017 Annual Conference in St. Pete Beach last week. The group is the only statewide professional association dedicated to trial attorneys and their clients in the state.

“I’m honored my colleagues have placed their trust in me to lead the Florida Justice Association at this consequential time for civil justice in our state and country,” Swope said after being sworn in.

“We are the trusted advocates every day Floridians turn to when they seek justice after they are hurt by rich and powerful insurance companies and corporations,” he added. “We will continue our work from the courthouse to the statehouse to protect access to justice for all.”

Swope, 63, is the managing partner of Swope, Rodante. He succeeds Tallahassee attorney James “Jimmy” Gustafson, a shareholder with Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley as president for a one-year term.

Others elected to leadership positions include Lake H. “Trey” Lytal III, of West Palm Beach, who will serve as President-elect. He practices law with the firm of Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath.

Leslie Mitchell Kroeger, of Palm Beach Gardens, will serve as Treasurer. She is a partner with the law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll.

Eric Romano, of Lake Worth, will serve as Secretary. He is a partner with the Romano Law Group.

Rick Scott signs nursing home reimbursement changes into law

Changes to how the state’s nursing that accept Medicaid are paid are coming down the pike.

Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a wide-sweeping health care bill (SB 2514) last week that, among other things, moves the payment system to a cost-based system to a prospective payment system. The law delays the move from cost-based system to a prospective payment system by a year, giving health care officials and providers additional time to study and prepare for the shift.

“LeadingAge Florida and our high-quality, mission-driven members appreciate that the Legislature delayed implementation of the prospective payment system for a year,” said Steve Bahmer, the president and CEO of LeadingAge Florida.

The shift to a prospective payment plan, which reimburses nursing homes using a per diem rate calculated on several different components, was one of several behind-the-scenes food fights this year.

Officials with LeadingAge, which represents about 400 senior communities through the state, expressed concern that the initial proposal would shift money from high-quality nursing homes, threatening the quality of care offered in facilities across the state. But Bahmer said the group “never opposed the shift to a PPS approach.”

“However, we have consistently opposed ill-conceived plans that would damage Florida’s highest-quality nursing care providers,” said Bahmer. “The Legislature wisely delayed the implementation of the PPS to allow the further study of this important issue. Looking forward to 2018, we will work with AHCA, the Legislature, and other stakeholders to ensure that the payment system truly rewards high-quality providers.”

The Florida Health Care Association, which represents about 82 percent of the state’s nursing centers, was generally supportive of the recommendations proposed during the 2017 Legislative Session, but did seek to make some changes.

Emmett Reed, the executive director of the Florida Health Care Association, said he appreciated the organization appreciated Scott for “recognizing that a stronger reimbursement system is best for everyone involved.”

“The prospective payment system will put the focus on quality care and quality of life for Florida’s nursing center residents, and for the first time in Florida’s Medicaid history, will link nursing center reimbursement to quality outcomes,” said Reed. “On behalf of the thousands of long term caregivers working in our member centers, we commend Governor Scott for supporting PPS so they can achieve their goals of providing exceptional care and services to our state’s seniors and people with disabilities.”

Bob Gualtieri, Chris Nocco endorse Ashley Moody for Attorney General

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Sheriff Chris Nocco of Pasco County are endorsing former Circuit Court Judge Ashley Moody for Attorney General.

“I’ve had the pleasure of working with Attorney General Pam Bondi during my tenure as Sheriff. Her commitment to protecting our state from pill mills, drug traffickers, and those who prey on seniors through identity theft and scams has made us all safer. We need to continue these aggressive, common-sense initiatives and there is no one better suited to do that than Ashley Moody. She is a proven prosecutor and experienced leader in the legal community. She knows what it takes to protect our state and she has my full support,” Gualtieri said in a statement Monday.

Moody responded: “Sheriff Gualtieri is one of the most proactive and engaged Sheriffs in our state. He is constantly taking the fight to those who seek to do us harm and works with neighborhood and community leaders to ensure the safety of those he and his deputies have sworn to protect. He is also a leader in advocating for a stronger and smarter criminal justice system.”

“As sheriff, my top priority is the safety of my community and the brave men and women who risk their lives each and every day to keep our streets safe,” Nocco added. “I’m supporting Ashley Moody for Attorney General because she shares my priorities and has the experience, knowledge, and determination to keep our state safe and support our law enforcement community and its quest to protect Floridians.”

“Sheriff Nocco is one of the most highly respected and trusted Sheriffs in our state,” Moody said. “As the wife of a law enforcement officer I know just how important it is that our men and women in law enforcement have leaders who constantly look out for their safety and best interest.

“Sheriff Nocco has a proven track record of taking the fight to criminals who seek to do us harm and supporting those who keep us safe,” Moody said. “I can’t thank him enough for his support and I look forward to working with him, and all our Sheriffs, to keep Florida safe.”

Moody spent a decade as a circuit judge in Hillsborough County, resigning abruptly in April. After Moody’s resignation, Bondi, a longtime friend, encouraged her to run for attorney general. Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Jay Fant and Democrat Ryan Torrens of Tampa have already entered the race.

Ashley lives with her husband, Justin, a federal law enforcement agent, in Tampa, with their two sons, Brandon and Connor.

DSCC releases new digital ad taking aim at Rick Scott over health care

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is once again targeting Gov. Rick Scott over his support of the Republican health care agenda.

The committee announced Monday it was launching full-screen, Google takeover ads featuring new versions of a DSCC called “The Price” aimed at Scott’s support of the health care plan and its impact on Florida families.

“Rick Scott cannot escape the toxic impact his health care proposals will have: spiking costs, sabotaging care and stripping coverage for hardworking families in order to give another handout to himself and big insurance companies,” said David Bergstein, a spokesman for the DSCC. “This week the stakes for middle class families could not be higher — if Scott has his way the consequences for Floridians who actually work for a living will be expensive and horrific. We are standing with voters in opposing a plan that is deeply unpopular in Florida, and will hold Gov. Scott accountable for his actions.”

The 30-second spot features images of a man and woman selling their vehicle and jewelry, before appearing at the hospital bed of a child. At the end of the advertisement, the words “What will Rick Scott’s health care plan cost you?” flash across the screen.

The ad, which the national Democratic organization says will reach targeted voters in Florida who make up key elements of the 2018 midterm electorate, is part of an ongoing six-figure digital ad buy.

Scott is believed to be preparing for a run against Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018.

Jacquet, Al (state representative)

Endorsement watch: Al Jacquet supports Andrew Gillum

State Rep. Al Jacquet on Monday announced his support of Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum for governor in 2018.

“Andrew brings a fresh perspective, energetic spirit, and the bold leadership our state desperately needs in order to best address our economic issues,” said Jacquet, a Lantana Democrat. “We are the third-largest state in America, and yet our economy has failed to produce enough good paying jobs.

“It’s time to stand up to special interests whose only concern has been filling their own pockets,” added Jacquet, an attorney who speaks four languages and has served as vice mayor of Delray Beach.

Gillum, also a Democrat, said he was “excited to have” Jacquet’s endorsement.

“Al has been working hard in the legislature to raise wages for workers and ensure equal treatment for all,” Gillum said in a statement. “Palm Beach County and all of Florida cannot afford more of the same in the Governor’s Mansion—we need to increase wages and invest in training workers for the good-paying jobs available today.”

Jacquet’s support adds to recent endorsements from U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings, former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, and state Sen. Jeff Clemens.

New round of mailers target Alex Diaz de la Portilla in SD 40

Another round of mailers is hitting Miami voters’ mailboxes, once again taking aim at Alex Diaz de la Portilla in the race to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles in Senate District 40.

Making A Better Tomorrow has released two more mailers in the Senate District 40 race. In one ad, the Venice-based political committee claims Diaz de la Portilla “is completely unfit to hold public office.” The mailer points to his failure to report hundreds of campaign contributions and personal financial strife, among other things, as reasons why the group says he is “unfit to lead.”

A second mailer, which hit mailboxes last week, claims Diaz de la Portilla “has hurt Florida’s seniors.”

“Diaz de la Portilla’s higher taxes have killed jobs and hurt seniors,” reads the ad. “First Alex Diaz de la Portilla cut $2.5 million from programs benefiting Florida seniors, including home car for the elderly, community care and Alzheimer’s disease initiative programs. Then he turned around and cut funding to nursing homes. As if that’s not bad enough, Diaz de la Portilla cut Medicaid payments and imposed higher taxes on facilities that care for seniors.”

Diaz de la Portilla served in the Florida House from 1994 until 2000, when he was elected to serve in the Florida Senate. He served in the Senate until 2010, serving stints as the Majority Leader and Senate President Pro Tempore.

He faces Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Lorenzo Palomares in the special election to replace Artiles, who resigned earlier this year amid scandal, in Senate District 40. The race for the GOP nomination is expected to be a bitter and expensive battle, with outside groups pouring thousands upon thousands of dollars into the race.

Making a Better Tomorrow has raised more than $289,331 million since 2014, according to state records. The group hasn’t received any donations since February 2017, when it received a single $4,000 contribution. State records show it ended May with $41,923 cash on hand.




Baxter Troutman opens iGrow PC to fund Agriculture Commissioner bid

Baxter Troutman has opened a political committee, allowing him to raise unlimited dollars toward his bid to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in 2018.

State records show Troutman launched iGrow PC, a state political committee. He filed a statement of solicitation with the Division of Elections on June 14, two days after he filed to run for the statewide seat. POLITICO Florida first reported the creation of Troutman’s political committee.

Troutman filed the necessary paperwork to run for Agriculture Commissioner on June 12, and opened his campaign account with a personal contribution of $2.5 million. He is the grandson of late citrus baron and one-time gubernatorial candidate Ben Hill Griffin Jr.

The 50-year-old served in the Florida House 2002 to 2010. Troutman, who proposed to his wife Rebecca on the floor of the House while it was in session, campaigned for her last year in her unsuccessful run for Polk County School Board. She will serve as the co-chair of his campaign, and Troutman said he looks forward to “spending the months ahead traveling the state to talk with Floridians about our future.”

“Every corner of this great state feels the practical and economic impact of agriculture, and we simply cannot afford someone in this important leadership position who doesn’t understand how to make it work for taxpayers,” he said. “For these reasons, I have spent the past few weeks talking to friends, neighbors and my family. The strong encouragement to move forward with this campaign has been humbling. Winning the faith and support of so many is truly a blessing.”

Republicans Denise Grimsley, Matt Caldwell, and Paul Paulson have already filed to run for the seat. Putnam can’t run for re-election again in 2018 because of term limits.

The Florida Bar

Florida Bar holds annual convention this week

The Florida Bar‘s Annual Convention begins Wednesday at the Boca Raton Resort & Club, with “a focus on the future of the legal profession and the challenges lawyers face,” the organization said in a news release.

On Friday, Miami attorney Michael J. Higer will be sworn in as the Bar’s 69th president, and West Palm Beach attorney Michelle Suskauer will become the Bar’s president-elect. She’ll assume the presidency next June.

The Bar is charged with regulating the state’s 104,000 licensed attorneys.

The theme of this year’s convention is “Inspire the Future,” focusing on “the future of the legal profession and the importance of working with colleagues to bring about positive change. Seminars and programs will address the rapid technological changes in legal services,” the release said.

The schedule also includes a judicial luncheon on Thursday, with Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga as keynote speaker and a tribute to retiring Executive Director John F. “Jack” Harkness Jr., who’s been the Bar’s head for 37 years.

A President’s Showcase on Thursday will be “Constitution Revision Commission & Florida’s Judiciary” to “ensure that Florida Bar members are informed as to how CRC proposals may affect the judiciary and, in turn, the practice of law in Florida.”

And 254 attorneys who have been practicing for 50 years will be honored during a luncheon sponsored by the Bar’s Young Lawyers Division.

The convention ends Saturday. A full schedule is here.

For more details, click here. Also, “a mobile app provides meeting schedules, exhibitor and sponsor listings with links, a personal schedule tracker and updates throughout the convention,” according to the release.

Rick Scott signs 13 more bills into law

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday evening announced he had signed another 13 bills from the 2017 Legislative Session into law.

Those bills include SB 118, which Scott’s office said would “prevent businesses that publish arrest photos from charging a fee to remove them if requested.”

The measure was aimed at the growing number of websites that showcase booking mugshots and charge people who ask for their photos to be taken down.

But the bill also includes a section on the “administrative sealing of criminal history records” that open government advocates fear could result in the shutting off of booking information of people whose charges are later dismissed.

The First Amendment Foundation had asked Scott to veto the bill, saying it would “create a process by which millions of criminal history records will be automatically sealed,” posing “a significant threat to the public safety.”

“A person could be charged and tried one or more times for a lewd and lascivious act on a child, for example, and if acquitted or found not guilty, that person would not show up on (a) criminal background check,” wrote Barbara Petersen, the foundation’s president. “If that person then applies for a position with a school or day care center, there would be no mention of the charges.”

Scott, however, said that part of the measure “will not take effect” because it depended on passage of a linked bill, SB 450, to become law. That bill, which died in the Rules Committee, would have exempted “personal identifying information of an adult who participates in a civil citation or prearrest diversion program … from public inspection and copying.”

Scott also approved SB 90, the implementing bill for a constitutional amendment passed by voters in August 2016 that exempts solar and renewable energy devices from property taxes.

“The bill removes burdensome taxes on solar installations by exempting 80 percent of their value from the tangible personal property tax,” according to a Friday evening press release from Floridians for Solar Choice. “It also exempts 80 percent of the value of a solar installation from the assessment of real property taxes for commercial properties.”

“Reducing taxes is smart energy policy, and I’m proud to see Gov. Scott sign this important legislation into law,” said Tory Perfetti, chair of Floridians for Solar Choice and Florida director of Conservatives for Energy Freedom.

“This effort has been supported by a historic coalition and unanimous legislative support, along with a resounding public vote,” Perfetti added. “The Sunshine State has spoken, and they said: We want the freedom to choose solar.”

The other bills are listed below, with descriptions provided by the Governor’s Office: 

SB 474 Hospice Care – This bill directs the Florida Department of Elder Affairs and the Agency for Health Care Administration to adopt national hospice outcome measures.
SB 494 Compensation of Victims of Wrongful Incarceration – This bill expands the eligibility requirements of the Victims of Wrongful Incarceration Compensation Act.
SB 724 Estates – This bill revises provisions relating to the elective share of an estate.
SB 1520 Termination of a Condominium Association – This bill revises requirements for the termination of a condominium association.
SB 1694 Support for Parental Victims of Child Domestic Violence – This bill allows the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice to coordinate with organizations to enhance resources available to parents who are victims of domestic violence.
SB 1726 Industrial Hemp Pilot Projects – This bill authorizes the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to oversee the University of Florida and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in developing industrial hemp pilot projects.
SB 2504 Collective Bargaining – This bill resolves collective bargaining issues.
SB 2506 Clerks of the Court – This bill makes changes to the clerks of court budget process to ensure adequate funding.
SB 2508 Division of State Group Insurance – This bill allows for an audit of dependent eligibility for the state group insurance program and revises pharmacy benefits.
SB 2510 Public Records/ Dependent Eligibility Verification Services – This bill creates a public records exemption for information collected when determining a dependent’s eligibility for the state group insurance program.
SB 2514 Health Care – This bill conforms health care statutes to the funding policies used in the General Appropriations Act.  
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