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Jimmy Patronis

Former House Speakers back Jimmy Patronis’ bid for Chief Financial Officer

CFO Jimmy Patronis announced Tuesday that five former Florida House Speakers had endorsed his campaign for a full term in the Cabinet position.

The nods came from Steve Crisafulli, Will Weatherford, Dean Cannon, Larry Cretul and Allan Bense, who are the five most recent House Speakers outside of now-U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who held the post from 2006 through 2008.

Patronis was a member of the House from 2006 through 2014.

“CFO Patronis is a devoted watchdog over taxpayer money in Tallahassee. I’ve known him for years and his tremendous work ethic along with his heart for his job and genuine care for the wellbeing of Floridians make him an excellent Chief Financial Officer for our state. I’m looking forward to helping him secure another term in this job,” Weatherford said.

Crisafulli also cited his years-long personal relationship with Patronis, adding that he “has been an outstanding leader and has worked diligently to ensure the people of Florida are well represented.”

Cannon said he was “proud to support CFO Patronis because he is committed to rooting out waste and abuse in state government and protecting Florida’s finances. Jimmy has been an incredible consumer advocate for Floridians who face issues with their insurance provider.”

Cretul said “Serving as CFO, Jimmy Patronis has been dedicated to improving Florida’s economy and business climate. He is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and get the job done. He fights for policies that support our first responders and protect consumers. I am honored to stand by his side.”

Bense, whom Patronis succeeded in the House, added that the sitting CFO “is a proven leader who shares my conservative values.”

“He addresses each issue he encounters with Floridians’ best interest in mind. He truly understands the needs of Florida families. Jimmy’s strong commitment to serving the citizens of our state makes him the right person to serve as Florida’s Chief Financial Officer. I know he will continue to serve our state well,” Bense said.

Patronis is currently the only major Republican running for Chief Financial Officer. He’s finishing out the term won by Jeff Atwater, who left the post last year to take a job at Florida Atlantic University.

Since announcing he would run for a full term in November, Patronis has brought in nearly $2.5 million between his campaign and political committee, Treasure Florida.

Thonotosassa Republican Sen. Tom Lee is widely expected to challenge Patronis. He had about $2.3 million on hand in his political committee, The Conservative, at the end of January.

The Republican nominee is likely to face former Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Ring on the November ballot.

Pro-choice group blasts Rick Scott for signing ‘fake clinic’ bill

Pro-choice group Floridians for Reproductive Freedom denounced Gov. Rick Scott Monday for signing a bill to fund “fake clinics” that oppose abortion.

HB 41 requires the Florida Department of Health to contract with the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, a crisis pregnancy network of clinics that offer free “pregnancy support services,” such as counseling and classes on pregnancy, childbirth and parenting.

The clinics “exclusively promote and support childbirth,” meaning they do not provide abortions, nor do they make referrals to alternative clinics that do.

“With this bill, Gov. Scott and his legislative allies are putting politics over women’s health,” said Amy Weintraub, Reproductive Rights Program Director for Progress Florida. “Under no circumstances should taxpayers be forced to pay for these fake clinics that operate with virtually no oversight and judge, shame, and mislead women.”

Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates Executive Director Laura Goodhue added that by signing the bill, Scott “is demonstrating a total disregard for the truth, undermining a woman’s right to make her own informed medical decisions and denying her the respect and dignity she deserves.

“When a woman has decided to seek birth control or an abortion, or to discuss her reproductive health options, she deserves access to a qualified medical provider she can trust to provide her with a full range of options and services without an agenda, judgment or deception.”

The group said misleading practices employed by such clinics include placing advertisements under the “abortion services” heading of phone and online directories and choosing names that are similar to clinics that offer abortion services.

Listings aren’t the only tactic the clinics use.

When the Senate version of the bill was in committee, Democratic Sen. Lauren Book said she had picked up tracts from such clinics that claimed abortion caused breast cancer – a notion that has been rejected by the American Cancer Society.

“To be clear, these fake clinics peddle falsehoods that have been repeatedly discredited by extensive scientific research and the country’s most prominent medical associations,” said Dr. Nicole Fanarjian, a Sarasota-based obstetrician and gynecologist. “And they undermine a woman’s dignity by attempting to shame and pressure her and take away her ability to make her own decisions.”

Bipartisan coalition targets CRC proposal 97

Groups representing both ends of the political spectrum announced they would join forces in opposition to a Constitution Revision Commission proposal that would change the vote threshold for ballot initiatives to pass.

Citizens in Charge, which has backed initiatives imposing term limits on politicians, and Florida Conservation Voters, which pushed the Water and Land Conservation Amendment, both railed against CRC Proposal 97 in a Monday press release.

“Proposal 97 is a brazen effort by Tallahassee special interests to silence voters,” said Citizens in Charge President Paul Jacob. “It’s plain to see that politicians and lobbyists don’t like it when voters enact term limits, cut taxes or make other policy changes by empowering ordinary citizens.”

“Florida voters have a good track record of enacting sensible changes when politicians ignore the will of the people,” added Aliki Moncrief, Executive Director of Florida Conservation Voters.  “When Tallahassee didn’t act, ordinary Floridians were able to take matters into our own hands to protect our water, land, and wildlife. Constitution Revision Commissioners should recognize Proposal 97 for the power grab that it is, and defeat it.”

Prop 97, sponsored by Keiser University vice chancellor and CRC Commissioner Belinda Keiser, would require ballot amendments to get 60 percent of the total vote in an election to pass, rather than 60 percent of those who mark their opinion on their ballot.

In the 2016 election, Floridians cast nearly 9.5 million votes yet only 9.1 million marked “Yes” or “No” on the medical marijuana amendment.

Under Prop 97, the amendment would need to achieve 60 percent support among the 9.5 million voters who participated in the election rather than the 9.1 million who voted for or against it – a difference of nearly a quarter million votes.

Citizens in Charge and Florida Conservation Voters said in the joint press release that the change would make it harder for Florida voters to approve proposed constitutional amendments, by essentially recording a “No” vote any time a voter skips voting on a statewide ballot issue.

The groups also announced a trio of ads – two by Citizens in Charge and one by Florida Conservation voters – to make their opposition known to Florida voters.

“When politicians don’t listen, Florida voters take matters into their own hands,” one of the ads said. “We cut taxes, protected the environment and put term limits on politicians. The people solved problems the politicians wouldn’t and now Tallahassee special interests want to take away voters’ power.”

A recent poll from Clearview Research found 55 percent of voters are in support of the changes, while 27 percent were opposed and 18 percent were unsure.

Clearview head Steve Vancore said the results put Proposal 97 “on the cusp of passing.”

All three ads are below.

Adam Putnam staff slams Jared Moskowitz for ‘untruths’ about Parkland reaction

On Monday morning, Democratic state Rep. Jared Moskowitz and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch (both representing Parkland) charged that Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis are in fact representing the NRA in their opposition to gun control.

Putnam famously described himself as an “NRA sellout” and broke with Gov. Rick Scott on the “Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act.” DeSantis shares Putnam’s position, saying the requirement to be at least 21 to buy a gun imposes a “blanket ban” on certain adults.

The major news from the call: Moskowitz slamming Putnam, and Putnam’s team responding to what it framed as untruths.

Moskowitz said Putnam was the only one in the cabinet who had not visited Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and “hid in his office,” “was an empty suit … missing in action” as people from Parkland attempted to lobby Tallahassee.

Notable: Putnam’s schedule for Feb. 20, provided by his office, contradicts this read. Putnam visited the school on the morning of Feb. 20 and met with students in the afternoon.

Putnam’s spokesperson Amanda Bevis went on the record to slam what she framed as misrepresentations.

“It’s no surprise the Democrats are selling a story full of untruths. If they did their research, they would know that Adam Putnam has in fact visited the school, has met with the students and mourned with them for their loss, and has met with law enforcement officials and the Governor to discuss what we as a state can do to prevent further tragedies like the massacre that took the lives of so many innocent Floridians,” Bevis said.

“It’s the Democrats who are politicizing this tragedy – using falsehoods to further their own agenda of limiting our Second Amendment rights. The monster in Parkland, who was a red flag that should have never gotten his hands on a gun, cannot and should not be compared to law-abiding citizens who seek to defend themselves and their families,” Bevis added.

Beyond that significant divergence, the call went as could be expected.

Moskowitz offered again to debate DeSantis on the bill and gun issues, then extended the offer to Putnam in response to a reporter’s question.

“Would he have signed the bill? Does he disagree with Gov. Scott? He should answer the question,” Moskowitz said.

Deutch said that both Putnam and DeSantis “have chosen their A rating from the NRA over their concern for public safety, the lives of kids, Parkland, and the state of Florida,” which makes them “unfit” to be governor.

Deutch singled out DeSantis as having “consistently stood on the side of the gun corporations,” having opposed universal background checks and “having voted at least 10 times” against the terrorist gun loophole.

“He said he would be opposed to a ban on high-capacity magazines, an assault weapons ban,” Deutch added, describing an “utter disregard” to the concerns of gun reformers.

“He still won’t even say whether he would have signed the bill,” Deutch said, “but does call it constitutionally vulnerable.”

Deutch said Putnam was “just as bad,” noting that Putnam contends that the “new gun law strips the Second Amendment rights of American citizens.”

“The people of Florida are fed up with the bowing down to the gun lobby,” Deutch said, repeating the “NRA sellout” quote.

“Neither Putnam or DeSantis should be proud of selling out to the NRA,” Deutch said.

The Democrats expect this issue to drive the vote in 2018.

Amendment to button up ‘write-in loophole’ gets nod from CRC

A plan to close what’s known as Florida’s “write-in loophole” won a preliminary OK from the Constitution Revision Commission on Monday.

Commissioners voted 21-12 to send the proposal (P11to the body’s Style and Drafting Committee for preparation as a ballot question. The proposal would still face a final vote afterward.

Commissioner Sherry Plymale, who filed the measure, said the current write-in system is responsible for “delegitimizing elections.”

Her measure would “let all registered voters, regardless of party affiliation,” vote in a primary election “if all the candidates … have the same party affiliation and the winner will be opposed only by one or more write-in candidates in the general election.”

Here’s how it works now: A Florida primary is open to all voters if candidates from other parties don’t qualify to run.

The 1997-98 CRC placed an amendment on the ballot, passed by 64 percent, that “allows all voters to participate in primary elections when all candidates belong to the same party and will have no opposition in the general election.”

But state elections officials have since opined that a write-in candidate qualifying for a general election in a race keeps a primary closed.

Here’s how political parties and others have gamed the system: They’ve been known to line up a political novice to file as a write-in to close a primary, which usually benefits the incumbent.

On average, primary elections in 10 of 67 counties will be closed because of write-ins, Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards previously told commissioners.

Some voters also indirectly game the system by registering with a party just so they can vote in a primary, then switch back to no-party affiliated status, or NPA.

Nearly 27 percent—around 3.4 million—of Florida’s almost 12.9 million active registered voters were not registered with a political party, according to the state’s Division of Elections.

Even some of those in favor Monday were dubious about the need for the proposal.

I’ll vote for it today because enough Floridians have called me about it … but I’m going to vote against it in November,” said Commissioner Chris Smith, a former Senate Democratic Leader. “People will always find a way to manipulate elections.”

But Commissioner Hank Coxe, a Jacksonville lawyer, said “voters (first) approved what we’re talking about 20 years ago.”

“This is nothing more than to fix than what was supposed to happen in 1998,” he said. “It should allow everyone to vote.”

Proposals that the commission clears for the November 2018 ballot still must get at least 60 percent approval to be added to the state constitution.

Restraining order issued against stalker of Lauren Book

The 17th Judicial Circuit Court last week approved a permanent restraining order to keep Derek Logue away from Democratic state Sen. Lauren Book, according to documents obtained by Florida Politics.

According to the petition filed by Book’s attorneys, Logue has targeted Book since at least 2009 through obscene YouTube videos and a website dedicated to “exposing” her and her father, lobbyist Ron Book.

Logue, a convicted sex offender, used often obscene language and blasted Book in those videos for playing the “victim card” to advocate for Lauren’s Kids, her charity focused on stopping child sexual abuse. Book started the charity due to her experience with sexual abuse as a child.

In 2016, Logue posted a photo of Book’s home along with her address on his website, leading to local law enforcement monitoring Book’s home around the clock.

The online taunts escalated to stalking in 2015.

At a “Walk in My Shoes” event in Tallahassee three years ago, several law enforcement agencies were brought on hand to ensure the safety of Book and other walkers when Logue showed up to protest.

In April 2017, Logue traveled to the Tribeca Film Festival in New York to heckle Book during a question and answer session following a screening of “Untouchable,” which details Ron Book’s role in passing tougher sex offender laws and the impact those laws have had on the offenders who live under them.

The petition reads “because of the anger and hostility targeted at Ms. Book during the session by Mr. Logue, she had to be quickly escorted off stage by security for her safety.”

A few months after his Tribeca outburst, Logue posted a video on Twitter entitled “You are a C**t” that included lyrics saying he would “f**k up [Book’s] face.”

Obscene tweets directed at Lauren and Ron Book were still being posted by Logue as recently as March 15.

That video was deemed a credible threat to Book’s safety by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

Logue claims his lyrics, his website and in-person protests are within his First Amendment rights, though Book’s attorneys vehemently disagree.

“To even flirt with the notion that Mr. Logue’s words directed at Lauren Book are anything less than profane insults or ‘fighting words’ would be nonsensical,” the argument reads. “Mr. Logue’s mission, which he continuously reemphasizes over several social media platforms … has been to target Senator Book because of her political views and her attempt to pass more legislature relating to violent sexual offenders, such as Mr. Logue.”

The court approved the restraining order, which requires Logue to stay at least 500 feet away from Book’s house and car, 1,000 feet from her person, and prohibits him from contacting her directly or indirectly in any way.

A violation of the restraining order would be a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

A copy of the judgement is below:

Final Judgment of Injunction for Protection against Lauren Book’s stalker by Peter Schorsch on Scribd


Constitutional review panel’s “Process” has its own lobbyists

From A. Duda & Sons, Inc., to Zurich American Insurance Co., 44 pages’ worth of concerns now have registered to lobby the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

The 37-member panel, which began meeting in Session Monday, convenes every 20 years to review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document.

The list of “principals and of lobbyists (259 pages) represents nearly interest and industry in the state, such as education, health care, technology, alcoholic beverages, local governments, and gaming, to name a few.

The commission will begin considering 36 individual proposals to amend the constitution, including ‘bills of rights’ for nursing home residents and crime victims, raising the retirement age of judges, and clarifying the duties of the lieutenant governor.

Proposals OK’d off the floor will go to the panel’s Style and Drafting Committee, which will mold the ideas and combine them into language to go onto the November statewide ballot. Then they will subject to a final vote.

Proposals that make onto the ballot must receive at least 60 percent approval to be added to the constitution.

Commissioners criss-crossed the state in the last year, holding public meetings to discuss ideas, including a final meeting in St. Petersburg that attracted about 1,200 people.

As of now, the commission is expected to meet through May 4; it must file a report with Secretary of State Ken Detzner by May 10.

On Monday, three commissioners were excused from attending the opening day, accoridng to CRC spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice: Attorney General Pam Bondi, Darlene Jordan, and Tom Grady.

Gwen Graham digital ad commits to early childhood education

Playing off her “workday” visit last week to a center for migrant-labor families around Immokalee, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham released a digital ad Monday pushing her commitment to early childhood education.

The new digital buy features a near-two-minute long video showing Graham visiting the Redlands Christian Migrant Association early childhood education school in Immokalee.

As the video shows her serving breakfast, tying shoelaces, hugging children and laughing, as well older pictures of her father, then-Gov. Bob Graham hugging a child, she portrays a personal connection with the children and their families. She vows to support issues her campaign said are often overlooked, Florida’s migrant communities and early childhood education.

“It does not matter where a child lives, what color their skin is, what language they speak — as governor, I’m gonna support early childhood education,” Graham states in the video. “Immokalee and the migrant communities are often overlooked. But I learned from my dad that it is important that you be present in all communities across the state of Florida so that you can learn and understand how, as governor, you can make a difference in their lives.”

Graham, a former member of Congress, faces Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park businessman Chris King in seeking the Aug. 28 Democratic primary nomination to run for governor this year. The leading Republicans are Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.


Democrat Catherine Price files for Senate District 26

Lake Wales Democrat Catherine Price announced Friday that she would run for the Senate District 26 seat being vacated by Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley, who is running for Agriculture Commissioner in the fall.

“Tallahassee seems to be broken and our state is in desperate need of better political leadership. We need legislators who are educated, experienced, and committed to working for the people, rather than puppeting for powerful special interests,” Price said in a press release.

“I cannot sit this one out in good conscious. We are at a critical juncture in Florida and in the world where we can choose to work together to solve the issues we face, or we can continue down the path of increased chaos and infighting.”

Price is a Lake Wales native and first-time candidate for public office. Price said the bulk of her career has been helping people get access to affordable healthcare, including organizing a successful half-cent sales tax ballot initiative that currently generates $36 mllion annually for indigent health care in Polk County

Price also served as Chairwoman of the Polk County Healthcare Alliance from 2007 to 2010.

“Too many hardworking people in Florida don’t have healthcare because they either don’t have access or it’s just too expensive. I’ve spent a lot of time advocating for affordable healthcare in Tallahassee and DC, and I can tell you that too many of these politicians just don’t get it,” she said.

Price joins Republican Rep. Ben Albritton in the race. Through the end of February he had raised $142,600 and had nearly $99,000 of that money in the bank.

SD 26 covers the whole of DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee counties as well as parts of Charlotte, Lee and Polk.

The district, which has a similar footprint to the old District 21, carries a massive advantage for Republicans.

Grimsley did not face an Election Day challenger in the 2016 cycle, though the Senate redistricting plan shows the seat would have gone plus-20 for Mitt Romney in 2012. It also voted plus-30 for Donald Trump in 2016.

Despite those margins, Price said she’s optimistic.

“But in 2018, a year where Democrats are hopeful that national momentum will help them win in unlikely districts, Senate District 26 is absolutely in play,” her campaign announcement read.

‘Water war’ could keep rolling along

Even if the U.S. Supreme Court gives Florida a favorable ruling in its lawsuit against Georgia over water flow into the Apalachicola River, the decision likely would result in more litigation and new legal challenges involving the decades-old water war between the states.

Those were the observations of five legal experts who on Thursday addressed a conference at Florida State University on the Apalachicola River and Apalachicola Bay system. The conference was put together by the Florida Conservation Coalition, a group headed by former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham.

The U.S. Supreme Court in January heard oral arguments in Florida’s challenge to a special master’s report that found Florida had not proved its case that a water-usage cap should be imposed on Georgia to help the river and Apalachicola Bay. Georgia has asked the nation’s highest court to uphold the report, arguing that a consumption cap would damage Georgia’s economy and agriculture industry.

Florida has asked for the case to be sent back to the court-appointed special master for more hearings on a plan for an “equitable” distribution of water in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river basin.

Although the lawyers on Thursday’s panel and Florida officials have expressed optimism about the case based on the tone of justices’ questions during oral arguments, Jonathan Williams, a former deputy solicitor general for the state, said he was taking a cautious view.

“Oral arguments are often not great predictors of what the ultimate outcome is going to be, particularly in cases that are as complicated as this one is,” said Williams, who was involved in the case while he was with the Attorney General’s Office. He is now in private practice with the firm Lash & Goldberg.

Although the arguments “went well,” Williams said. “there are a lot of unsettled issues in this case right now, and there are a lot of thorny issues the special master will have to work through in the event the case gets remanded to him.”

If the case continues, a key issue in developing an “equitable apportionment” of water in the river system would be weighing the benefits to Florida against the cost to Georgia. Florida has said a diminished water flow has harmed the Apalachicola ecosystem as well as the seafood industry, while Georgia has said a consumption cap could hurt the economic growth of the Atlanta region and impact a multibillion-dollar agriculture industry in Southwest Georgia.

Richard Hamann, a retired law professor from the University of Florida, said he is “pretty optimistic” about Florida’s case, having once thought the state would have difficulty proving harm had been done.

But if Florida wins the current case, he likened it to “the dog chasing the car.”

“When you catch it, what do you get?” he asked. He said it may be difficult developing an accurate mechanism to measure a consumption cap.

“If we get there, I think that would be a huge challenge,” Hamann said. “But I certainly look forward to seeing that day.”

Jason Oyler, a lawyer with the Susquehanna River Basin Commission in Pennsylvania, said the case would likely lead to more litigation that could “go on for decades upon decades.”

He and other lawyers on the panel said there are relatively few water cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court to give a clear indication of the outcome of the Florida-Georgia case.

“I think there could be twists and turns, even with a relatively favorable ruling, on that kind of economic analysis,” he said. “And there are some pitfalls there.”

Melissa Samet, a lawyer with the National Wildlife Federation, described a related lawsuit challenging a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers water-management plan for the river basin issued last year.

Samet said her organization filed a legal challenge to both the “water control manual” as well as the environmental impact statement that accompanied the plan. The case was filed in Washington, D.C., and joined a similar lawsuit filed by Alabama, also challenging the water plan and environmental document.

She said the water control manual, as well as the environmental statement, failed to adequately assess the impact of the diminished water flow into the Apalachicola system, including its impact on plant and animal life, and did not explore “reasonable” alternatives.

“The fundamental goal of our lawsuit is really to ensure that the Corps is using the legal tools that it has available to it, to issue a revised water control manual that restores a more natural flow pattern to the Apalachicola,” she said.

Mohammad Jazil, a lawyer with the firm Hopping, Green & Sams, said it would be difficult to overturn the Corps’ decision given that federal law is “deferential” to actions by government agencies.

“The Corps is presumed to be the expert and presumed to be right,” he said.

Samet acknowledged the deferential standard, but she said the Corps actions were so “egregious” in ignoring mandates like the National Environmental Policy Act in the development of the basin plan that “I think we have a really good shot.”

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