Influence Archives - Florida Politics

Thanksgiving messages from Florida’s elected officials and politicians

A compilation of Thanksgiving message from Florida’s elected officials and politicians:

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, via Twitter:

“Grace and I wish everyone a wonderful #Thanksgiving. And special thanks to all the brave men and women serving in our military – both here and overseas – who sacrifice so much to keep the rest of us safe. We are ALL thankful for your service!”

Gov. Rick Scott:

“As another great year comes to a close, I am so thankful for my family, my wife, Ann, our wonderful daughters, Allison and Jordan and six beautiful grandchildren. I am also so honored and thankful to have the incredible opportunity each and every day to work for Florida families and fight to make our state the best place in the nation to get a great job, receive a top-notch education and live in a safe community. I wish every Florida family a safe and happy Thanksgiving.”

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis:

“Gathering around my family’s table each year, I’m reminded of the many reasons to be grateful. I’m reminded of our firefighter community, and the men and women who protect our country. Both sacrifice time with their families to keep us safe while we spend time with ours.

“This year, I’m incredibly thankful to serve this great state as your CFO and State Fire Marshal. Thanksgiving marks the start of the season of giving. My hope is that this spirit will remain in our hearts all year long.”

Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum:

There are so many things I’m grateful for in my life. In May, my wife and I welcomed our third child, Davis, and our twins Caroline and Jackson continue to make us proud as they grow and learn their place in the world. I’m truly blessed with a house of love. … I’m grateful for the grace of the people of Tallahassee, and people all across Florida. On this journey, we’ve had a chance to meet thousands of people who have shared their stories of triumph, their big dreams, and their hopes for their children. They’ve given us strength and hope that our state’s best days are still ahead of us. … And I’m grateful for the richness of our experience, especially during trying times. Our collective strength far outweighs the difficulties we might face, and I’ve never been more convinced of that than I am today.

Gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham:

“While there will always be more work to accomplish and more challenges to meet, this Thanksgiving I am reflecting on how fortunate we are to live in America and how thankful I am for the people of this great state. Florida is blessed with amazing beaches and springs, live oaks and palm trees, wild turkeys and orange groves — but our greatest blessing is each other, our fellow Floridians.”

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, on what he’s faithful for:

“Melissa and the kids. My faith. The resilience of this state. We’ve faced so many challenges this year, and there are many more ahead in our future. But the people of Florida prove time and time again that they can withstand anything that comes our way.”

Sen. Thad Altman, via Twitter:

“Thankful every day for God, my Family, our Veterans, our Active Military men and women, and First Responders who serve and protect this great nation including on Thanksgiving Day.”

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto:

“During this Thanksgiving season, I am reminded of all we have to be grateful for. First and foremost, as a mother, I am thankful to have the ability to spend this holiday with my son Austin and daughter Gabriella. Also, I am thankful that you have placed your trust in me to serve on your behalf in the Florida Senate. It is truly an honor to serve beautiful Southwest Florida. … In the United States of America we have a great number of things to be thankful for, but paramount among them are the service members who sacrifice greatly to protect our freedom. Let us remember and thank our servicemen and women during this season. … Lastly, this Thanksgiving I hope we can all take time to reflect on the blessings in our lives and be sure to keep in mind the less fortunate in our community. Let us continue to look to the future with hope and gratitude in our hearts, and a love for all humankind.”

Wishbone, one of two turkeys pardoned by Donald Trump, is previewed in the press briefing room.

Sen. Jim Boyd:

“The first Thanksgiving was in 1621 and was a three day long feast celebrating the pilgrims coming to the New World in search of liberty. Today, we give thanks that we’ve been able to maintain liberty on this continent since the pilgrims landed here 396 years ago.”

Sen. Jeff Brandes:

“This year has given me so much to be thankful for.

“First and foremost, I am incredibly grateful for my wife and children. Natalie and I added a fourth child to our family this year, and eight-year-old Lizzie is already proving she can hold her own amongst her new siblings. We are relishing this time as we get to know her and have learned that she loves swimming, chicken nuggets, and playing Candy Crush (no English required). I am blessed to now say we now make dinner reservations as the Brandes party of six.

“I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to serve the hardworking taxpayers of District 24. I recognize the special trust placed in me to represent our district in the Florida Senate and truly appreciate their thoughts and advocacy as we work together to build a stronger community.

“Finally, I want to say I am especially thankful to my colleagues in the Florida House. Last year, on the sixtieth day of Session, I found myself needing a miracle to pass SB 590, a bill to help unmarried, non-custodial parents establish a path to see their children. The bill had stalled in the House, and the rules needed to be waived in order to hear it (a situation that usually kills the legislation). Leader [Janet] Cruz (D) and Rep. [Lori] Berman (D) graciously agreed to not object and allow the bill to be both read and voted on that final day of Session. This is a gesture that I will not forget as it allowed a day sixty legislative miracle to happen.

“In this all too often partisan world, I am thankful for the relationships that allow us to look beyond party and to extend kindness and trust that so together we can make Florida a better place to live.”

Sen. Denise Grimsley:

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving full of family, friends, and food! … Without the hard work of our farmers and ranchers, Thanksgiving meals wouldn’t be possible. While we’re all thankful for so much this year, I am especially thankful for our Florida Agricultural community. … God bless you, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sen. Jack Latvala:

“As we gather with family and friends during this Thanksgiving holiday, I have a lot to be thankful for. I am grateful for my family. They have been my rock, especially during these past few weeks. I’m also thankful for my friends whose support has lifted me up.

“We are fortunate to live in a free country and an incredibly dynamic state. I’m thankful for the men and women who protect our freedom and keep us safe. To our military men and women, I say thank you. To law enforcement, firefighters, and other first responders — I am grateful not only for your support, but the sacrifice you make on a daily basis.

“As you spend time with loved ones over these next few days, remember the things that make this country the greatest of all countries. The spirit of the original European settlers who made great sacrifice to come here still exists today. This Thanksgiving is a great time to remember that America is still a beacon of hope for many around the world.

“Have a great time with friends and family. I will. We all have many reasons to be thankful.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran:

Rep. Lori Berman:

Rep. Danny Burgess:

“I’m thankful for the men and women in uniform who are away from their families this holiday season to ensure I can be with mine.”

Rep. Bob Cortes:

“I am thankful for a new day for another chance at doing right to others. To family, friends and everyone else that makes our lives complete. I am also thankful that even though it has been a rough year full of natural disasters, it has brought us all together with renewed compassion. Thankful for the opportunity to serve and being able to help my fellow Puerto Ricans in their time of need.

“Finally, thankful to live in a free country and enjoy what many in other parts of the world many people are denied.”

Rep. Janet Cruz:

“I’m thankful that my 83-year-old mother, who’s still working, taught me the value of a solid work ethic. I’m proud of my reputation … known as a workhorse, not a show horse. Thanks, Mom! … I’m thankful for a family that fully supports my fascinating yet frustrating service as a Legislator. Nothing better than feeling loved by my husband Steve (the good doctor and smartest all-around man in the WORLD) daughter Ana Cruz (the brilliantly successful redhead at Ballard Partners) and son Nick Cruz (eat at Big Ray’s which will someday contribute to my nursing home fund) … I’m thankful for every American soldier. These brave men and women risk their lives for my freedom … they have never met me, yet they are willing to die for my freedom. Could never thank them enough. … I’m thankful for our teachers in Florida. They are underpaid and often underappreciated, yet they continue to educate and are sometimes the only positive influence in a child’s life. Blessed are the teachers! … I’m thankful for Maddie, Peter, Tess, Patrick, Maizy, and Julian who are my delightful grandchildren. They are living proof that things will be alright once I’m gone. … I’m thankful for a supportive staff in Tampa and Tallahassee make me look good. The taxpayers certainly get their money’s worth here!”

Rep. Dane Eagle:

“My staff and I wish you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving and a wonderful start to the holiday season. As we enjoy this time with our loved ones, let’s remember those who cannot be with their own families as they protect us and defend our freedom. We have many reasons to be thankful. Happy Thanksgiving!”

Rep. Randy Fine:

“My wife, Wendy, for being a great partner and friend, and for giving us our two young sons, Jacob and David. Every moment I get to spend with them is a blessing. I’m particularly grateful to Wendy this year for the all solo duties she has had to handle when I’ve been in Tallahassee.”

Rep. Jason Fischer:

“Thanksgiving is upon us again, and it offers us all a chance to reflect and show our gratitude for life’s many blessings. And blessed we all are! The Fischer family invites you all to join us as pray a special blessing for our armed service personnel and their families as they work to keep us safe at home and abroad.”

Rep. Bill Hager:

“As you prepare to sit down with your family and friends for a festive holiday meal, I want to take a moment to thank you. Thank you for allowing me to serve you in the Florida House of Representatives. I am privileged to represent District 89 in Tallahassee, and it is only possible because of the honor you have bestowed upon me. Happy Thanksgiving!”

Rep. Blaise Ingoglia:

Rep. Wengay “Newt” Newton:

Rep. Chris Sprowls:

“I’m thankful that I get to experience childhood again through the eyes of our two little boys. Every day brings another gift.”

Rep. Frank White:

“This week we celebrate and give thanks for the many blessings in our lives and as a nation. I’m giving thanks for my family, friends, faith and community. I am blessed every day by my lovely wife, Stephanie, and my three boys Henry, Clayton, and Wesley. In fact, these overwhelming blessings in my life were my primary motivation for entering public service. My faith teaches that to whom much has been given, much is expected. Giving back to my community in public service with your support has been the honor of a lifetime. … I wish you all a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving!”

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry:

“I’m thankful for my wife Molly, my kids Boyd, Brooke & Bridget, and for the opportunity to serve the city I love.”

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman:

“I am thankful for quite a bit this year, including my family, friends, and good health. The opportunity to serve the city and people I love for another four years is also at the top of my list. Thank you for believing in me and for giving me a chance to earn your support if I didn’t have it in this past election. Have a happy Thanksgiving and please take a moment to take stock of your blessings. Please also keep St. Pete’s first responders and personnel in your thoughts, for many of them are not able to enjoy Thanksgiving with their loved ones. Thank you, St. Pete.”

Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano:

“As a public servant, I am blessed and thankful to have the opportunity to continue to serve the people of Pasco County and work with individuals at our Tax Collectors office who are truly second to none. Thankful and blessed to have been given the means allowing me to help those less fortunate than us and so I may give back to our community in some small way. God bless!”

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore:

 

Chief Financial Officer candidate Jeremy Ring:

Pinellas County Republican Party Chair and House District 66 candidate Nick DiCeglie:

“Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you’re enjoying a tasty home cooked meal this week in the company of family and friends.

“On this Thanksgiving, and every day, I thank God for the many blessings he has bestowed upon me, especially my loving and talented wife Erica, and my kids Livia and Carlo. I’m also thankful for my family business, Solar Sanitation, which for 37 years has provided the essential service of trash collection to the residents and businesses of Pinellas County.

“This year I am also thankful for the opportunity to run as a candidate for Florida House, District 66. For more than 20 years, Indian Rocks Beach has been where Erica and I have decided to raise our children and enjoy the breathtaking sunsets in the best place to live, work and play.

“Happy Thanksgiving from the DiCeglie family to yours.”

Lobbying firm The Fiorentino Group:

A Thanksgiving poem dedicated to Florida’s legislative process

A Thanksgiving poem dedicated to Florida’s legislative politics.

Authored by Anonymous. 

I am thankful for my wife, my family, my health, and my friends,

Of course, in today’s political process to name them may bring about their ends.

But, no matter, it’s OK, for right this second they know who they are,

They help me to stay on time, be it to the Knott, the CAP or to the bar.

During Session and the Committee weeks I can count on them to make the save,

But I am most thankful because I can count on them to take secrets to the grave.

____

I am thankful for the President, the Speaker, Senators and the House members,

I am thankful for staff, interns, bill drafting and those who survived the Novembers.

I am thankful to work in a process where we strive to treat one another with respect,

And let’s all be thankful for the Senate and House Sergeants Office’s who keep everything looking perfect.

____

I’m thankful for those who I have shared an office with — some even have achieved fame,

I’ve been blessed to work with and know some of the smartest people in the game.

____

I’m thankful for the bills we pass and kill — even when no one has a clue.

I’m thankful for the Old Capitol, the tower, the rotunda and the carpet which is blue.

I’m thankful for mariachi Monday, track and taco Tuesday, pink Wednesday, unguarded chocolate candy bowls and Cuban coffee (well, Diet Dr Pepper) in the tower,

I am thankful for j2j, the Clerk’s Office, and Sharkey’s, Eatz, and Goodies keeping us fed when the time is seemingly dour.

I am thankful for the newspapers, the blogs and the handbills which I read,

But really I am thankful for my ol’ Twitter feed.

____

I am thankful to all those (hey boss!) who gave me the opportunities to serve the people of our great state,

I am thankful for those who I trade political rumors with via pin, dm, text or email- even when the time is late.

I’m thankful for those who make their way to the Capitol and wait in long lines just to get in,

I’m thankful for the festivities on “red square” between the Capitol buildings, although they were more fun “way back when.”

I am thankful to be reminded of SFM and by CD to look around and exalt in what I do each day,

Life is indeed too short to have it any other way.

____

I am thankful for those who make me think even when we disagree,

I am thankful for those who serve to keep us safe and free.

I am thankful for “wave close,” and those who just “stand in opposition/favor of this good bill,”

I am thankful for the many awesome historic photos on the walls taken with such skill.

But most of all I am thankful to be a part of a process which allows the freedom to say,

I’m proud to serve the people of Florida and the good ol’ U S of A.

Thanksgiving 2017, as brought to you by these Florida lobbyists and political organizations

It’s time to talk turkey. And stuffing, pie, football and 4 a.m. lines outside your favorite store.

Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the winter holiday season; the first stop in a month of non-stop holiday parties and celebrations. It’s also a day for Americans to reflect on what they’re grateful for, something that is especially important in these tense times.

But it’s also a day to gorge yourself on goodies, sneak a snack in between meals, and loosen your belts while watching the big game. And you can’t enjoy a Thanksgiving feast without a stop at the supermarket.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual price survey, this year’s feast will be the most affordable it’s been in five years, with the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people hitting $49.12. That’s a 75-cent decrease from the 2016 average of $49.87.

The survey found a 16-pound turkey will cost $22.38, or about $1.40 per pound. That’s a two-cent-per-pound decrease from 2016 – a 32-cent savings over last year for families picking up a 16-pound bird.

Hosting Thanksgiving dinner? You probably made a trip to Publix this week to pick up the essentials. Shopping is a pleasure there, with employees itching to help customers make their meal perfect. When the grocery store giant needs a hand in the Florida Legislature, it turns to Charlie Dudley, Teye Reeves, Jorge ChamizoThomas Culligan, and Lindsey Napier.

But don’t even think about running to your neighborhood Publix last-minute supplies such as whipped cream for your pumpkin pie. Thanksgiving, along with Christmas and Easter, is one of few days a year Publix shuts down so staffers can share the day with family and friends.

Don’t cook? Don’t worry. With more than 88 million tourists flocking to the Sunshine State so far this year, there’s plenty of restaurants to choose from if your family’s tradition is dinner out.

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association aims to “protect, educate and promote,” the state’s $82 billion hospitality industry. And the association has a team of A-list lobbyists, including Jim DaughtonWarren Husband, as well as Aimee Diaz LyonAndy Palmer, and Alli Liby-Schoonover on its side when it needs help pushing the industry’s priorities in the Legislature.

While the holiday is chance to give thanks and reflect on the previous year, it’s also the start of the holiday season. And for many people, Thanksgiving and shopping go hand-in-hand.

For some, Thanksgiving morning isn’t complete without a cup of coffee and a newspaper exploding with flyers for your favorite stores. The Florida Press Association is working to protect the freedom of the press in the Sunshine State. When the association needs a hand fighting for its rights in the Legislature, it turns to Kimberly CaseSamuel MorelyDean Ridings and Steven Uhlfelder.

Many Floridians aren’t just turning to their local newspaper for the news of the day, though. Instead, they’re on the hunt for deals and plotting their Black Friday plan of attack. Despite the lingering effects of Hurricane Irma, the Florida Retail Federation expects holiday sales to increase by up to 3.5 percent over last year, thanks in large part to high consumer confidence, robust housing, and a 10-year low in the unemployment rate. Some Floridians, particularly those in the Keys and the Jacksonville areas are still recovering, but the rest of the state is ready to get shopping.

“Hurricane Irma hit our state extremely hard, particularly in these areas, and we factored in this impact in our forecast, but we feel the overall strength of our economy and the incredible recovery efforts that have taken place will help lessen the impact on retail sales this holiday season,” said FRF President/CEO Scott Shalley.

FRF added that up to 29 percent of shoppers will finish their holiday shopping on Black Friday, and said “if you see a good deal on an item early on in your shopping, make sure to buy it then as opposed to waiting and hoping for a better deal.”

Those scouting for deals will inevitably find themselves at a Wal-Mart — represented by The Mayernick GroupThe Rubin GroupPittman Law Group, and Corcoran & Johnston. After you battle the crowds there, a trip to Target — which turns to GaryRobinson when it needs help in the Legislature —  might be in order.

The Florida Retail Federation is looking out for retailers big and small throughout the state. When the in-house team of James MillerSamantha Hunter Padgett and Melissa Joiner Ramba need an assist, they look to Travis BlantonJon Johnson and Darrick McGhee at Johnson & Blanton.

While stores across the state will be slammed this weekend, hundreds of thousands of Floridians will do all their shopping without leaving the comfort of their couch. If that’s how you roll, there’s no better place than Amazon, which has Ballard Partners representing it in the Capitol.

According to the National Retail Federation survey 69 percent of Americans – an estimated 164 million people – plan to get some shopping done over the holiday weekend. About 70 percent of those surveyed plan to shop on Black Friday, making it top dog for another year, but 48 percent of consumers said they planned to shop online on Cyber Monday – that’s a 12 percent bump from 2016.

If you’re looking to make a difference for the less fortunate this holiday season, consider helping out at your local food bank. The Florida Association of Food Banks, now called Feeding Florida, is a statewide network bringing together 14-member food banks across the state to try to reduce hunger. The association has the team at Johnson & Blanton and backing it up when it needs a helping hand.

And as you consider other ways to help Floridians in need this holiday season, use the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ “Check-A-Charity” tool to get detailed information about the organization you want to give to this year.

Bouncing back from Irma: Florida citrus

One of the state’s messages on the impact of Hurricane Irma was that its path could not have been “more lethal” for Florida agriculture — especially citrus.

The damage is still unfolding, as shown by changing USDA citrus forecasts. It’s hard to grasp the full extent of what’s happened to Florida oranges.

Ahead of Thanksgiving, a Florida grower spoke with Florida Politics to shed light on the crisis facing the state’s citrus.

Kyle Story is a fourth-generation Florida grower and the vice president of The Story Companies, which owns or manages about 7,000 acres of citrus, peaches and blueberries across the lower half of the state. 

In the scope of Florida’s expansive citrus field, Story considers his company to be mid-sized. He volunteers with Florida Citrus Mutual, which he described as the legislative “advocacy arm” for Florida citrus growers.

He walked through the before and after of Hurricane Irma, explaining what he did ahead of time and what farmers are doing in its wake.

“We did everything that we could ahead of the storm,” Story said. He said because the company spans the state, he knew he’d be affected regardless of where the eye landed.

Story said his operations also placed front-end loaders around different parts of surrounding communities to help clear debris following the storm, but there wasn’t much else he could do in preparation apart from securing equipment and farms, and ensuring that drainage ditches and retention pond levels were low to absorb the anticipated rainfall. 

Story said his crops in LaBelle and Immokalee, which both are near the Southwestern part of the state, took the most noticeable damage.

“We estimate a loss in that area of over 80 percent of the fruit crop,” Story said. He said that the growers who had all of their crops in that area had likely “all but lost an entire crop of fruit.”

Because blueberries and peaches had not bloomed by the time Irma made landfall, Story said the bulk of his loss came to his citrus crop, which he began harvesting early October.

He said that some Florida growers, however, likely aren’t harvesting at all. He explained that when a vast majority of a crop isn’t harvestable, it becomes economically unviable to collect what’s left.

“You have to outweigh cost of harvest to the benefit of that return,” Story explained. He said that when there’s only between 10 and 20 percent of a crop available for harvest, it becomes hard to justify investing in labor for such a small yield.

“You may just let it all rot on the ground because it’s more cost-effective.” Story said. “As a farmer, that has to be one of the toughest decisions you make.”

Story added that, depending on how many hours went into cultivating the crop, deciding not to harvest is not only financially devastating, but “emotionally trying.”

There’s another particularly tragic element to Irma’s damage: The storm wiped out an orange crop that, for Story and others, had been the healthiest in years. Citrus greening had plagued Florida citrus for several years leading up to the 2017 harvest, Story said.

“To grow one of largest crops statewide in the past five years and have a storm of this magnitude wash it away — it’s hard,” Story said. “Farming is an emotional job, whether you want it to be or not.”

Story said he has crop and tree insurance in place to help with financial recovery following storms like Irma. But that it’s very costly and he hasn’t made a claim on the insurance since 2004, when several hurricanes ravaged the state.

He said there are varying levels of coverage. His policy requires him to lose 50 percent of a crop before he can make a claim.

“It is a very costly and inadequate insurance policy,” Story said. But he said that Ted Yoho, Darren Soto, Al Lawson, Jr. and Neal Dunn — all of whom are Floridians on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee — are working to better citrus insurance.

Story also nodded to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and Gov. Rick Scott, along with U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson. He said they’re all doing what they can to help Florida’s farmers.

But Florida citrus relief was not addressed in both the U.S. House’s disaster package and the White House’s request last week. Still, Story is confident that the upcoming Senate request will include citrus relief, or rebuilding, dollars.

“It has been disappointing to not be included in any type of relief,” Story said. “But, we feel confident that — with the leadership of our elected officials from Florida and other states — that we will be ultimately successful in securing the needed rebuilding efforts.”

For Story and other farmers, however, it’s an inherent sense of resilience that will ultimately restore Florida citrus.

“Everybody is safe, everybody is healthy,” Story said. “We feel confident that we’ll be able to grow another crop — and we will.”

Doug Holder agrees to settle ethics case

Former state Rep. Doug Holder will pay $6,500 in civil penalties to resolve an ethics complaint that he filed “inaccurate” financial disclosures in 2010-14.

The Sarasota County Republican agreed to the settlement, which was disclosed by the Florida Commission on Ethics on Wednesday. The deal still must be approved by commissioners at their Dec. 8 meeting.

Holder, 50, served in the House 2006-14 and ran unsuccessfully in 2016 to succeed GOP state Sen. Nancy Detert, losing to fellow Republican Greg Steube. Holder is now a lobbyist.

He admitted to filing inaccurate financial disclosures and later filed corrected disclosures, according to the filing. Holder also “acknowledged a $20,000 loan” he had failed to report as a liability.

The complaint was filed last year after the Sarasota Herald-Tribune and others raised questions about Holder’s disclosure forms.

In part, “during his 2015 divorce, Holder listed among his debts five ‘unsecured promissory’ notes totaling $212,000 owed to his father that never were included on his financial disclosures,” the paper reported.

Lori Berman resigns from House—but not leaving till April

Rep. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, has turned in her resignation letter from the House of Representatives, but it won’t become effective till “11:59 p.m. on April 9.”

Berman, first elected to the House in 2010, is running in the special election for Senate District 31 to succeed Democrat Jeff Clemens, who resigned after his extramarital affair with a lobbyist was made public.

The special primary election will be held Jan. 30, with a special general election on April 10. The state’s “resign to run” law requires elected officials to quit the office they currently hold if the term of another state office they seek overlaps.

Former state Rep. Irv Slosberg has said he too will run for the open Senate seat. Other Democrats who have expressed an interest in the seat include state Rep. David Silvers and Delray Beach Mayor Cary Glickstein.

The winner of the special election would serve the remainder of the term Clemens’ won last year, which runs through Election Day 2020.

Proposal would make it harder to change constitution

A Senate Republican proposed a measure Monday that, if approved by voters, would make it harder to amend the Florida Constitution.

The proposal (SJR 978), filed by Ocala Republican Sen. Dennis Baxley would increase the threshold for voter approval of constitutional amendments.

Currently, 60 percent of voters need to approve amendments. Baxley’s proposal would increase that required number to two-thirds.

Baxley’s proposal itself would require a change to the Constitution.

If approved during the upcoming legislative session, it would go on the November 2018 ballot.

Rep. Rick Roth, a Loxahatchee Republican, has filed an identical proposal (HJR 65) in the House.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Rob Bradley offers glimmer of hope for fracking ban

A top senator is leaving open the possibility that a proposed ban on ‘fracking’ in Florida will be considered in the 2018 Legislative Session.

Bradley

Rob Bradley, the Fleming Island Republican who recently was named chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, also leads the chamber’s Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee.

That’s the first committee of reference for Sen. Dana Young’s bill (SB 462) to prohibit hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, the controversial drilling technique that involves shooting water and chemicals deep underground.

That breaks up rock to get at oil and natural gas that’s unreachable by conventional drilling, but critics say it can potentially damage subterranean drinking water supplies.

This is the second year Young, a Tampa Republican, has run a fracking ban. Similar legislation died in the House last Session. And this upcoming Session’s Senate measure has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

When asked whether he would hear the bill, Bradley on Tuesday offered a terse text-message response: “No final decisions have been made on future agendas.”

But that was enough to steel Young as to her bill’s chances.

Young

“My good friend Sen. Bradley has just moved into a major role as Appropriations Chair, and I want to give him all the time and flexibility he needs to consider the bills on his environmental policy agenda,” she told Florida Politics.

“I am pleased that Sen. Bradley supported the bill last year in committee and I’m hopeful that he will place it on his agenda in the near future,” she added.

An identical companion (HB 237), sponsored by Republican state Rep. Kathleen Peters of Treasure Island, also has been assigned to committees but not heard.

“The oil and gas industry has been misleading the public and our lawmakers for decades about the safety of their equipment and infrastructure,” said Aliki Moncrief, executive director of Florida Conservation Voters, in a statement.

“Now they want to bring fracking to Florida. And they are making the same impossible promises,” she added. “But the Legislature has a choice this year. They can ban fracking now, or they can wait until after a spill. With more than 90 percent of Floridians getting their drinking water from underground aquifers, the choice shouldn’t be this difficult.”

Gambling ballot initiative tops 400,000 signatures

A proposed constitutional amendment that would make it harder to expand gambling in Florida has topped 400,000 petition signatures, while another proposal about felons’ rights is nearing that mark.

The political committee Voters In Charge, which is trying to get the gambling initiative on the November 2018 ballot, had submitted 415,596 valid petition signatures as of Tuesday morning, according to the state Division of Elections website.

The proposal, which needs to reach 766,200 signatures to get on the ballot, would change the state Constitution and give voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling” in the state. It would require voter approval of casino-style games in the future.

Meanwhile, a political committee known as Floridians for a Fair Democracy had submitted 388,566 valid signatures as of Tuesday morning, according to the Division of Elections.

The committee’s proposed constitutional amendment, if approved next year, would automatically restore voting rights for all nonviolent felons who have served their sentences, completed parole or probation and paid restitution. Felons convicted of violent crimes, such as murder, would not be eligible.

AIF to fight proposed constitutional amendment on environmental protection

Associated Industries in Florida is preparing for a legal fight to stop a proposed Florida Constitutional amendment, charging that the proposal declaring the right to a “clean and healthful environment” is “dangerously vague.”

AIF announced Tuesday it hired top environmental and regulatory attorneys with the Gunster law firm to stop the Florida Constitution Revision Commission’s Proposal 23, contending the proposal would unleash unwarranted litigation. Filed by CRC member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, the plan would give Floridians more legal standing when environmental problems occur.

The 37-member commission, which meets every 20 years, reviews proposed constitutional amendments for the 2018 ballot.

Proposal 23 would add to the Florida Constitution the paragraph:

“The natural resources of the state are the legacy of present and future generations. Every person has a right to a clean and healthful environment, including clean air and water; control of pollution; and the conservation and restoration of the natural, scenic, historic, and aesthetic values of the environment as provided by law. Any person may enforce this right against any party, public or private, subject to reasonable limitations, as provided by law.”

In a news release Tuesday, the Associated Industries of Florida declared such an amendment would “provide any person, not just Floridians, the ability to litigate ‘against any party, public or private.'”

Associated Industries, in a proactive effort, contends the language in the proposal by Thurlow-Lippisch — an appointee of Senate President Joe Negron, a fellow Martin County resident — would “unleash unwarranted litigation” that would drive up business costs.

“The language is extremely vague and would be open to a wide interpretation from Florida’s legal system, creating mass uncertainty and threatening to upend the work of manufacturers, small businesses, governments and many others across the state,” AIF declared in its news release. “Challenges could be brought against any government entity, business or private citizen, even if they are in full compliance with existing laws or the terms and conditions of existing, valid permits. This amendment circumvents existing avenues to address concerns over air and water quality and instead encourages frivolous lawsuits, which would inevitably drive up business costs and threaten future economic development and expansion in Florida.”

The Gunster firm, which has a long history of representing U.S. Sugar, once employed Negron. Negron left the firm this year to avoid a possible conflict of interest as he pushed for construction of a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee.

The AIF legal team from Gunster will include former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell, former Florida Public Service Commission Chair Lila Jaber, former Florida First District Court of Appeal Judge Simone Marstiller, and former Flordia Department of Environmental Protection General Counsel Gregory Munson.

“CRC Proposal 23 would no doubt cause more harm than good to our state. This vague amendment would effectively replace the comprehensive and well thought out the regulatory system we have in place today with a piecemeal approach that is decided on a case-by-case basis by the courts,” AIF President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Feeney stated in the release.

Writing in a blog Nov. 8, five days after filing the proposal, Thurlow-Lippisch argued that existing language in the state Constitution is “vague” and that Florida statutes give environmental permit-holders standing over citizens.

“So a citizen is not at liberty to sue if a polluting entity is causing environmental destruction that is acting or conducting operations pursuant to a currently valid permit protected by a state agency,” she wrote. “And if someone attempts to sue anyway, they have no real standing in a Florida court of law.”

Thurlow-Lippisch pointed to a sinkhole that opened last year at a Mosaic phosphate plant in Polk County and years of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and South Florida Water Management District discharges of water from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie Estuary, which flows around her community.

“What if, is now reality. Yes, permit holders should be `protected,’ nonetheless, having a valid permit should not be a right to infringe on the health, safety, and welfare of Florida citizens,” Thurlow-Lippisch wrote. “Florida citizens and their environment co-exist. When necessary, citizens should have the right to fight for a clean and healthy environment.”

Thurlow-Lippisch is a former Sewall’s Point commissioner who also wants voters next year to add an elected commissioner of environmental protection to the state Cabinet.

The proposal under fire by AIF is scheduled to go before the commission’s Judicial Committee on Nov. 28. If it is approved, the next step would be the General Provisions Committee.

Material from the News Service of Florida was included in this post. Republished with permission.

 

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