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Staff Reports

Rick Scott orders flags at half-staff for fallen officer

Gov. Rick Scott on Friday ordered flags at half-staff to honor Joshua Albert Sanchez Montaad, an Agricultural Law Enforcement Officer who died in a wreck while on duty.

According to the Officer Down Memorial Page, Montaad—a 25-year-old from Safety Harbor in Pinellas County—was killed in a single car crash this Tuesday on U.S. 19 in Taylor County.

“His patrol car left the roadway and struck a tree during a period of heavy rain,” the site said. His “vehicle caught fire and became engulfed in flames.” Montaad was pronounced dead at the scene.

Scott ordered the U.S. and state flags at half-staff at the county courthouse in Safety Harbor, at Station 2 of the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement in Rock Bluff, and at Safety Harbor City Hall from sunrise to sunset this Saturday.

“Ann and I are saddened to hear of the tragic death of Officer Montaad and our hearts go out to his family and loved ones during this difficult time,” Scott said in a statement.

“Choosing to serve our state as a law enforcement officer is a heroic and selfless decision, and Joshua will be remembered for his courageous service and commitment to protecting our families and communities,” he said. “We are thankful for the brave law enforcement officers that work each day to keep our state safe and we will continue to pray for their safety.”

Report: Tim Canova will once again challenge Debbie Wasserman Schultz

Tim Canova is giving it another try.

The Miami Herald reported that Canova has announced he plans to seek a rematch against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz in 2018. Canova, according to the Miami Herald, made the announcement during a Broward Democratic progressive caucus meeting in Plantation on Thursday.

“Our fight to restore our Democracy from the corrupt special interests must go on” he said in a Facebook post Thursday. “Important issues like Medicare For All will be a reality if we keep fighting on and support those that represent the people! I look forward to having your support going forward.”

The news of a rematch isn’t entirely surprising. In December, Canova said he was “seriously considering” challenging Wasserman Schultz, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, again in 2018.

“I’m seriously considering it. An awful lot of folks are putting that bug in my ear and urging me to do so,” he said at the time.

Canova tapped into Bernie Sanders’ donor pool and raised about $3.8 million in his 2016 congressional bid. A Nova Southeastern University law professor, Canova was considered more liberal than Wasserman Schultz and took shots at her for taking money from corporate donors.

Wasserman Schultz, however, was able to tap into support big name Democrats, like then-President Barack Obama. She won the August 2016 primary by 14 percentage points, and easily defeated her Republican opponent.

Canova hasn’t dropped totally out of the limelight since his defeat.

After he lost to Wasserman Schultz, he created a political and community action group called “Progress For All,” which he said would help harness the power of the movement. In October, he announced the group would be working on a series of five different referendums to attempt to get on the November 2018 ballot, some of which other activists in the state have been working for years on.

 

Florida retailers expect record Father’s Day spending

Florida retailers expect dads to be showered with gifts, with a record-setting Father’s Day in 2017.

The Florida Retail Federation, the state’s leading trade association for the retail industry, predicts consumers will spend an average $134.75 for the holiday, up almost $10 from last year’s $125.92.

Spending nationwide is also expected to reach $15.5 billion, the highest in the survey’s 15-year history – nearly a billion more than 2016.

“I am very encouraged to see that Floridians and families across the country are planning to spend more than ever before to celebrate their dads,” said FRF President/CEO R. Scott Shalley. “These results show that Americans are feeling more and more confident and optimistic in this improving economy, and fathers and retailers can expect to benefit this Father’s Day.”

In the annual survey from the National Retail Federation, conducted by Prosper Insight and Analytics, consumers will spend $3.3 billion in 2017; 48 percent say they will take dads to outings such as dinner, brunch or other “fun activity/experiences,” clothing (46 percent) and gift cards (43 percent), making up $2.2 billion. Next most popular is consumer electronics (21 percent) at $1.8 billion.

As with Mother’s Day, greeting cards are the most common gift (64 percent), accounting for $861 million of projected spending. Other popular gifts include personal care, automotive accessories, books, music, home improvement/gardening supplies and sporting goods.

The survey found 27 percent of shoppers will give dad a “gift of experience” — concert tickets, sporting events and the like.

The category with the largest growth trend is “personal care” — cologne, razors, aftershave, etc. – showing a 20 percent increase over last year.

For the perfect gift, 40 percent of consumers will head to department stores; 34 percent will shop online; 26 percent will shop at a discount store; 24 percent at a specialty store and 19 percent at a local business.

One-third of smartphone owners will use their device to research gift ideas, but only 18 percent will use them to make a purchase. Tablets are more popular for research (32 percent) and purchases (19 percent).

More than half of those surveyed plan to buy for a father or stepfather (54 percent), others will shop for a husband (29 percent) or son (10 percent).

Capitol Reax: Rick Scott signs HB 7069

Gov. Rick Scott signed a sweeping education bill (HB 7069) that, among other things, sends more public money to privately-run charter schools. The legislation, a top priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, also requires recess in elementary schools, makes changes to the state’s standardized testing system, and includes millions of dollars for teacher bonuses.

The governor’s decision to sign the bill sparked a reaction from both sides of the issue.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran

“Today is a great day for Florida’s students, parents, and teachers. This bill is the most transformative pro-parent, pro-student, pro-teacher, and pro-public education bill in the history of the state of Florida. It ends failure factories. It rewards the best and brightest teachers and principals. It gives bonuses to every highly effective and effective teacher. It puts a focus back on civics education and teaching our students about what made our country great. It provides scholarships to students with disabilities. It mandates recess for our students. It reduces testing. And last, but not least, it forces more money into the classroom by making the money follow the students. In other words, it gives children hope and dignity. It says all children deserve a world-class education.

“Today is a great day for Florida’s students, parents, and teachers. This bill is the most transformative pro-parent, pro-student, pro-teacher, and pro-public education bill in the history of the state of Florida. It ends failure factories. It rewards the best and brightest teachers and principals. It gives bonuses to every highly effective and effective teacher. It puts a focus back on civics education and teaching our students about what made our country great. It provides scholarships to students with disabilities. It mandates recess for our students. It reduces testing. And last, but not least, it forces more money into the classroom by making the money follow the students. In other words, it gives children hope and dignity. It says all children deserve a world-class education.

I want to thank Governor Rick Scott for his courage and commitment to education options for our poorest kids. The Governor has taken on the status quo his entire career and the people of Florida are better off for it. I believe one of the great legacies of this session will be saving school childrens’ futures.”

Sen. Linda Stewart 

“I would like to thank the Governor for visiting Senate District 13, but I’m very disappointed that he used the signing of HB 7069 as the reason to stop by.

 “This bill is an unwise experiment in education policy opposed by our state’s teachers, parents, professional administrators and superintendents. That’s why I urged him to veto it. Many of those that have opposed HB7069 have dedicated their lives to educating the students in Florida’s schools. HB7069 was secretly produced and passed as a 278-page bitter pill that flew in the face of every tradition of transparency and openness required by our state’s laws and constitution.

 “Let’s be clear about what HB7069 actually does: it enriches the for-profit education industry at the expense of Florida’s traditional public schools. The same schools that educated the vast majority of Floridians for generations despite daunting odds and an indifferent legislature for the past two decades.

 “The legislation you signed today gives to the charter school industry a free hand and promises them a bountiful reward. It allows corporations with no track record of success, no obligation to struggling students, and no mandated standards of accountability to flourish, with the sole obligation to their shareholders. Not the public. Not to well-intentioned parents desperate to see their children succeed – but to a group of investors who have made a business decision to add these companies to their portfolios because they are interested in making money.

 “I would remind those who stand to profit personally from this legislation, some of whom hold high office, that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

Sen. Gary Farmer

“Today I am saddened by the Governor’s action in signing HB 7069. This devious bill, hatched in secret, and strong-armed through the Legislature will deal a significant blow to our State’s public education system. For the first time, private charter school operators will now have access to local school district tax revenue. This will undoubtedly lead to less money for our already starved-traditional public schools. I fear that a lack of accountability in these charters will result in wasted dollars for untested and redundant facilities, all to prop up private entities that are closing down nearly as fast as they are opening up. I join the thousands of parents, schoolteachers, and education advocates around Florida in bowing my head in shame. Our government can do better.”

Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon 

“To no one’s surprise, but to many Floridians’ disappointment, Governor Rick Scott approved HB 7069 today, firmly cementing his legacy of putting campaign politics above sound public policy.

Equally troubling, he signed off on a bill hatched in secrecy which he had openly criticized, but now suddenly agrees that it’s ok to circumvent transparency, it’s ok to negotiate in secret, it’s ok to pull a fast one.

HB 7069 aims an arrow straight at the heart of public education in Florida, a system that is struggling to stay alive despite repeated overhauls, starvation, and mandates under the latest standardized tests-du-jour.

And it sets up a guarantee for the profitability of the charter school industry in this state by delivering public schools we’ve purposely ignored to corporate managers we’ve deliberately positioned for success.

All of these perks we give to this industry under this bill — unregulated expansion, temporary teacher employment, financial self-rewards through cherry picking by principals — none of this is found in traditional public schools. Nor is the amount of state aid we owe to build or maintain the public schools long relegated to second-class status.

 “For all of these reasons, it’s a bill that should have been vetoed, as countless Floridians continuously urged. And it’s a bill that we will not soon forget.”

Rep. Jason Fischer, a Jacksonville Republican

“I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. The Governor’s signature marks the start of a bold and innovative plan to reform and strengthen Florida’s K-12 education system. Today is a momentous occasion for Florida’s students and hardworking teachers and I’m excited about what the future holds with this legislation in place. I would also like to thank Speaker Corcoran, Representative (

“I want to thank Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. The Governor’s signature marks the start of a bold and innovative plan to reform and strengthen Florida’s K-12 education system. Today is a momentous occasion for Florida’s students and hardworking teachers and I’m excited about what the future holds with this legislation in place. I would also like to thank Speaker Corcoran, Representative (Michael) Bileca, and Representative (Manny) Diaz for their leadership and for their dedication to helping students and teachers.”

House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz

“Not since the creation of the unconstitutional voucher system has there been an assault on our public schools as flagrant and hurtful as what’s contained in HB 7069.

Rather than providing additional resources for public schools, Republicans have instead chosen to divert $140 million into a slush fund for private charter school corporations. Rather than providing our school districts the resources they need for maintenance and upkeep, Republicans have instead chosen to divert local capital funding districts rely on into buildings the state does not own. And rather than giving our overworked and underpaid teachers the raise they deserve, Republicans have instead chosen to continue to fund an arbitrary bonus system based on test scores from when they were in high school.

“Most disappointingly, Republican leadership, and now Governor Scott, have chosen to ignore the voices of thousands of frustrated parents, teachers, and public school administrators and associations in favor of the AstroTurf efforts of private foundations awash in your tax dollars. It is my hope that next session we can look for ways to repair this misguided legislation in a bipartisan manner. Our parents and teachers deserve to have their voices heard.”

Rep. Shevrin Jones, the ranking Democratic member on the House Education Committee

“HB 7069 exemplifies confronting critical problems in our public education system with unreasonable and impractical solutions. This law will significantly hurt our public education system, rather than providing our teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed. On both sides of the aisle, we have kept education at the forefront of our priorities and though we claim to have a common goal, the outcome of signing this legislation is a step in the wrong direction.

“We cannot continue to place politics over people. It is unbelievable that Governor Scott has ignored the frustration and concerns that were made through phone calls, letters, and emails from parents, teachers, students, and superintendents.

“As a former educator and a believer in our process, this is the one time I can say, the process was violated and the people were ignored. It is my hope that every school district will look at this law and challenge the constitutionality of how it degrades our public school system. I am not against creating new standards for our lowest performing schools, but I am against violating the process of legislating that our constituents sent us to Tallahassee to uphold.”

Rep. Michael Bileca, chairman of the House Education Committee 

“I commend Governor Scott for signing HB 7069 into law. This legislation has the power to transform the lives and futures of poor children across the state of Florida. It puts their future before the agenda of bureaucrats and institutions that have deprived them of the quality education they deserve. This legislation is a direct and targeted approach that will break the cycle of poverty by enabling world class schools to flourish in high poverty areas. I would also like to thank my fellow lawmakers who have worked alongside one another to fight against a system resistant to change, and afford our children the best education we can provide.”

Rep. Manny Diaz, chairman of the House PreK-12 Education Appropriations Committee  “I want to commend the Governor for his continued support of the best educational options for all students in our great state regardless of what ZIP code they reside in. Today marks another transformational step for Florida as a nationwide leader in education reform. I want to thank Speaker Corcoran for his leadership and steadfast support for All kids in our state, it is truly an honor to work side by side with him and Chair Bileca to fight for what is right.”

“I want to commend the Governor for his continued support of the best educational options for all students in our great state regardless of what ZIP code they reside in. Today marks another transformational step for Florida as a nationwide leader in education reform. I want to thank Speaker Corcoran for his leadership and steadfast support for All kids in our state, it is truly an honor to work side by side with him and Chair Bileca to fight for what is right.”

Andrew Gillum, mayor of Tallahassee and a Democratic gubernatorial candidate

Public education has made all the difference in my life and so many others. Were it not for the guidance and work poured into me by public school teachers like Linda Awbrey, there would be no Mayor Gillum, and I would never have dreamed I could succeed at a run for Governor. The signing of H.B. 7069 is another deeply painful decision by our state’s leaders giving tax dollars away to for-profit charter school executives — instead of to our students. It’s a stark reminder that we must take back this state in 2018 from the well-heeled special interests, and when I’m Governor, revitalizing public education will be at the top of my list.:’”

Gwen Graham, a former Democratic congresswoman from Tallahassee and a 2018 candidate for governor

“This bill is another massive step toward turning Florida’s public school system into a public school industry designed to benefit corporations and powerful interests at the expense of our kids and schools. Teachers and parents called, wrote and even protested Governor Scott, imploring him not to sign this bill — but yet again, he’s abandoning his responsibility to our children and instead siding with special interests.”

As Governor, I will veto any budget or policy that shortchanges our schools in favor of the education industry. I’ll work with the legislature at every step of the process to build an education policy that puts our public schools and students first. We will end teaching to the test, end the lottery shell game and pay teachers what they deserve.

As a mother, former PTA president, and school district official, nothing is more important to me than our students and public schools. I’ve worked alongside the teachers who will be hurt by this legislation. I’m running for governor to be their advocate.”

— David Bergstein, spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee

 “Scott is proving once again that he is a typical Tallahassee politician who is only ever looking out for himself — his pathetic and transparent efforts to advance his own political interests at the expense of hardworking Floridians is the kind of toxic baggage that will follow him into any political campaign he mounts. Wherever he goes, Scott will have to explain why he’s draining resources from schools in order to spend tax dollars on a slush fund for his campaign contributors and political cronies. For voters, this bill is just another demonstration that Scott is only ever looking out for one person: himself.”

Johanna Cervone, communications director for the Florida Democratic Party

“There are no words. By signing HB7069, Rick Scott and Tallahassee Republicans have declared war on our public schools. This bill is a national disgrace and was universally regarded by school boards and superintendents to be a death knell for public education. Scott and Corcoran are caricatures of themselves — crooked Tallahassee politicians cutting backroom deals and pilfering dollars from our children to ensure their corporate benefactors get funded. Scott got his slush fund, and Corcoran got millions of dollars for for-profit charter schools, but Florida’s families are left with next to nothing. Voters will remember who was responsible for this legislation — including those who were complicit in its signing, like noteworthy political coward, Adam Putnam, who tiptoes around every issue.”

Mark Ferrulo, executive director of Progress Florida 

“Today, Gov. Rick Scott ignored thousands of parents, teachers and community leaders who have spoken out against this travesty of a bill and embraced a secret and unaccountable process to deal an underhanded sucker punch to public education in our state. Our students — the next generation of Floridians — are the ones who will pay the price.

 “Floridians deserve a strong and well-funded public school system so that a child’s opportunity to learn isn’t dependent on where they live or whether they win a school lottery. We shouldn’t waste precious resources on a parallel system of for-profit private voucher and charter schools that is less accountable to citizens and has produced mixed results at best.”

— Joshua Karp, spokesman for American Bridge

 “Since his first year in office, Rick Scott has fought against public schools on behalf of wealthy corporate special interests. Today’s anti-education bill was crafted in secret by lobbyists and Tallahassee insiders to funnel millions of dollars to corporations that seek to profit off children’s education while diverting precious funding from Florida’s public schools where every dollar is precious. Yet again, Floridians will be worse off because Rick Scott and his friends care more about making money.”

Charly Norton, executive director of FloridaStrong

“For the second time in two days, the Governor has made clear he serves only his own agenda — not the people he was elected to represent. The fact that Scott ignored thousands of veto calls over this past month from parents, school boards, educators and other public school advocates demonstrates his shameful disservice to the state of Florida. Speaker Corcoran and the lawmakers who pushed this ‘scam‘ of a bill are actively dismantling Florida schools and undermining our kids’ chance at success as a result. They can claim they care about the future of this state until they are blue in the face, but their actions prove otherwise.

William Mattox, director of JMI’s Marshall Center for Educational Options

“Education choice is an idea that ought to unite liberals and conservatives because it acknowledges that students are diverse and that they are often ill-served by one-size-fits-all schooling policies that fail to account for each child’s unique learning needs. We commend the legislators in both parties who voted to expand student options in 2017, and we hope legislators will work together in 2018 to move us even closer to the goal of universal education choice for all Florida students.”

J. Robert McClure, president and CEO of The James Madison Institute For 30 years, The James Madison Institute has been on the front lines of the battle of ideas and principles in Florida. We thank Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their support of this legislation. They have been steadfast in their efforts to match students with educational opportunities that provide the greatest chance for success in life, and this commitment is reflected in legislation that expands school choice for economically-disadvantaged students and those with unique abilities, while providing more digital education access and allowing successful charter schools to open new schools in areas with chronically failing public schools.”

For 30 years, The James Madison Institute has been on the front lines of the battle of ideas and principles in Florida. We thank Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran for their support of this legislation. They have been steadfast in their efforts to match students with educational opportunities that provide the greatest chance for success in life, and this commitment is reflected in legislation that expands school choice for economically-disadvantaged students and those with unique abilities, while providing more digital education access and allowing successful charter schools to open new schools in areas with chronically failing public schools.”

Blake Williams, communications director for For Florida’s Future

“Last week Rick Scott convinced Tallahassee Republicans to replenish his Enterprise Florida slush fund with taxpayer dollars to pay off his political donors, and in return, he’s giving Republicans millions in taxpayer dollars for a slush fund of their own. HB 7069 is corporate welfare plain and simple, and the opposition to it has been broad and bipartisan. Florida’s largest school districts have publicly opposed it, teachers and parents have opposed it, and nearly every editorial board in the state of Florida has urged a veto. The job of Florida leaders should be to ensure equal access to properly funded education. Rick Scott failed that test miserably today.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permissions.

In new video ahead of HB 7069 signing, Florida House declares ‘hope has arrived’

The Florida House is touting the signing of a wide-sweeping education bill with a new video.

The nearly 3-minute web video, released ahead of a bill signing event at Morning Star Catholic School in Orlando, features news clips showing parents talking about their children and reporters highlighting the 2015 “Failure Factories” series by the Tampa Bay Times.

After the words “failure no more, hope has arrived” flash onto the screen, the video shows footage of Rep. Byron Donalds talking about the bill (HB 7069) during a committee hearing earlier this year.

“We are wasting the educational time and the economic future of the kids who sit in those classrooms,” the Naples Republican is shown saying in the video. “The real conversation is what are we doing to make sure the children who are in the biggest need have the greatest opportunity for success.”

“What we’re doing here is allowing operators who have a demonstrated track record of success in low-performing areas in other parts of the United States of America, and we are giving them the opportunity and the ability to come to Florida and perform for the kids who are at risk the most,” continues Donalds, who was an advocate for the bill. “That’s what we’re doing in this bill.”

The Governor’s Office announced Thursday he planned to sign a major education bill at 3:45 p.m. The governor’s daily schedule listed the event as “HB 7069 Signing and Budget Highlight Event.”

The bill, among other things, creates the “Schools of Hope” program that would offer financial incentives to charter school operators who would agree to take students who now attending chronically failing schools, many of them in poor areas and urban neighborhoods. Additionally, up to 25 failing public schools may receive up to $2,000 per student for additional student services.

It extends the Best and Brightest Teacher Scholarship Program, expands eligibility for the Gardiner Scholarship Program for disabled students, and requires 20 minutes of recess each day for students in kindergarten through fifth grade.

The bill also requires school districts share capital project tax revenue with charter schools, which Corcoran argued is one of the reasons why some school district officials have come out in opposition to the bill.

The Associated Press contributed to this reported, reprinted with permission.

 

Don’t estoppel believing: Now it’s a law

After years of unsuccessfully fighting its way through the Legislature, the estoppel bill is now law.

Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday signed the measure (SB 398), which overhauls the legal process of estoppel letters. It goes into effect July 1.

“We are grateful for this compromise that will benefit Florida homeowners, associations, and taxpayers,” said Mark Anderson, Executive Director for Chief Executive Officers of Management Companies (CEOMC). “The Florida House, Senate, and Gov. Scott deserve credit for finally getting this across the finish line.”

Estoppel letters, or estoppel certificates, are an obscure part of some real estate closings.

They’re legal documents sent by a homeowners association, detailing any amount owed to the association. Usually, that’s unpaid fines or association fees left by owners who defaulted on their mortgage.

Title agents and Realtors have wanted to shift the cost of preparing such letters from themselves back to the associations. Anderson has said preparing estoppel letters takes time and research, costing anywhere from $15 to $400.

Former state Sen. Gwen Margolis, a Miami-Dade Democrat, disputed that story when she was in the Legislature, saying all homeowners associations “do is punch a button on a computer … It’s been a ripoff for a while.”

Among other things, the measure allows an association “to charge a maximum fee of $250 for the preparation and delivery of an estoppel certificate, if there are no delinquent amounts owed to the association (and) an additional maximum fee of $150, if there is a delinquent amount owed to the association,” the bill analysis says.

PR man and communications savant Kevin Cate, in an effort to get people to pay attention to the issue, once rebranded it as “smashing the Home Tax.”

Rick Scott signs pollution notification bill into law

Companies will now be required to promptly notify the Department of Environmental Protection of a pollution incident under a bill signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

The so-called spill bill (SB 1018) requires companies to submit a notice of a reportable pollution release to the Department of Environmental Protection within 24 hours of the release. That notice must contain a detailed description of the installation, substance and circumstance of the spill.

“I am proud to sign this legislation today to strengthen Florida’s pollution notification laws. The sewage spill in Pinellas County and pollution incident at Mosaic last year demonstrated the importance of a 24-hour public notification requirement following pollution incidents,” said Scott in a statement.“Floridians deserve to know about these types of events and every Florida resident should enjoy clean water and a healthy environment. I appreciate the Florida Legislature and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for their work on this legislation.”

The state agency is then required to publish the notification to the Internet within 24 hours of receiving it. It must also create a system that allows parties to subscribe and receive emails of notices received by the DEP.

“This bill will help increase requirements for pollution prevention and give residents the security that they will be notified when pollution occurs,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, who backed the measure. “Keeping residents informed of potential health and environment concerns is extremely important.”

The bill was backed by Sen. Denise Grimsley and Galvano in the Senate, and Reps. Kathleen Peters and Charlie Stone in the House.

“This bill will give Florida residents the peace of mind that they will be informed if pollution occurs in their community,” said Peters in a statement. “We will keep working to ensure that safety of our families and preservation of our environment is a top priority.”

The measure also provides additional resources for pollution prevention and recovery. It goes into effect on July 1.

Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – of the legislative merry-go-round.

Off: Parker Aziz is no longer Special Master and attorney for the House Civil Justice and Claims Subcommittee.

Off: Nikolas Pascual has stepped down as a legislative assistant for the vacant House District 116 seat.

Off: Garrett Mann has stopped being the district secretary for Jacksonville Republican State Rep. Jason Fischer.

Off: Zachary McCulley is no longer legislative assistant for Pensacola Republican State Rep. Clay Ingram.

Off: Juanita Olvera is the new district secretary for Miami Democratic State Rep. Kionne McGhee.

Report: Top Ron DeSantis supporter contributes $500K to state political committee

A top supporter of Rep. Ron DeSantis has contributed $500,000 to a state-level political committee that could be used to help fund a gubernatorial bid.

POLITICO Florida reported that Frederick Sontag contributed $500,000 to Fund for Florida’s Future, a state-level political committee, on May 5. The committee, which was required to report all contributions it received in May by Monday, received $535,000 in contributions last month.

Sontag is the founder of Spring Bay Companies, a Ponte Vedra Beach private equity firm focused on technology investments, and has a history of supporting DeSantis. POLITICO Florida reported that in 2016 Spring Bay Capital, a company owned by Sontag and affiliated with Spring Bay Companies, gave $500,000 to the Fighting for Florida Fund, a super PAC backing DeSantis.

DeSantis is believed to be mulling a 2018 gubernatorial bid. If he runs, he’ll need a massive war chest. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has $10 million in the bank. Sen. Jack Latvala and House Speaker Richard Corcoran are also considering a run.

State files misdemeanor charges against Lisa Edgar

Prosecutors are moving forward with a criminal case against Lisa Edgar, a former Public Service Commissioner and state parks director, who was arrested in Tallahassee after an alleged drunk-driving hit and run.

Earlier this month, State Attorney Jack Campbell’s office filed an information, or formal criminal charges, against Edgar for the April 15 incident. Campbell is the elected prosecutor for the 2nd Judicial Circuit, which includes Leon County.

Edgar

Edgar, 53, is charged with one count of driving under the influence causing damage to person or property, a first-degree misdemeanor, and one count of leaving the scene of a crash with damage, a second-degree misdemeanor, court records show.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant State Attorney AnnaLaura Rehwinkel; Edgar is represented by criminal-defense attorney John Leace. Leace was not immediately available at his office Tuesday.

In February, Edgar resigned as director of the Florida Park Service after less than two months on the job, citing “an immediate family emergency.”

Edgar was also a three-term member of the state’s Public Service Commission, the panel that regulates the state’s investor-owned utilities, and has been a deputy secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection.

Then-Gov. Jeb Bush first appointed her to the PSC in January 2005. Last year, Edgar decided not to seek another term on the PSC. She was replaced by water-use engineer Donald Polmann of Dunedin.

She switched jobs around the first of the year, saying she wanted to further use her “regulatory and governmental experience.”

Court dockets show Edgar set for a case management conference before Leon County Judge Layne Smith on July 5.

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