In a move that’s big news in Tallahassee’s influence industry, Melissa Joiner Ramba is leaving the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) and going to Floridian Partners, the firm announced Monday.
“Having worked with Melissa on retail issues over the last several years, we have been impressed with her victories in the legislative process,” said Charles Dudley, managing partner of Floridian Partners in Tallahassee.
“We look forward to her energy and experience while working with our team to represent our clients before the Legislative and Executive Branches in Florida.”
Earlier this year, Joiner Ramba was tapped to head up the FRF’s new External Affairs division as vice president for both that association and Georgia Retailers.
Ramba had been with the retail group since 2013 and worked as vice president of government affairs before earning this year’s promotion, which, at the time, FRF said expanded her focus into communications and other projects.
“Melissa’s proven ability to successfully manage a variety of issues, her strong work ethic and excellent relationships throughout all levels of government will serve our clients very well,” said Jorge Chamizo, partner of Floridian Partners. “We are fortunate to have her as an addition to our growing team.”
She joins Floridian Partners less than a month after lobbyist TeyeReeves left to join the Tallahassee firm of Smith, Bryan & Myers (SBM).
At FRF, Joiner Ramba “championed issues related to alcohol sales, taxes and pharmacies, while also protecting retailers from burdensome regulations,” a press release said.
Before that, she lobbied for the March of Dimes, Department of Community Affairs and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
She got her undergraduate degree from Florida State University and is on the Board of Directors of the Florida House in Washington, D.C.
Just like in 2016, we’re again asking every candidate, including incumbents, to complete a questionnaire we believe offers an interesting, albeit, thumbnail sketch of who they are and why they are running. If you are a candidate and would like to complete the questionnaire, email Peter@FloridaPolitics.com.
Significant other? Kids?
My husband and I have five adult children – three from his first marriage and two from mine. Our kids work in a range of fields: science, law, business, public policy and social work. Of course, I think they are the most intelligent, hardest working young people I know. As the mom and step-mom of them, who range 24 to 33 years of age, I don’t relate personally to disparaging comments about millennials because I’ve met so many of their friends and those other young people, too, give me hope for our future.
Education background? Professional background?
I was the first in my family to graduate from college – my parents did not – and I did so at the age of 31 while working full-time, already a mom to my 7-year old daughter and four months pregnant with my son. One of the reasons I don’t like the message “not everyone wants or needs to go to college” is it misses the more important point of assuring the opportunity to attend college for those who want to, even if they come from a background of financial hardship. I’m a champion for personal choice, setting one’s own direction. Every person should have an opportunity to build their career, in college, trade school, the military, or elsewhere that their interest and ability takes them. Let’s promote a love of learning, valuing of hard work, and support of options that lets each person pursue a path to financial security and meaning that they themselves choose – that options aren’t limited severely by the family into which one is born or their home’s zip code.
I have a master’s degree in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Clinical Social Work. I defended my doctoral dissertation on high-conflict divorce and its potentially corrosive effect on children while undergoing radiation therapy for breast cancer and was the class speaker at graduation in 2014.
What was your first job?
I was 15 when I went to work as a sales associate for a small, family-owned woman’s clothing shop. I loved working for this entrepreneurial and civic-minded family and am still friends with them today. I learned about my personal responsibility at work, business, sales, and more in that job. It was a great experience that I’m fortunate and grateful to have.
In 25 words or less why are you running for office?
I was moved by women in Jacksonville, alarmed by President DonaldTrump’s behavior toward women. I felt the need to step forward and serve.
Did you speak with anybody in your political party before deciding on running? Receive any encouragement? From whom?
I spoke with many people, across party lines, before filing including Democrats Senator AudreyGibson, former candidate LisaKing and former Ambassador Nancy Soderberg as well as Republicans such as Jacksonville City Councilwoman AnnaBrosche and former mayoral candidate AudreyMoran, to name just a few.
Who do you count on for advice?
I have a wide range of friends and family, from different backgrounds including business, the military, and education that provide me advice, perspective, and support. They are people active in both parties and not at all political as well. One cannot have too many good friends, and it’s best when they have different perspectives, as many of us now are subject to hearing over and over the thoughts of those encased in their own ‘bubbles’ or narrow points of view.
Who is your political consultant? Campaign manager?
ScottArceneaux is my political consultant and my campaign manager is HaleighHutchison, Councilman TommyHazouri’s former executive assistant. I really like my team; they are experienced locally and statewide, and deeply ethical. As a first-time candidate, immersed before filing in the running of my own small business, I wanted thoughtful assistance. That’s the process I’ll use as a legislator – one similar to my response to this and the previous question – listening to a wide range of knowledgeable input.
Who was the first person to contribute to your campaign? Why did they donate?
Patty Forbes. She worked most of her career as a lawyer and small business program manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration in D.C. and later as Staff Director and Chief Counsel for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. During her career, she developed and refined many Federal small business programs aimed at providing access to capital and business education to new or growing small business owners. One of her proudest accomplishments was the enactment of the Small Business Administration’s Microloan Program which has provided small loans to budding entrepreneurs for more than 25 years. After her retirement in 2014, she taught low-income children in the Virginia public schools.
Patty has known me for decades and knows I am ethical, caring, hard-working, a good listener and a fighter for what is right and if elected, she knows I will do everything I can to address the real needs of ALL of the people in District 15.
Who, if anyone, inspires you in state government?
Senator AudreyGibson and Representative TracieDavis. They are two strong, approachable, and effective legislators who care about their constituents and Jacksonville. I can’t wait to work with them in Tallahassee.
Why do people mistrust elected officials and what are you going to do about it?
I think many people see elected officials as unapproachable or distant, non-transparent or opaque. As a professional working in the field of human behavior, I know definitively that we are all human, unique, fallible and, yet, redeemable. Some officeholders become swayed by power, money, and fame; their identity becomes fused with ‘a role’ versus seeing themselves as simply ‘a person’. I am fully aware that I’m just a person, with my own unique abilities and needs and aspirations for our community common to many. My many roles in life include being a mom, mental health professional, a business owner, wife, daughter, and now candidate. Each of these roles is a part of my overall identity, which remains essentially unchanged by the political process. During my campaign I have been very approachable, and I’ll remain so. I sit with anyone willing to have a conversation about the needs of our community. I will bring that openness and availability to Tallahassee as the next State Representative in District 15.
What are the three issues that you’re running on? (You’re not allowed to say education or “improving the schools”)
I’m reluctant to not mention as one of my top three issues – education – as voters in House District 15 have told me over and over that (a) it is the issue that matters most to most, though not all, people and (b) they want addressed Florida’s school and student performance, which has fallen far behind many states.
My work’s focus has been on families for as long as I can remember. I’m deeply engaged in why some families struggle to get by financially, why some families are devastated by domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and why other families seem more caring, stable and successful. From this focus on families it’s clear that nearly every issue our community struggles to improve requires support of the family, including these issues important to me as House District 15’s Representative: 1. high-quality and affordable health care, the absence of which can devastate families financially; 2. public safety, crime prevention and its clear connection to drug abuse and, more generally, mental health; and 3. improved public education and its undeniable linkage to good, well-paying jobs.
What is a disruptive issue you are interested in?
In the state of Florida, it is unambiguously apparent, by the science and what’s happening in our repeatedly flooding streets that rising water levels and climate change rise is a “disruptive” issue. We cannot afford to continue to ignore the need for a comprehensive plan to address the infrastructure improvements needed to address this; the potential effects if unaddressed are too severe, financially and environmentally. Furthermore, there is great economic opportunity in Florida and Jacksonville becoming a leader in “green” and sustainable environment industries.
What does your legislative district need from Tallahassee?
A representative that will fight for every person and family in Jacksonville, no matter of party affiliation, economic condition, age, gender, race, sexual orientation or background. I believe most of us want similar things – to feel safe in our homes and communities, a good job paying a wage from which a person can support oneself, opportunities for advancement for those who strive, to raise our children with excellent public schools nearby, to be able to go to a doctor and get medical treatment without the fear of bankruptcy or losing one’s home.
Who was the best governor in Florida’s modern history?
ReubinAskew. He was an early champion of civil rights and was instrumental in helping move Florida in the right direction during the 1960’s and 70’s. He was known for his honesty and integrity and ushered in an era of transparency and good government that we still benefit from in the form of our Sunshine laws and an independent judiciary. We could all learn from his example.
Are yard signs an important part of campaigning in your district?
For me they’re a fun part of campaigning; I enjoy talking with voters as they let me place a sign in their yard. One morning while I was out canvassing my campaign manager messaged me saying: a person had seen my yard sign, ‘googled’ me to learn more about who I am, then called our office to ask for a sign, and had just made a very generous donation to the campaign. All without having met me in person yet. After I finished canvassing I delivered a sign to them and we spent some time discussing issues that matter most to them.
What’s the first thing you read each morning?
I reach for my phone first thing each morning to make sure none of my patients or family members are in crisis, then I read my email where there are links to articles in the Florida Times Union, Miami Herald, Tampa Bay Times and other news sources.
Where do you get your political news?
The local and state newspapers I mentioned above and Florida Politics, public radio (WJCT here in Jacksonville), and other sources such as national newspapers and reliable websites.
Social media presence? Twitter handle?
Yes, my campaign can be found online at www.polsonforjacksonville.com, on Facebook and Instagram at “Polson For Jacksonville,” and on Twitter @PolsonForJax.
In 280 characters, what’s a tweet that best describes your campaign message?
I’m a mental health professional, small business owner, cancer survivor and an Army veteran’s daughter. I’ve spent my life studying why some families thrive and others struggle to survive. I will bring my professional expertise to Tallahassee and fight every day for working families in Jacksonville.
Between my business and the campaign, I do not have as much time for hobbies now, but I enjoy biking for fitness, working out with a helpful local trainer, reading clinical journals to stay up with best practices in my field, traveling to interesting places with our kids, and going to dinner out at some of my favorite spots in Jacksonville.
Favorite sport and sports team?
I love watching college football and basketball. I became a Gator fan when my daughter attended UF during the era of Chris Leak, TimTebow, AlHorford and JoakimNoah. I’d never been to games where there was so much enthusiasm – and orange and blue. I also enjoy attending The Players Championship every year. And, of course, go Jags.
Gov. RickScott on Friday ordered flags at half-staff on Sunday in honor of the late state Sen. Dorothy Hukill.
The Port Orange Republican, who served in the Senate since 2012, died Tuesday after a recurrence of cancer first diagnosed and treated last year.
Scott directed the U.S. and state flags to be flown at half-staff at the Volusia County Courthouse in DeLand, the Brevard County Courthouse in Melbourne, and at the Capitol in Tallahassee from sunrise to sunset.
The attorney, chair of the Senate’s Education Committee, had long been interested in education, legal and technology issues. She is a former public elementary school teacher.
Hukill also served in the House 2004-12 and was mayor of Port Orange 2000-04. She last represented Senate District 14, covering southern Volusia County and northern Brevard County.
The 72-year-old “was a true leader in the Florida Senate and served the public with distinction,” Scott said in a statement.
“She worked to make our state a better place to live and leaves an incredible legacy. We are all grateful for her commitment to Florida families.
“Our prayers are with Dorothy’s family and to those closest to her. We are also praying for our friends and colleagues in the Florida Senate who loved and admired Senator Hukill so much.”
Constituents and others can pay their respects noon to 2 p.m. Sunday at the Volusia Memorial Funeral Home in Port Orange, Senate President Joe Negron said.
In lieu of flowers, her family asked for donations to the Halifax Health Hospice facility in Port Orange, where she spent her final days.
As Kavanaugh process nears end, what are the political ramifications?
One way or another, the saga surrounding the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court is nearly over. No matter one’s view on his suitability, most of America outside the Beltway is ready for the process to end.
It has gotten ugly on Capitol Hill as well as surrounding areas. Hundreds of “Stop Kavanaugh” vigilsare taking place across the country. Protesters are swarming the halls of Congress, forcing the Capitol Police to beef up security.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and his wife were recently driven from a dinner table at a Washington restaurant. On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell faced angry protesters as he arrived at Washington’s Reagan National Airport.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is even fighting over the wording of tweets. President Donald Trump discarded the measured approach previously taken and began to attack the testimony of Kavanaugh accuser Christine Blasey Ford, drawing rebukes from Democrats and Republicans alike.
“I want to make it clear to these people who are chasing my members around the hall here, or harassing them at the airports, or going to their homes,” McConnell said Wednesday. “We will not be intimidated by these people.”
With the arrival of the report from the FBI, McConnell set in motion a process that allowed Senators to read the report, then conduct a vote on Friday that would break a filibuster — if it goes the way he and Republicans hope. A final confirmation vote would come Saturday.
When it ends on Saturday, many are wondering what the final month of the campaign season will bring. Polls will begin to show whether Republicans are becoming as energized as Democratic voters have been for months.
So far, generic ballots are maintaining Democratic leads of five to eight points. The Real Clear Politics average of polls gives them a nearly eight-point lead.
Republicans will have a difficult time holding on to the House unless the Kavanaugh hearings rile their voters up to 2014 levels and cause enough independents to switch sides. On the Senate side, recent polling in red statesshould give Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson some pause.
Fox News polls released Wednesday show GOP Senate candidates in Tennessee and North Dakota surging into the lead, while incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill in Missouri, who is opposing Kavanaugh, is tied. Trump won those states by huge margins.
Florida is best described as a purple state, but 2016 demonstrated that enough Republicans and independents could defy conventional wisdom. Nelson was ahead by anywhere from five to nine points in polls released last week, but now multiple surveys have the incumbent tied with Gov. Rick Scott.
There is also nothing like anti-media sentiment to motivate Republicans and conservatives. While Trump stokes this emotion daily, the coverage of the Kavanaugh process even has the attention of some of their own.
The true effect of the Kavanaugh hearings will be known soon enough. Fixing the damage to Capitol Hill relationships and the fabric of the country will take a lot longer.
New Obama endorsements: Some happy, some not
A few weeks ago, former President Barack Obama announced a wave of 81 endorsements for federal and state races around the country. Naturally, all the approvals were Democrats, but none of them were from Florida.
Earlier this week, he provided a second round of approved candidates, but this time Floridians were included. Among the 20 from this state are two delegation incumbents and four challengers.
Today, I’m proud to endorse even more Democratic candidates who aren’t just running against something, but for something — to expand opportunity for all of us and to restore dignity, honor, and compassion to public service. They deserve your vote:” Today, I’m proud to endorse even more Democratic candidates who aren’t just running against something, but for something — to expand opportunity for all of us and to restore dignity, honor, and compassion to public service,” Obama said. “They deserve your vote.”
Nelson and Rep. Stephanie Murphy in Florida’s 7th Congressional District have Obama’s support for another term. The former President also gave a thumbs up to CD 6 candidate Nancy Soderberg, CD 18 hopeful Lauren Baer, CD 26 nominee Debbie Mucarsel-Powell and Chris Hunter, who is challenging veteran Republican Gus Bilirakis in CD 12.
Soderberg is competing against Mike Waltz for an open seat, Baer is challenging first-term Republican Brian Mast, and Mucarsel-Powell is campaigning against two-term Republican Carlos Curbelo (see below).
A notable omission was former Clinton cabinet member Donna Shalala, who is trying to flip the District 27 seat currently held by Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Also left out was District 25 candidate Mary Barzee Flores and Kristen Carlson, who is also running for an open seat in District 15.
Others passed over includes Charlie Crist in CD 13, who was seemingly tied to Obama forever after the (in)famous welcoming hug in 2009 that cost Crist so dearly. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz was Obama’s choice to lead the Democratic National Committee during a major part of his presidency but did not make the list.
Those not receiving the Obama seal of approval were disappointed, with some statewide hopefuls saying so publicly. The former president did not indicate if a third round will come closer to Election Day.
Nelson, Scott square off
This week, Nelson and Scott held their first televised debate of the campaign. In a razor-thin race for Nelson’s seat, consultants and pundits were looking for a big gaffe or moment that might tilt the election one way or another.
While that did not happen, there were several exchanges presented to the audience on Telemundo with both having the opportunity to reinforce their campaign talking points. Nelson claims Scott cannot tell the truth, while the governor says the three-term incumbent has “done nothing” during 40 years of public service.
With health care a top issue in campaigns across the country, Nelson reminded voters that Scott declined to expand Medicaid in Florida. On gun control, Scott proudly pointed to his leadership on enacting a new state law that placed some restrictions on gun ownership.
The issue of Puerto Rico and the state and federal response following Hurricane Maria became an important topic following Puerto Rico Gov. Carlos Rossello’s endorsement of Nelson. Scott ticked off a list of actions taken by the state to help the island commonwealth, while Nelson responded by tying Scott to Trump and the widely-panned federal response.
Both blamed the other for the outbreak of toxic algae in South Florida. On immigration, Nelson wants the 2013 comprehensive reform bill reinvigorated, while Scott calls for protecting DACA immigrants and securing the border.
On the issue of the day, Nelson said he could not support Kavanaugh because the nominee lacks the temperament to be a Supreme Court Justice, an opinion formed after the judge’s combative encounters with Senate Democrats last week. Scott called the entire confirmation process a “circus” and supports confirmation.
The next debate is scheduled for October 16 to be aired on CNN and moderated by Wolf Blitzer.
Rubio urges improved school safety
As part of a broad effort to enhance school safety, Rubio and several bipartisan members of Congress have signed on to create a central authority to help new and existing schools improve safety features. Rubio led a letter to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos calling for the Department and the Federal Commission on School Safety to include the new commission in their final recommendation on the matter.
The letter urges DeVos “to ensure tight coordination and collaboration of effort among all federal agencies that are working on different aspects of school safety to eliminate duplication, redundancy, and waste of valuable resources.” The Commission, led by Secretary DeVos, also includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
“Our nation’s educators are trained to teach and are not always equipped to identify weaknesses in school safety,” they wrote. “They are also not the experts on what are the best, most cost-effective ways to harden schools. However, the federal government can compile best practices and resources for educators that would like assistance on how to improve school safety without detracting from school elements that are conducive to learning.”
Rubio worked closely with Max Schachter — father of Parkland shooting victim, Alex Schachter, and CEO and founder of Safe Schools for Alex — who also testified before the Federal Commission on School Safety on the importance of ensuring our children are safe at school.
Joining Rubio in signing the letter was Nelson and 20 bipartisan members of the Florida delegation.
Taxpayer advocates salute GOP delegation
The National Taxpayers Union (NTU) has announced their 2017 scorecard for both the House and Senate with few surprises. Most Republicans gain high marks, and most Democrats earn failing grades.
Among the 240 House Republicans, 66 earned the organization’s Taxpayer Friend Award. Four of those were from Florida: Rep. Ted Yoho of Gainesville, former Rep. Ron DeSantis, Rep. Francis Rooney of Naples and Rep. Daniel Webster of Clermont.
“Every dollar spent in Washington, is a dollar taken out of a hardworking American’s pocket,” said Webster. “I ran for Congress pledging to get our fiscal house in order and get government off the backs of hardworking Americans and job creators. Job creators get to keep more of their hard-earned profits, allowing them to expand business, hire more people, pay better wages, and offer more generous benefits.”
Rubio was one of 15 Senators to win the award.
The five award winners constituted the five As earned by the delegation. Ros-Lehtinen earned a C+ while the other Republicans earned Bs. Nelson and all 11 House Democrats won Fs.
NTU included 98 Senate votes and 198 House votes in the 2017 scorecard. The organization states its rating program is designed to calculate a member’s voting record on fiscal responsibility by evaluating every vote that has an impact on tax, spending, trade, and regulatory policy utilizing a methodical weighting system.
Despite have a 17-12 Republican majority within the delegation, the state’s 52 percent average score was the lowest among southern states.
Dunn blasts VA for mass cancellation of patient tests
This week, USA Today revealed that since 2016, VA hospitals around the country had canceled more than 250,000 radiology tests ordered by doctors. The VA Inspector General is in the process of conducting an audit.
The revelations brought a strong reaction from Republican Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City, who represents a district with thousands of active duty military and retirees.
“The recent reports of mass cancellations of medically necessary diagnostic appointments at VA hospitals across the country is incredibly troubling,” said Dunn, who is also a medical doctor. “Over the last decade, the VA has dealt with scandal after scandal as we witnessed veterans dying on long waiting lists and being denied the care they have earned. These actions are completely unacceptable.”
The inspector general audit covers nine VA hospitals around the country. Among those are the facilities in Tampa and Bay Pines.
At the Tampa facility, as many as 10 people were reportedly tasked with the job, one administrative staffer testified in a deposition in a lawsuit filed by technicians. Multiple employees testified they canceled orders by date and did not consult any doctors before doing so, nor was there patient contact
The VA said many of the orders were outdated or duplicated. The agency said it welcomes the oversight and is working with the inspector general to improve cancellation guidelines.
Soto tops in bills launched, enacted
Some freshman members of Congress are busier than others, but when it comes to introducing bills and getting them passed, none was more active than Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando. According to a legislative analysis, the first term Democrat introduced 29 bills during the current session of Congress with two becoming law.
The analysis and datacame from Quorum, a software company the provides analytics and trends to Congress. The average number of bills proposed by first-term members was 14.
Soto and New York Republican John Faso were the only two in the freshman class to have two bills signed into law. Faso introduced 21 bills while the member presenting the most, Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, had 31 but none were adopted.
Among the group were 13 members who introduced legislation and had at least one enacted. Those from among the delegation on that list were Murphy, Mast, Democrat Al Lawson of Tallahassee.
Curbelo not completely closing door on backing Gillum
Without question, Curbelo is already overcoming a few odds to be in a race that “leans Republican.” That is the consensus of election pundits who slightly tilt the District 26 race the incumbent’s way against Mucarsel-Powell, his Democratic challenger.
There are more Democrats than Republicans in the district, which went for Hillary Clinton in 2016 by double digits. The two-term incumbent knows it would not be leaning GOP if he consistently lined up behind House leadership every time, especially on big issues, then went home to South Florida to try to explain some of his votes.
While he favored the Republican tax cuts enacted in 2017, he also led a charge to get immigration bills out of limbo and onto the Senate floor. Curbelo was one of only a handful of Republican co-sponsors of the DREAM Act.
Curbelo displayed his moderate approach by offering his views on the governor’s race between his former delegation colleague, Ron DeSantis, and Democrat Andrew Gillum. Neither were his first choices for either party.
“If there’s anything for me to lament in this governor’s race is the two candidates who represent the extremes of the spectrum, won (the primaries),” he was quoted in The Hill.
Knowing Republicans running statewide seldom do well in southeast Florida, Curbelo said he did not completely close the door on backing Gillum.
“I’m going to watch the debate,” Curbelo said. “For right now I don’t anticipate abandoning Ron, but I’m going to watch the debates,” he said.
Environmental group calls on CD 26 candidates to help Arctic refuge
While Curbelo and Mucarsel-Powell differ on issues involving South Florida, the environmental group Alaska Wilderness Action is turning to them for help with its pledge campaign to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The organization is calling on both candidates in Florida’s 26th Congressional District to support the group’s efforts.
“Conservation and the environment consistently poll as priorities for voters in the 2018 midterms and are especially critical issues in competitive House district held by centrist Republicans,” said Leah Donahey, the group’s political director.
“That’s why we have called on Representative Curbelo and his challenger, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, to pledge to protect the Arctic Refuge.”
Alaska Wilderness Action says Mucarsel-Powell has taken the pledge, and they remain hopeful Curbelo will as well. “He has shown himself willing to work across the aisle on climate change, opposed the inclusion of the Arctic Refuge oil and gas leasing in last year’s tax bill, and he has come out strongly against offshore drilling off Florida’s coast,” Donahey said of Curbelo.
“He should understand, as well as anyone, that if we can’t protect the Arctic Refuge, which had been set aside for more than half a century, how can we hold the line along Florida’s sensitive coastal waters?”
Shalala joins Democrats, union pushing living wage, better conditions
Three South Florida Democratic women candidates for the House rallied together Tuesday at Miami International Airport to demand better working conditions for airport workers. The event, organized by the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) featured CD 27 candidate Shalala, Barzee Flores and Mucarsel-Powell.
The candidates gathered by the airport’s flagpoles to demand a living wage for airport workers as well as other benefits. The SEIU, the country’s largest union for property service workers in the United States, has long argued for higher wages for current employees and significantly raising the minimum wage.
“Elect all the Democrats, and we will put a union label on Florida,” Shalala said to the crowd. “My opponent does not believe in the living wage. She believes that the Trump economy has lifted everyone.”
Republican Maria Elvira Salazar is challenging Shalala.
The union argues that the current system, where airport employees work under subcontractors, results in lower wages and fewer opportunities for benefits. According to Ana Tinsly, the union’s spokeswoman in Florida, said airport employees work under subcontractors, which results in lower wages and less opportunity for benefits.
“At the Miami airport, we have a lot of issues with hazardous conditions,” said SEIU spokeswoman Ana Tinsley, “ … and general issues like a lack of benefits.”
Nigerian political party turns to Ballard Partners
Ballard Partners gained another foreign client when the People’s Democratic Party of Nigeria signed the firm’s DC office to a $1.1 million per year lobbying contract. The contract, worth $90,000 per month, became effective on September 21.
The firm will lobby on measures to improve Nigeria’s relationship with the United States as well as assist the West African nation in “maintaining political and security conditions free of intimidation and interference” ahead of the country’s 2019 presidential election.
With violence rocking Nigeria, concerns for election security have intensified. Washington-based think-tank Fund for Peacerecently named Nigeria as the 14th least stable country in the world in its 2018 “Fragile States Index.”
Ballard Partners’ head Brian Ballard chaired the Trump Victory organization in Florida during the 2016 presidential election and is viewed as one of a handful of lobbyists close to Trump. Those ties led him to expand his firm to Washington shortly after Trump’s inauguration.
In the nearly two years since opening its doors in D.C., Ballard Partners has added numerous clients, from major American businesses such as Amazon, Sprint and Uber, to the governments of the Dominican Republic, Qatar, the Maldives, Turkey and Mali.
On this day in the headlines
October 5, 2003 — After heaping criticism on President George W. Bush during a feisty speech to national Democratic Party leaders, Sen. Bob Graham acknowledged Saturday that he is evaluating his presidential campaign strategy and did not explicitly rule out leaving the race. Graham said he had consulted with former President Bill Clinton and Senate leaders, none of whom urged him to abandon the campaign.
Pointedly asked if he was dropping out, Graham said: “We are committed to this race. We are looking at the ways to be the next President of the United States.”
October 5, 2009 — Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan predicted on Sunday that the unemployment rate would pass 10 percent and stay there for a while, and a second stimulus plan is not needed now. He spoke favorably of extending unemployment benefits and tax credits for health insurance options the Obama administration is considering for people laid off during the recession.
“This is an extraordinary period, and temporary actions must be taken, especially to assuage the angst of a very substantial part of our population,” Greenspan said on ABC’s This Week. With more than 15 million people out of work, unemployment reached 9.8 percent in September, the highest rate in 26 years.
This week in City Hall, a time capsule containing artifacts from 1960 was opened.
Being it’s the 50-year anniversary of Consolidation, city leaders are (understandably) in a sentimental mode.
But 50 years from now? One wonders if such sentimental pulls will prevail.
What kind of letters would current City Council members write to those who will succeed them in the Jacksonville of the future?
Will there be a need to explain current political conditions? Or to advise people living through the future that we imagine?
In 1960, stuffing the time capsule for posterity, Jacksonville was not as it is now.
Consolidation was eight years away. Everyone in town was a Democrat. And Rep. Charles Bennett was still a (youngish) congressman.
Politicians don’t do a great job envisioning the future.
A thought exercise: How will politicians a half-century from now see the past?
Prediction: A local legislator will file a bill next session to enhance penalties for the killing of police dogs.
Last month, the killing of Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office K-9 officer Fang shocked many locally.
“JSO says K-9 Officer Fang was shot and killed on the Westside, near I-10 and Cecil Commerce Parkway, while chasing 17-year-old Jhamel Paskel, a suspect in an armed carjacking. Investigators said another police dog helped catch Paskel, who was arrested near where a 9 mm handgun was found,” reports WJXT.
Per THE Local Station, a Change.org petition has been launched to increase penalties for killing police dogs. However, that can only happen in Tallahassee.
To reiterate: It’s only a matter of which member of the Duval Delegation will carry the bill. It will be a winner in the Legislature, and it’s the kind of thing that plays really well in direct mail — and with police unions, the support from which can be a boost in competitive elections.
Brown ‘still fighting’
Former U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown is locked up currently, serving a stretch for the One Door for Education fraud scheme.
However, per Brown’s house organ (the Florida Star) the Congresswoman is “still fighting,” and is looking for tangible expressions of support from her base.
“She wants you to know that she is still fighting, is doing well, and looking forward to coming home soon. Even though Congresswoman Brown was sentenced to five years at FCC Coleman Camp, she is very hopeful that her case will be reversed,” the Star reports.
“Congresswoman Brown also needs your financial assistance, and if you can contribute, please know that any amount will help tremendously! If you would like to contribute to her Commissary Account, you can send funds by Western Union,” the Star notes.
Just as was the case when she was in politics, there are multiple ways to help Corrine — including one familiar to those covering her legal travails: “If you would like to assist with her mounting legal fees, you can mail a check or money order to the … Corrine Brown Legal Expense Trust
In a changing world, it’s reassuring that some constants exist.
Fifty years ago Monday, Jacksonville (racked by corruption and governmental inefficiency at the time) embarked on an experiment with consolidated government.
Though many debate the efficacy of the model, the case for Consolidation was made (or reiterated) energetically Monday evening at the Jessie Ball DuPont Center.
The Jacksonville Historical Society’s Task Force for Consolidation hosted the 5:30 p.m. event, which saw with Rick Mullaney, the former Jacksonville General Counsel.
Mullaney, an enthusiast for Consolidation, referred to the move as “the most significant local government restructuring in Florida history.
“The Jacksonville of the 1960s,” Mullaney said, was perceived as “a slow-moving southern town with an inferiority complex.
Including here, he added.
“That was a perception we had of ourselves,” Mullaney noted.
Jacksonville had seen a “wave of public corruption” in the 1930s, which included “wasteful and duplicative” services.
Despite this, and a Jacksonville constitutional amendment that gave the city significant leeway, nothing was done until the 1960s.
The referendum that greenlighted Consolidation, Mullaney said, brought a “strong mayor” form of government with a “unique ability to build consensus [for] transformational change.”
‘Work in progress’
Per the director of the Jacksonville Historical Society in the Jacksonville Daily Record, after 50 years, Consolidation is still a “work in progress.”
“Some of the problems its authors sought to resolve have indeed given way, while others persist,” noted historical society director Alan Bliss.
“All by itself, [a] consolidated local government is accountable neither for its successes nor its unmet promises. Jacksonville’s elected officials — and the voters who choose them — are ultimately responsible,” Bliss added.
“By the 1960s, Jacksonville resembled other American cities that faced aging infrastructure and dysfunctional government,” Bliss noted, after adding that Tampa and Miami faced similar issues with booming suburbs and declining urban cores.
“Downtown Jacksonville suffered visibly, with a declining tax base no longer adequate to sustain municipal services,” Bliss added.
Left unanswered: how Tampa and Miami became great global cities, while Jacksonville attempts to find its footing on a somewhat lower tier.
What’s your hurry, Curry?
The titular question, posed by a columnist in the St. Augustine Record, addresses a proposal from the Jacksonville Chamber’s JAXUSA group that would give Northeast Florida an identity.
That identity: Greater Jacksonville. And the “Water Life Region.”
“I suffer marketing naiveté but thought ‘Florida’s Historic Coast’ had an honest ring to it. And that’s not the case for only St. Augustine. Ponte Vedra, the North Beaches, St. Augustine Beach and the South Beaches clear down to Summer Haven have compelling histories of their own. Jacksonville has Cowford,” writes the Record’s Jim Sutton.
Sutton also takes aim at state Sen. Travis Hutson for his “amendment to a totally unrelated bill on Community Development Districts. The amendment redrew the boundaries of St. Johns County, moving a massive swath of prime conservation land into Duval County. The land lies along the western side of Roscoe Boulevard, running north and south, essentially from Palm Valley down to Mickler’s Landing. The eastern boundary abutted the ICW the total length — all waterfront and largely undeveloped land.”
This deal got squashed when it was reported. But Sutton doesn’t think it’s over.
“We dodged an amazingly brazen bullet. But watch for the same “good neighbor” policy to show up next session, cloaked differently this time,” Sutton warns.
Sex claims roil JAXPORT
Per the Florida Times-Union, a newly-filed sexual harassment suit is ensuring JaxPort headlines are about more than dredging and cargo ships.
Glenda Prinzi filed a case alleging a pattern of pressure to perform sexually for hiring, then promotion.
Prinzi contends that on numerous occasions, she was pressured into having sex with both direct JAXPORT employees and subcontractors.
“Such conduct is entirely unacceptable in this day and age,” Matt Kachergus, an attorney with the firm Sheppard, White, Kachergus & DeMaggio, said to the T-U.
JAXPORT CEO Eric Green asserted this week during a board meeting that he has “zero tolerance for workplace harassment of any kind.”
Let ’em fly
Months back, a code enforcement issue became global news, when a city of Jacksonville employee cited a local business for flying military flags.
One city. One Jacksonville. Six flags.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry overruled his employee.
“Let them fly,” he tweeted.
And so, they did.
Now those flags will fly, permanently, at City Hall, after a ceremonial raising of the flags of all military branches (along with a POW/MIA flag) Tuesday.
Curry noted the city’s “gratitude for members of the armed forces” factoring into the decision to fly the flags as a “daily reminder of all that served and all that have served.”
Jacksonville City Councilman Garrett Dennis, a first-term Democrat, was thwarted by the Finance Committee he once chaired Tuesday, regarding a resolution of opposition to selling local utility JEA.
The Committee had Dennis sit for an hour before not moving his bill.
The sale of JEA has been a discussion point in City Hall off and on for the last year, and Dennis is concerned that Council will greenlight the deal down the road.
Dennis’ resolution (2018-593) couldn’t even get moved to the floor Tuesday.
Dennis had pushed similar legislation to the same effect once this year already, and the distraught Democrat dropped science on the silent committee after the non-movement.
“It’s not going away,” Dennis said. “I truly believe that we will be in a better position if this Council votes this resolution up.”
Dennis cited the issues with the Plant Vogtle development, which JEA entered into in 2008 and has since come to see as a financial albatross. The utility was thwarted last month in efforts to get out of the deal.
Committee discussion afterward was brief, and seemed to center on getting Dennis to go away.
“Dennis has indicated that if we withdraw this bill, he will refile it,” said Councilwoman Lori Boyer, who advised that “these bills can be deferred by the chair and never end up on the agenda for discussion.”
For Dennis, a potential mayoral candidate in 2019, this represents another setback.
For the Jacksonville City Council, this is business as usual.
Supremes decline qualification dispute
On Tuesday, the Florida Supreme Court refused to take up a case filed by a Clay County judicial candidate who was kept off the ballot when she filed paperwork 12 minutes late.
As the News Service of Florida reports, justices handed down a one-page order turning down the appeal by Lucy Ann Hoover. As is customary, the court did not explain why.
Hoover, who had sought to run for county judge, went to the high court after the 1st District Court of Appeal rejected her request to be added to the ballot. Hoover, who planned to challenge Clay County Judge Kristina Mobley, rushed May 4 to meet a noon qualifying deadline, according to the appeals court ruling. But a required financial-disclosure document was not notarized at the county elections supervisor’s office until 12:12 p.m. — 12 minutes late. The supervisor of elections initially qualified Hoover, since she was in the supervisor’s office before the deadline. But Mobley challenged the qualification, and a circuit judge agreed, ruling Hoover should not be on the ballot. In an eight-page opinion, a panel of the appeals court upheld the decision.
Davis, others look to 2020
Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Tracie Davis, who ran unopposed this year, became one of about half-dozen House incumbents opening campaign accounts this week for 2020. Davis, who has been serving House District 16 since 2016, is joining six other colleagues: Republican state Reps. Brad Drake of Eucheeanna, Sam Killebrew of Winter Haven and Michael Grant of Port Charlotte as well as Democrats John Cortes of Kissimmee, Ben Diamond of St. Petersburg and Evan Jenne of Dania Beach.
The News Service of Florida notes some newcomers who already locked up House seats this year and opened accounts for 2020: Gulf Breeze Republican Alex Andrade in the Panhandle’s HD 2; Boca Raton Democrat Tina Polsky in Palm Beach County’s HD 81; and Boynton Beach Democrat Joe Casello in Palm Beach County’s House District 90. West Palm Beach Democrat Philippe Louis “Bob” Jeune also opened an account Friday to run in Palm Beach County’s HD 88. Democratic state Rep. Al Jacquet of Lantana ran unopposed for the seat this year.
Voters in Charge staffs up
Voters in Charge, the political committee supporting Yes on 3, the constitutional amendment giving voters the final say in any gambling expansion in Florida, has been busy staffing up local leadership committees.
Members include community, business, law enforcement and religious leaders throughout the state committed to ensuring that Florida voters are put in charge of casino gambling decisions in Florida.
Chairing the Northeast Florida delegation is state Rep. Clay Yarborough. Committee members include state Sen. Keith Perry; Sheriffs Sadie Darnell of Alachua and Darryl Daniels of Clay counties; Isaiah Rumlin, President of NAACP Jacksonville; Nicole Chapman, Regional Director of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association; Ben Goldsmith, Director of Cru Inter City Jacksonville; and Mary Lib Stevenson, President of the Clay Family Policy Forum.
“We are thrilled to have the support of so many pillars of the community for this important amendment,” said Voters in Charge Chair John Sowinski. “For most of our lifetimes, decisions about casino gambling were left up to the voters. It is past time to return that right to Floridians and take it away from politicians and special interest groups in Tallahassee.”
All month, the group has rolled out committees throughout the state. Information on the Yes on 3 campaign, including local contacts and regional offices, is at VotersInCharge.org.
Zoo staffer honored
Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens animal wellness director Terry Maple has received the inaugural “Animal Welfare Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
The award recognizes Maples’ four-decade career as a leader in the animal wellness field, reports the Jacksonville Business Journal. His work includes research, husbandry, mentorship and advocacy for animal protection.
According to the Journal, Maple spent 18 years at Zoo Atlanta, helping transform it from one of the worst-rated zoos in the country to one of the most successful institutions studying animal behavior and wellness. Maple has been with the Jacksonville Zoo since 2014, helping launch its wellness division and continued research to the field.
Jacksonville Zoo director Tony Vecchio, one of Maple’s former students at Zoo Atlanta, said he is “a brilliant man and a passionate advocate for zoo animal welfare.”
Vecchio added: “He made life better for animals in zoos and aquariums and laid the groundwork through his research, publications and students to keep that passion moving into the future … by bringing such expertise to the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, we are fully committing to being a leader in animal wellness and setting the standard for zoos all over the world.”
Receiving the award “feels great,” Maple said, adding that he was grateful to the many students and employees who collaborated on his research over the decades.
Porous Chiefs’ defense gives Jags opening
Week 5 in the NFL has some interesting matchups, but the week’s best game will take place Sunday in Kansas City. That is where the 3-1 Jacksonville Jaguars will face the 4-0 Kansas City Chiefs.
It goes far more than just records and individual matchups.
Sure, seeing the Chiefs’ speedy receiver Tyreek Hill trying to get some space between himself and Pro Bowl cornerback Jalen Ramsey will be fun. However, it will be seeing if the NFL’s second-ranked defensive unit can slow down emerging star quarterback Patrick Mahomes and his arsenal of offensive weapons.
In just four games, Mahomes has thrown for 14 touchdowns with zero interceptions. He was challenged last week in Denver but has yet to see the type of defensive pressure that will come at him from the Jaguars.
There is every opportunity for the Jags’ offense, and quarterback Blake Bortles in particular, to either match or exceed, whatever the Chiefs put on the scoreboard. Kansas City’s defense ranks 32nd, dead last, in total yards allowed.
In terms of passing yards, they are 31st with an average of 328 yards allowed per game. The defense allows nearly 29 points per game.
Former Indianapolis Colts’ all-pro wide receiver Reggie Wayne is not alonein thinking Bortles could wind up throwing more touchdown passes than Mahomes. Hopefully, the Bortles that showed up last week against the Jets will be the one on the field Sunday.
The Jags will have to do it again with running back Leonard Fournette, who has been ruled out. TJ Yeldon will again take the starting role. He is usually good for about 100 yards combined between rushing and receiving and has scored three touchdowns.
Just so the Jacksonville offense does not look as they did in their one loss, a disappointing 9-6 loss to the Tennessee Titans, they have a decent chance to knock the Chiefs from the ranks of the unbeaten.
The newest additions are Erie Shore Greyhound Adoption of Ohio, Greyt Hearts Service Dogs, Greyt Angels Greyhound Adoption, GPA National, Prison Greyhounds, and GPA Ohio.
The rest, according to the group, are:
4 Greyhound Racers
Adopt A Greyhound Atlanta
Adoptable Greythounds of Florida
Alabama Greyhound Rescue and Adoption Center
Allies for Greyhounds
Arizona Adopt A Greyhound
Awesome Greyhound Adoptions
Bay Area Greyhound Adoptions
Bluegrass Greyhound Adoption
Box to the Wire Greyhound Adoption
California Greyhound Adoption Promotion
Connecticut Greyhound Adoption (GPA)
Crazy for Greyhounds Adoption
Erie Shore Greyhound Adoption of Ohio
Everything Grey Greyhound Haven
Fast Friends Greyhound Adoption Sarasota
FastK9’s Greyhound Adoption
Fly Girls United
Forever Home Greyhound Adoptions
Gemini’s Pampered Greyhounds
Gillian’s Greyhound Adoption
God’s Greyts Greyhound Group
Going Home Greyhounds
Gold Coast Greyhound Adoptions
GPA Greater Northwest
GPA Massachusetts Adoption Center
GPA Tampa Bay
Greyed A Greyhound Assistance and Placement Services
Greyhound Action League of Buffalo
Greyhound Adoption of Ohio
Greyhound Angels Adoption of New Jersey
Greyhound Pet Adoption Florida Southeast
Greyhound Pets of America — Canada
Greyhound Pets of America Indianapolis
Greyhound Pets of America Lexington
Greyhound Pets of Arizona
Greyhound Pets of Atlantic Canada
Greyhound Placement Service of New Hampshire
Greyhound Rescue Foundation of Tennessee
Greyhound Rescue of New York
Greyhound Support Transport
Greyhounds as Pets Northeast Florida
Greyt Angels Greyhound Adoption
Greyt Hearts Service Dogs
Greyt Love Retirement
Greytful Hearts Greyhound Rescue
Greythounds of Eastern Michigan
GST’s Sun State Greyhound Adoption
Halfway Home Greyhound Adoption
Hounds of the Heartland
Iowa Greyhound Park Adoption Center
It’s a Grey Area Greyhound Adoption
James River Greyhounds
Mid-South Greyhound Adoption Option
Midwest Greyhound Adoption
Music City Greyhound Adoption
New Mexico Greyhound Connection (GPA)
Northern Greyhound Adoptions
Northern Lights Greyhound Adoption
Northern Sky Greyhound Adoption Association
Northwest Canadian Greyhound League
Paws on the Mountain Greyhound Adoption
Project Racing Home Greyhound Adoptions
Pups Without Partners Greyhound Adoption
Pure Michigan Greyhound Adoption (GPA)
Quad Cities Greyhound Adoption
Racing Home Greyhound Adoption
Rainbow’s End Greyhound Adoption
Running the Rail Greyhound Adoption
Second Chance Greyhounds
Southern California Greyhound Adoption Legion
Star City Greyhound Adoptions
The League of Extraordinary Greyhounds
Triangle Greyhound Society
Wheeling Island Greyhound Adoption Center
The proposal, which needs at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution, would end betting on dog racing in the state beginning in 2021. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks.
State Sen. DorothyHukill died on Tuesday, less than a week after announcing on Facebook that she “recently experienced an aggressive recurrence” of her cancer and decided to enter hospice. She was 72.
In November 2016, the Port Orange Republican disclosed that she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer. She missed the 2017 Legislative Session while she was undergoing treatment.
Last March, Hukill told Senate President JoeNegron that she was on the mend and she returned to Tallahassee this past Session. The attorney, chair of the Senate’s Education Committee, has long been interested in education, legal and technology issues. She is a former public elementary school teacher.
A private, invitation-only family service will be held, while public services will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, her family asks for donations to the Halifax Health Hospice facility in Port Orange, where “dedicated and caring staff took such wonderful care of her in these last days.”
“Dorothy was a strong and passionate advocate for her community, serving in several positions in local government and also for eight years in the Florida House before her election to the Senate in 2012,” Negron said in a statement.
“I personally admired her passion for education and was proud to have Dorothy serve as Chair of the Committee on Education during my service as Senate President,” the Stuart Republican said. “She worked closely with Senator Galvano, myself, and many others on the Senate’s legislation to expand the Bright Futures Scholarship. We all remember her commitment and dedication to teaching financial literacy in Florida schools.
“Whenever I was in District 14 with Senator Hukill, I could literally feel the affection and admiration of her community,” Negron said. “Even after her election to the Florida House and Senate, many constituents still warmly called her “Mayor,” in fond recognition of her term as Mayor of Port Orange from 2000 to 2004.
“… She will be greatly missed by all who knew her. The prayers of the entire Senate family are with Senator Hukill’s family and friends, and we join in their grief over this terrible loss.”
Added Senate President-designate Bill Galvano: “Dorothy was an amazingly charismatic and passionate person. I will always remember her quick wit and tremendous sense of humor. She was as fierce as she was loving. You could see Dorothy across the room and know in an instant whether she approved or disapproved of the issue at hand.
“In recent years, Dorothy served as a role model for all of us as she battled her illness with optimism and bravery. She demonstrated grace and beauty in suffering and maintained her fighting spirit until the very end,” the Bradenton Republican said.
“I first met Dorothy when she was running for the Florida House in 2004. We developed a strong friendship that I will miss terribly. From her early work as a teacher, to her career practicing law, to her many years of dedicated service in local and state government, Dorothy was a strong and tireless advocate for children and education. The Senate will miss her dedication and enthusiasm for these and so many other important issues.
“I will personally never forget the words of her prayer at my designation ceremony, one year ago this month. Dorothy eloquently spoke of the honor and privilege of public service, the sacrifice made by the families of those who serve, and the aspirational goal of servant leadership.
“She prayed fervently for blessings and protection for our families and that God would instill wisdom, understanding, and grace on all who serve the Florida Senate. While those words were so meaningful at the time, they are even more special now and serve as a lasting memory of Dorothy’s love for those she served with here in the Senate.
“To say that Dorothy was a welcoming person would be an understatement. She was known around the Capitol, and particularly in the Senate Graphics Office, for her penchant for ‘Welcome’ signs. It is hard to remember a session day that passed by without a new sign outside Senator Hukill’s office welcoming a group or organization to the Senate.
“The plethora of signs became such a running joke among the Senators that one year Senator Hukill left many of us personalized signs welcoming us to our spaces in the Senate Parking Garage and to our desks in the Senate Chamber. I have no doubt that as we grieve her loss today, the gates of heaven are adorned with a huge sign welcoming Dorothy to her eternal home.
“Julie and I join with Senator Hukill’s family and friends as they grieve this tremendous loss. We pray that fond memories of a life well-lived will bring comfort to all who knew and loved her.”
In other reaction from social media and elsewhere Tuesday:
Incoming House Democratic Leader KionneMcGhee: “My thoughts and prayers are with state Sen. Dorothy Hukill’s loved ones. She fought hard for what she believed and for the people of her district. May she rest in peace.”
State Sen. DanaYoung, a Tampa Republican: “The Florida Senate will not be the same without Sen. Dorothy Hukill. She was never afraid to ask tough questions and stand up for her constituents. Rest in peace, my friend.”
Republican former House Speaker SteveCrisafulli: “So sad to hear of the news of the passing of my friend, Senator Dorothy Hukill. While cancer may have taken her away from us today, the memories of her smile, her fight and her wit will never be taken away. RIP Dorothy.”
State Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican: “So heartbroken for the loss of our beloved @DorothyHukill. She was the epitome of strength, courage, and determination, both in her service to her community and in her fight against cancer. How fortunate we all were to serve alongside her and call her friend. #Hukillforever”
Former state Sen. and current Democratic CFO candidate JeremyRing: “So sad to learn of the passing of Senator @DorothyHukill. Dorothy was a remarkable public servant whose work on education issues, including her passion for requiring all students being taught financial literacy, will continue forever.”
Matt Surrency, Mayor of Hawthorne (Alachua County): “Sad to report that Senator @DorothyHukill has passed away this morning. Our prayers for her family and community. Senator Hukill was a friend to our 412 Cities, Towns and Villages as well as those that reside in them. Thank you for your public service!”
GOP gubernatorial candidate RonDeSantis: “Dorothy Hukill was a great lady and tremendous public servant. Casey and I are saddened to hear of her passing and send our condolences to her family, friends and community.”
Chief Financial Officer JimmyPatronis: “Katie and I are saddened to hear of the passing of Sen. Hukill. She was one of the most passionate and honest legislators I had the opportunity to work with during my time as a state representative and as CFO. Her kind heart and positive attitude was a guiding light, a north star for all of us. I met Dorothy when I first was elected in 2006. She was a huge advocate for consumer rights and she fought for Florida families. Whether it was keeping the cost of living low or ensuring access to affordable insurance, Dorothy was a force to be reckoned with. My heart aches for her family, loved ones, and friends. Florida has lost a truly incredible and dedicated woman, a woman who loved her community and her state.”
Incoming Senate Democratic Leader AudreyGibson of Jacksonville: “My heart is aching. Senator Hukill was not only a colleague, she was a good friend. We shared our thoughts, our passions on issues, and never-ending conversations. From passing little trinkets to each other, to our love of Chinese food, her loss is profound and I will miss her dearly.”
Gov. RickScott: “My wife Ann and I are with heavy heart to learn of Senator Dorothy Hukill’s passing today. Senator Hukill was a true leader in the Florida Senate and served the public with distinction. She worked to make our state a better place to live and leaves an incredible legacy. We are all grateful for her commitment to Florida families. Our prayers are with Dorothy’s family today and to those closest to her. We are also praying for our friends and colleagues in the Florida Senate who loved and admired Senator Hukill so much. To honor her memory, I will be lowering the state flags at the appropriate time.”
As Washington, nation focuses on Kavanaugh, other big things happening
The first Monday in October saw eight Supreme Court Justices opening the new session in Washington. When that ninth chair is filled is still in doubt, at least for another week.
Despite the total domination of the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation back-and-forth, a few other significant events occurred under the radar on Capitol Hill. All will continue to play second fiddle to one of the biggest political stories in a generation, topped only by the election of President Donald Trump.
After the agreement on Friday to conduct another FBI probe into Kavanaugh’s background, an argument (surprise) on the scope of the review broke out. Arizona Republican Jeff Flake and Delaware Democrat Chris Coons announced an agreement “limited in scope” that would last for not more than one week, but the size and scope of that agreement became subject to one’s political views.
Flake said his agreement with Coons meant “existing allegations.” However, Trump reportedly said the most sensational of the three allegations, one that spoke of gang rapes, will not be part of the FBI inquiry.
As expected, “limited in scope” will be the battle cry for the week, with a fight already brewing over the parsing of words. After agreeing that the scope should be limited to existing allegations, Coons said on Sunday existing allegations “may not be 50, but it is more than five.”
Shortly after the announcement, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson finally announced he would vote “no” on Kavanagh while Republican Sen. Marco Rubio indicated he would vote “yes.”
Republican Rep. Neal Dunn of Panama City celebrated the bill’s passage saying the tax cuts put “hardworking Americans first,” while Palm City Republican Brian Mast said the tax cuts “have put our economy on an upward trajectory.”
Democrats discount the tax cuts’ effect on the economy and argue they are targeted toward the wealthy and have increased the federal budget deficit. GOP Reps. Carlos Curbelo of Kendall and Vern Buchanan of Longboat Key were co-sponsors, with all delegation members voting along party lines.
It must be ratified by Congress, which could provide a roadblock or two. One of the most significant problems could come from the Florida delegation.
Rubio and Nelson were unhappy that the earlier deal with Mexico did not protect Florida farmers from unfair practices conducted by the Mexicans. They indicated a new deal could be in jeopardy if the concerns state vegetable growers are not addressed, and last week introduced new legislation to protect them (see below).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pledged a vote not later than Friday on Kavanaugh’s nomination. The other issues will still be waiting, no matter how it turns out.
Rubio joins call to designate Venezuela as terrorism sponsor
The dire economic situation in Venezuela has been well documented in recent months by several members of the delegation and their bipartisan colleagues in the House and Senate. The U.S. government has steadily increased the sanctions on the leadership of the regime of President Nicolas Maduro.
Venezuela has not been known as a hotbed of terrorism, but some Republican Senators, including Rubio, seek to change that narrative. Florida’s junior Senator, along with Colorado’s Cory Gardner and John Cornyn of Texas seek to have Venezuela labeled as a promoter of terrorism.
The Senators wrote to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urging the Trump administration to take the official step of labeling the rogue socialist regime as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. They cited Venezuela’s lack of cooperation with worldwide anti-terrorist efforts plus permitting support of terrorist activities.
“It comes as no surprise that the Maduro dictatorship aided and abetted terrorists,” they wrote. “After years of cooperating with FARC, ELN, and other narcotrafficking terrorists, Venezuela has now become a “narco-state.”
They also pointed out links between the Maduro regime and Hezbollah terrorists in the Middle East.
“We strongly believe that the Maduro regime in Venezuela meets the criteria necessary to designate the current Venezuelan regime as a State Sponsor of Terrorism,” they added.
Puerto Rico governor endorses Nelson
As Nelson and Gov. Rick Scott prepared for Tuesday’s first debate, the three-term Democrat got a high-profile endorsement on Monday. Puerto Rico Gov. Carlos Rossello’s endorsement of Nelsonhas the potential to sway Florida residents from Puerto Rico as well as evacuees from last year’s Hurricane Maria.
Rosselló came to Orlando to announce his support for Nelson, saying it was a tough decision. Scott has been credited for a strong response from the state on behalf of residents and evacuees of the island commonwealth.
Rosselló said the endorsement was not about shortcomings in hurricane response from the Scott administration. While describing Scott as a friend, Rosselló said it was his long-standing relationship with Nelson that was the determining factor.
“After so much was done by Rick Scott for Puerto Rico after the hurricane and the relationship they have, this looks like treachery,” reacted state Rep. Bob Cortes in an interview “Rosselló está jugando con fuego y se va a quemar” (“Rosselló is playing with fire and is going to get burned.”)
Cortes, a Republican of Puerto Rican descent, has been critical of the federal government’s response to Maria, but has worked with Scott and other Republicans on behalf of those affected.
Rosselló credited Nelson for working to improve a federal aid bill that contained “no money” for Puerto Rico.
In response, Scott’s campaign put out a news release reminding that he also has received many Puerto Rican endorsements, including those of the island’s U.S. Rep. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon, former Gov. Luis Fortuno, and current Lt. Gov. Luis Rivera Marin.
Before NAFTA announcement Senators go after unfair trade practices
Just days before the new trade agreement was announced, Nelson and Rubio introduced legislation to help Florida fruit and vegetable growers combat unfair trade practices. The bill seeks to address long-standing and increasing complaints from Florida farmers that Mexican growers illegally flood the U.S. market with subsidized produce during the winter season.
Nelson cited the Trump administration’s “lack of action” as the primary reason for the bill.
“Enough is enough,” said. “Too many growers in Florida have been crippled by Mexican trade abuses. If the administration won’t fix this, Congress will.”
Specifically, the bill would allow Florida growers to bring trade cases with the Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission against Mexican growers if they can prove the dumping occurs seasonally rather than year round. The U.S. government does not currently consider seasonal differences in the market when determining whether to impose anti-dumping or countervailing duties on unfairly priced goods.
“We must do all we can to ensure a level playing field for Florida’s fruit and vegetable growers,” Rubio said. “Absent a memorandum of understanding or suspension agreements with the Mexican government covering seasonal and perishable produce imports, I’m proud to support this bill with Senator Nelson to increase opportunities for Florida growers to successfully seek relief from the illegal dumping of Mexican winter produce into domestic markets.”
As sides remain far apart, farm bill expires
One of the many things on the Capitol Hill calendar was extending the 2014 Farm Bill. That legislation expired on Sunday with House and Senate negotiators still trying to reconcile competing bills passed during the summer.
Negotiators have broad differences to work through, especially on the future of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which includes EBT benefits formerly known as food stamps. Negotiations are now being led by leadership among the respective agriculture committees.
“All of us regret where we are,” Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, a Kansas Republican, said after a meeting last week with the top negotiators from the two chambers. “I know farmers and ranchers and growers out there say, ‘What on earth are you guys doing?’ Well, if you look at what’s in the bills you see stark differences of opinion.”
Republican Rep. Neal Dunn was among the House members appointed to the team of negotiators working with their counterparts from the Senate. Dunn said in July that “I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to produce legislation that will give our farmers, ranchers, and foresters a sense of certainty.”
Other differences exist with programs to aid military veteran entering farming, trade promotion and small rural businesses, which shut down with the farm bill’s expiration. The four lead negotiators at least agree that the need for an extension will be more pressing in late December when the dairy program expires, to be followed by the expiration in 2019 of programs covering major crops.
Gaetz asks Sessions to facilitate entry of U.S. firms into cannabis research
While Canada signed on to a new trade agreement with the U.S., Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz is wondering if cannabis for research is coming into the U.S. from Canada. In a letter led by Gaetz and California Democrat Eric Swalwell to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the acting head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Congressmen asked why this is happening while applications from American producers are not acted upon.
They pointed out Sessions recently told a Senate committee that “it would be healthy to have some more competition in the supply.”
“We agree,” they wrote. They then pointed to the House passage of the Medical Cannabis Research Act, sponsored by Gaetz, focusing on the provision call for at least three domestic suppliers for research purposes.
Gaetz said increasing suppliers from the U.S. “will improve research and help unlock cures.”
Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando was among the 14 members signing the letter.
Rutherford celebrates new veterans’ health clinic
After many years of indecision, the Department of Veterans Affairs has decided on a location for a new permanent medical clinic. According to Republican Rep. John Rutherford of Jacksonville, the VA has awarded a contract to build a St. Augustine Community Based Outpatient Clinic.
The clinic will offer primary care, mental health services, and specialty care to more than 9,000 veterans in St. John’s County who currently receive services at the interim clinic. The construction is set to begin in the winter with an estimated completion date of Spring 2020.
“This is welcome news for veterans in St. Johns County,” Rutherford said in a statement. “We must always ensure that our nation’s veterans receive access to timely and quality medical care, so I am pleased that this facility will expand services in Northeast Florida.”
According to St. Johns County Veterans Council chairman Bill Dudley, it’s good for veterans to know they are going to have a place to go for care for years to come.
“We’re happy that we finally have a location for a permanent home for our veterans’ health care services,” Dudley said.
Miller on offense, Murphy gets more endorsements in CD 7
As the election season heads for its final months, Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy and state Rep. Mike Miller each made some news. For Murphy, it was more endorsements from business groups while Miller released a new ad that goes after Murphy on taxes.
After announcing an important endorsement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Murphy revealed two new business-related endorsements. The Florida Association of Veteran Owned Businesses and the National Association of Women Business Owners announced they are backing the first-term Congresswoman from Winter Park.
The business groups’ blessings are uncommon for a Democrat, and Murphy, of Winter Park, has been touting them as indicative of her moderate Democratic platform in a district that is very purple. Murphy won the district in 2016, flipping it. Republicans are trying to flip it back this year, but she is drawing praise from a typical bedrock of the Republican base, the business community.
Miller’s new ad, “The Difference,” is his first of the campaign. It features the candidate touting his vote for a balanced budget in the Florida legislature, which is required, and criticizes Murphy for voting against a balanced-budget amendment in Congress.
He also challenged Murphy’s description of herself as a moderate by tieing her to progressive House leadership. Miller says “Nearly nine out of ten times, Stephanie Murphy votes with Nancy Pelosi. She votes for San Francisco. I’ll vote for Central Florida. And that’s the difference.”
Murphy’s campaign offered a quick response.
“Mike Miller cannot support a tax plan that adds over one trillion to the national debt and seriously claim to be fiscally responsible,” said campaign spokeswoman Christie Stephenson. “Further, Mike Miller’s balanced budget amendment could put seniors’ hard-earned benefits at risk by forcing massive cuts to Social Security and Medicare.”
Democratic Rep. Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg and his Republican Oklahoma colleague Markwayne Mullin introduced the Agent Orange Exposure Fairness ActMonday aimed at expediting the expansion of treatments for veterans exposed to the harmful chemical.
Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada are co-sponsoring another bipartisan bill in the U.S. Senate.
“When a veteran’s medical condition is determined to be linked to their exposure to Agent Orange, they should not have their benefits tied up in bureaucratic red tape,” Crist said.
Agent Orange is a herbicide that was most infamously used during the Vietnam War as part of the U.S. military’s herbicidal warfare program and has been since associated with serious health implications that, in some cases, have proved deadly for veterans.
Under the U.S. Agent Orange Act of 1991, veterans are entitled to expedited treatment of illnesses linked to exposure. The requirement lapsed in 2015 and Crist and his colleagues in Congress are trying to reimplement the provisions.
CD 15 race tightens between Carlson, Spano
A new poll finds a close race for the House District 15 seat currently held by the retiring Republican Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland. The survey conducted by Bold Blue Campaigns, a Democratic polling firm, finds Republican Ross Spano with a three-point margin over Democrat Kristen Carlson.
The survey shows Spano leading Carlson 49-46 percent with five percent undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.
“The 5 percent of undecided voters are primarily younger voters, independents and voters of color, meaning that the Democrat Carlson likely still has some room to grow, while Spano will have to rely on motivating the GOP base to turn out to fend off a potential wave result,” the polling memo said.
Millennials support Carlson by 37 points while the 50-64 age group backs Spano by 20 points. The gender gap is alive and well with women supporting Carlson by 18 points while men are behind Spano by 32 points.
Trump carried the district by 10 points in 2016 Ross won re-election by 15 points.
The Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball have the race as “leans Republican.” Nate Silver’s 538 organization give Carlson a “1 in 4 chance of winning.”
Dems choose Freeman replacement
Allen Ellison, a policy expert from Sebring, will replace the recently deceased April Freeman as the Democratic nominee in Florida’s 17th Congressional District.
The duty fell on Ellison following a conference call with Democratic leaders throughout the nine counties in the district. Ellison stood out among six applicants to seek the nomination following the unexpected death of Freemanon Sept. 23.
The party faced a deadline of noon on Tuesday, but then hopefuls Pam Keith and Roy David Walker, who lost different party primary fights in August, filed a lawsuit challenging a prohibition on candidates running for different offices in the same year. A judge ruled against the candidates, leaving party leaders to choose among four remaining applicants. Ultimately, 46 percent of DEC members voting chose Ellison, who won 58 votes.
Ellison, born in Avon Park and a Hardee High School graduate, serves as president and CEO for the Lauderdale Lakes-based Center for Economic and Policy Development.
He’s also editor of the online curated news journal State of The Union Daily, which compiled mostly political stories.
Barzee Flores challenges Diaz-Balart to debate
The Democratic challenger for Congressional District 25, Mary Barzee Flores, is calling for debateswith Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart. Her campaign is proposing six debates over the coming month.
At least one debate would be televised in English in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Fort Meyers-Naples media markets. Another would be in Spanish for the Miami market.
“Mario would likely agree that this race is a clear contrast in candidates,” said Barzee Flores’ campaign manager Sam Miller. “Voters should be afforded the opportunity to see that contrast outside the strictures of 30-second ads.”
“Congressman Diaz-Balart’s campaign is reviewing the requests and will release the agreed to debates, once the terms and logistics have been finalized,” read a statement from the campaign.
Barzee Flores added that “It’s been far too long since the voters of Florida’s 25th district have had a real choice on their representative in Washington.”
While Diaz-Balart is favored to win re-election, a recent poll from Public Policy Polling showed her trailing by only five points.
“Mario Diaz-Balart owes it to the people of this district to explain his positions and his record — and so do I. Voters deserve to know where their Congressman — or Congresswoman — will stand on health care affordability, gun violence prevention, protecting our land, water and beaches, and a host of other issues large and small.”
A survey from Public Policy Polling showed Barzee Flores within a fairly close margin of Diaz-Balart. However, analysts still show Diaz-Balart as the favorite. Lastly, according to the Federal Election Commission, Diaz-Balart also remains on top in fundraising.
Miller said in a statement, “Mary is willing to do just that on a virtually ‘any time, any place’ basis. Mario owes his constituents a real conversation about his record after two decades in Washington.”
On this day in the headlines
October 2, 1984 — Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale belittled President Ronald Reagan’s handling of foreign policy, charging Monday that Reagan was “out of touch” and “unable to lead when the fate of the earth” was at stake. Reagan responded by blasting Mondale’s contention that raising taxes was the only way to control the deficit and inflation.
At a New Jersey rally, Mondale said: “In four years this administration has not achieved a single significant foreign policy success.” The former vice-president accused Reagan of offering a “parade of alibis” for the September 20 bombing of the U.S. embassy annex in Lebanon, the third attack within 17 months.
October 2, 2013 — Washington began bracing for a prolonged government shutdown on Tuesday, with House Republicans continuing to demand that the nation’s new health care law be delayed or repealed and President Barack Obama and Democrats refusing to give in. There were signs on Capitol Hill that Republicans — knowing that blame could fall heaviest on them — are beginning to look for ways to lift some of the pressure.
At the same time, the online marketplaces for the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare by Republicans, launched for the first time. With millions trying to access the system, several were unable to sign up or speak to representatives due to demand.