Influence Archives - Florida Politics
Jason Pizzo

Senate Democrats holding Tallahassee fundraisers Wednesday, Thursday

Those spending next week in Tallahassee can fill their calendar with a pair of fundraisers for Senate Democrats on Wednesday and Thursday.

The first event will benefit a political committee tied to soon-to-be state Sen. Jason Pizzo, who last month unseated incumbent Sen. Daphne Campbell from Miami-Dade’s Senate District 38 after a 54-46 percent victory in an open Democratic primary.

Pizzo, a former prosecutor, will hold the reception benefitting his Protecting Coastal Communities PAC from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Library of the Governors Club, located at 202 S Adams St. Those looking to attend can send an RSVP to Kay Cook via KCook@EdgeCommFL.com or 571-235-0318.

The second fundraiser will benefit the re-election campaign of Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo, who faces Republican challenger Marili Cancio in the Nov. 6 general election for Senate District 40.

Her event, billed as the “1st Annual Parrot Heat Frozen Concoction Celebration,” will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Florida Professional Firefighters headquarters, 343 W Madison St. Like Pizzo’s event, those planning to swing by can send a note or drop a line to Kay Cook.

Taddeo flipped SD 40 in a special election just under a year ago, but Cancio has been able to raise $273,700 between her campaign and political committee, Friends of Marili Cancio, and has about $260,500 of that cash in the bank.

Still, Taddeo has the fundraising advantage in the swing seat with a combined $478,275 banked between her campaign account and political committee, Fight Back Florida.

The invitations to both events are below.

Pizzo fundraiser 9.19.2018

Kelli Stargel leads Bob Doyel by a touchdown in SD 22

Despite Democratic challenger Bob Doyel touting internal poll numbers showing him leading Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel, the first public poll of the SD 22 general election shows Stargel with an outside-the-margin lead in her re-election bid.

A new St. Pete Polls survey, conducted Sunday, found Stargel up by 7 percentage points among registered voters who said they planned to vote in the general election. The 48-41 percent lead for Stargel comes about a month after Doyel, a retired circuit court judge, circulated an internal poll showing him with a 45-40 lead as well as decent name ID within the district.

Stargel received more than 80 percent support from registered Republicans and held a 45-39 percent lead among unaffiliated and third-party voters. Doyel’s support among SD 22 Democrats was less robust, with 71 percent backing him, 17 percent supporting Stargel and 12 percent undecided.

Stargel’s lead reached 20 points among white voters, who make up about two-thirds of SD 22’s voting age population. Doyel was far ahead among black and Hispanic voters. The sample size for those demographics, however, was small.

By age, Stargel holds 9-point edge among 18- to 29-year-olds and leads by 8 percentage points among the 50- to 69-year-old bracket. The race was tighter among Gen Xers and the over 70 crowd, the former of which preferred Stargel by a 44-40 percent margin and the latter of which broke toward her 46-41 percent.

Doyel trailed by double digits among men, though the race is much tighter among women, who only are only leaning toward Stargel by 2 points, 45-43 percent.

SD 22 covers southern Lake County and northern Polk County and has trended toward GOP candidates in the past despite registered Democrats outnumbering registered Republicans by a couple points.

Florida Democrats are hoping the ‘blue wave’ can put it and other Republican-held Senate seats in play come November, though like in most other FDP-targeted districts, there’s a large fundraising disparity between the GOP and Democratic nominees.

Doyel was challenged by former state Rep. Ricardo Rangel in the Aug. 28 primary and spent a large amount of cash ahead of the 66-34 percent rout. Heading into September, he had about $92,500 in hard money $31,350 in his political committee, Bring Back Democracy.

Through the same date, Stargel had just shy of $240,000 in her campaign account with another $215,250 banked in her affiliated political committee, Limited Govt for a Stronger Florida.

In the 2016 cycle, Stargel scored a 7-point win over underfunded and overmatched Democrat Debra Wright. President Donald Trump also carried the district by nearly the same margin.

The St. Pete Polls survey was conducted by an automated phone call polling system on Sept. 16. It received responses from 569 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence level.

Galvano

Bill Galvano, NRA clash over political contribution

Incoming Senate President Bill Galvano is not backing down after finding himself in the crosshairs of the National Rifle Association for receiving a sizable political contribution from a group that backs gun restrictions and has ties to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is slated to become Senate president after the November elections, pointed Monday to the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that killed 17 people. After the shooting, lawmakers passed a bill (SB 7026) that included raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 to purchase rifles and other long guns — a restriction the NRA has challenged in federal court.

“I will make no apologies for the responsible steps we took in a bipartisan manner in the wake of the worst school shooting in our state’s history,” Galvano said.

Galvano’s comments came after NRA Tallahassee lobbyist Marion Hammer, a former national president of the gun-rights organization, called him out for accepting a $200,000 contribution from Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, which has been heavily backed by Bloomberg. The contribution went to a political committee known as Innovate Florida, which is chaired by Galvano.

Hammer, a longtime powerful lobbyist in Tallahassee, sent out an “alert” Monday to members of the NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida about the Sept. 4 contribution to Galvano’s committee.

“Incoming Florida Senate President Bill Galvano calls himself a Republican but is rumored to be the one who colluded with anti-gun Democrats to engineer the gun control package included in SB-7026 this past session,” Hammer wrote to members of the groups. “SB-7026 contained three major gun control provisions and was rammed down the throats of Senate and House Republican legislators.”

“Looks like our Second Amendment Rights were sold for a large contribution from anti-gun former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg,” Hammer wrote. “All of this while the anti-gunners keep accusing legislators of taking money from NRA. In reality, no Florida Senate or House member or candidate for the Florida Senate or House has received a direct contribution from NRA in almost 20 years.”

The NRA filed a federal lawsuit against the state in March immediately after Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the bill that includes a wide range of school-safety and gun-related measures. Along with the age requirement for gun purchases, it also included imposing a three-day waiting period on buying long guns and banned what are known as “bump stocks,” which allow semi-automatic rifles to mimic fully automatic weapons. The lawsuit remains pending.

“I have made it clear that as Senate president I will continue to advocate for increased safety and security in our schools. I am grateful for the support,” Galvano said Monday.

The alleged shooter in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas case, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, legally purchased a semiautomatic rifle that was used in the massacre.

Gun-rights supporters have been frustrated in recent years by the Senate, which has blocked proposals such as allowing people with concealed-weapons licenses to carry firearms on college campuses. Bills have stalled after years of the Republican-dominated Legislature generally being supportive of positions backed by groups such as the NRA.

Regulators renew emergency rule on race-dog drug testing

Gambling regulators on Tuesday again said they were “renewing” an emergency rule that allows them to continue testing racing greyhounds for drugs, including cocaine.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which regulates gambling through its Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, posted a “notice of renewal” in Tuesday’s Florida Administrative Register.

The emergency rule on “Procedures for Collecting Samples from Racing Greyhounds” was adopted late last December. In Florida, live dog racing is still conducted at 11 tracks.

An administrative law judge struck down the testing program, saying it was invalid. Tuesday’s notice said a rule challenge was still pending in the Division of Administrative Hearings.

The docket shows that case is “awaiting (an) order” from Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early.

Another judge, Lawrence P. Stevenson, had barred the state from relying on a 2010 testing manual because it wasn’t properly adopted, though as one of the division’s lawyers said, “There aren’t that many ways to do urine collection.”

The emergency rule includes using “evidence tape” to seal samples and storing them in “lockable freezers” until they’re sent off for testing.

A cocaine-in-dogs controversy came to light in Jacksonville in the summer of 2017. That in part spurred a constitutional amendment for the 2018 ballot to ban betting on greyhound racing in the state.

Attorney Jeff Kottkamp, who represents the Florida Greyhound Association, has previously said it has “a zero-tolerance policy for anyone that would give a racing greyhound any illegal substance.” The organization advocates for the state’s race-dog owners and breeders.

The Protect Dogs-Yes on 13, which advocates for passage of Amendment 13, called the renewal “good news” but called out “a continuing problem.”

“Greyhound breeders have thrown the entire regulatory scheme into chaos by repeatedly challenging the state drug testing program in court,” the campaign said in a statement. “This is is an intentional strategy to prevent greyhound trainers from being held responsible for greyhound cocaine positives.

“The regulatory structure is broken, and it’s time for voters to act by voting Yes on 13.”

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Senior Editor Jim Rosica contributed to this post. Main photo: Van Abernethy.

Personnel note: Christy Daly Brodeur joins Ballard Partners

Christy Daly Brodeur, formerly Secretary of Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice under Gov. Rick Scott, has joined the Ballard Partners influence firm in Tallahassee.

The move was first reported in Tuesday’s SUNBURN.

“Christy’s successful track record of partnering with key stakeholder groups to achieve favorable outcomes for all parties is a tremendous asset for our firm, our clients and our team,” said Brian Ballard, president of Ballard Partners, in a news release.

“Above all, Christy is a passionate and dedicated advocate for the causes in which she believes, making her the perfect person to partner with our clients and help them accomplish important policy goals at the Capitol.”

Brodeur has two decades of experience working with the Florida Legislature and the Executive Branch on public policy for children and families, the release said.

She joins Ballard Partners after spending more than 11 years at Juvenile Justice, most recently as Secretary.

“I am proud and humbled to be joining Florida’s most prestigious lobbying firm,” she said in a statement.

“The team at Ballard Partners has created a dynamic and powerful firm that is extremely successful in achieving the goals expressed by clients both at the state and national level,” Brodeur added. “My life’s work has focused on improving the lives of Florida’s families and I look forward to bringing my passion and expertise to Ballard Partners.”

In addition to leading the Department of Juvenile Justice, Brodeur also held key advocacy and governmental affairs positions with the Florida Network of Youth and Family Services as well as Capital City Youth Services.

She’s a member of Leadership Tallahassee Class 24, holds a degree from Florida State University, and sits on the board of directors for Inspire of Central Florida, a nonprofit organization serving adults with developmental disabilities.

Ballard Partners, a Florida-based lobbying firm, has offices in Washington, D.C., Tallahassee, Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and Tampa.

Personnel note: Meredith Beatrice lands at Florida GOP

Meredith Beatrice is now Communications Director for the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), Chairman Blaise Ingoglia announced Monday.

Beatrice, who most recently handled media for GOP Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam‘s unsuccessful run for governor, “will be focused on Florida’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign,” Ingoglia said.

“Understanding the importance of this election cycle, Meredith will be a great asset to our success, especially in retaining the Governor’s Mansion,” he added in a press release. “We welcome her to the RPOF and look forward to the integral role she will have in media strategy.”

Beatrice, 30, is a veteran of political communications. She has been as Director of External Affairs for the 2017-2018 Constitution Revision Commission and was Communications Director for the Florida Department of State.

Before that, she worked as a director at JDA Frontline, a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C.

Beatrice will be the party’s primary contact for questions related to the governor’s race between Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) and Congressman Ron DeSantis (R).

Ingoglia said Yohana de la Torre will remain a “communications consultant” to the party and be the main contact for questions related to him or general party-related activities.

“Liberals and socialists want to take over our government and undo eight years of successful conservative leadership, and we won’t let that happen,” Beatrice said in a statement.

“An Andrew Gillum administration would be a disaster for Florida. Andrew Gillum only knows how to foster corruption, increase crime rates, and raise taxes. At every level, he has failed running the city of Tallahassee and can’t be trusted.

“We’ve got to build on our economic success, protect our environment, and increase educational opportunities for every student, which is exactly what Ron DeSantis will accomplish as Governor. I look forward to highlighting the clear choice in this election and working with strong conservatives to keep Florida red.”

Ben Diamond files for re-election in 2020

Gulf Breeze Republican Alex Andrade and St. Petersburg Democratic Rep. Ben Diamond filed paperwork this week to seek re-election to the Florida House in 2020.

Andrade is the soon-to-be Representative for House District 2, which covers parts of Escambia and Santa Rosa counties. He defeated late entrant Greg Merk by 20 points in the Republican primary for the seat two weeks ago.

Since there are no other candidates for the seat, he’s primed to replace Republican Rep. Frank White, who gave up the seat for an unsuccessful bid in the Republican primary for Attorney General. He is the third person to hold HD 2 in as many election cycles.

Nearly two years out from the 2020 primary elections, Andrade is the only candidate in the race. He had about $15,000 left in his 2018 campaign account as of Aug. 23.

Diamond put in his paperwork for another term on Tuesday. He was one of 25 incumbent lawmakers who were re-elected without opposition when the qualifying period for state offices ended in late June.

Diamond was first elected to represent Pinellas County-based House District 68 in 2016, when he defeated Republican nominee Joseph Bensmihen by 12 points. As of June 22, Diamond had about $98,750 in unspent funds in his campaign account for the 2018 cycle.

Andrade and Diamond make for a dozen candidates who have filed to run for a state House seat in 2020. The only other incumbents to take that step are Winter Haven Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew and Placida Republican Rep. Michael Grant.

Florida school superintendents: School security transfer a must

Correction: An earlier version of this article mischaracterized the intention of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. The group is wholly supportive of eventually transferring unused school security funding. 

School superintendents backing the transfer of unused security money concurred with legislative leaders this week that numbers should be finalized before the Legislature amends any funding set aside for school security.

But, ultimately, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents is supportive of a transfer of the approximately $58 million in leftover funding set aside for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, a fund for school districts that opt to arm non-teacher faculty.

That transfer had been spearheaded by Gov. Rick Scott, but ultimately failed to make the Joint Legislative Budget Commission’s agenda. The budget-revising panel met earlier on Friday.

According to the Department of Education, just $9 million of the $67.5 million appropriation has been used by schools. Scott wanted lawmakers to convene a special panel to unlock the remaining $58 million. He has suggested some of the funding could be used to help offset school districts who are staffing police officers and security specialists at every school. Superintendents and school districts agree.

However, both House Speaker-designate Jose Oliva and Senate President-elect Bill Galvano have pushed back against Scott’s request. In a letter last week, Galvano told Scott he would reject his offer to give the Guardian Program more implementation time.

To that end, the association representing school district leaders also agreed.

“As stated in President-Elect Galvano’s letter, a proposed amendment to transfer funds to be considered by the Legislative Budget Commission is not yet ripe,” writes FADSS President Richard Shirley, who also serves as Superintendent of Sumter County Schools.

Shirley suggests that the funds not be revisited until the Department of Education reviews the Guardian Program budgets for the current year. He also hints that lawmakers should refrain from touching the leftover money until the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission wraps its work. The fact-finding panel was spawned in the same bill providing for the Guardian Program.

Once those calculations are considered, Shirley writes, then lawmakers should use the money to offset the hiring of safe-school and law enforcement officers at schools. The Legislature in the wake of the Parkland massacre that left 17 dead passed a mandate that an armed person be present at every campus.

Shirley proposes the money could also be used to meet new ‘school hardening’ requirements.

In February, the same group had staunchly opposed the arming of any faculty.

Education board backs $673 million boost for schools

The Florida Board of Education on Friday advanced a $21.8 billion request for public school funding in the next budget year, including a $200 boost in per-student funds and increased funding for school safety initiatives.

Highlights of the 2019-20 budget proposal include:

— An overall $673 million, or 3.5 percent, increase, compared to the current budget for the 67 school districts.

— An increase in per-student funding from $7,407 to $7,607.

— A $101 million increase to pay for an additional 13,680 new students expected in classrooms next fall. In total, there will be nearly 2.9 million students in the K-12 system next year.

— A $100 million increase in the “safe schools” initiative, boosting total funding to $262 million. The funding allows districts to hire sworn law enforcement officers to protect school campuses.

— $67.5 million for the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian program, which provides funding for the screening and training of armed civilian safety employees, under the supervision of the local sheriff, for the schools. Lawmakers earmarked the same amount for the guardian program in the current year’s budget.

— A $51 million increase in a grant program that allows districts to improve the physical safety of schools, for a total of $150 million in the next academic year.

— A $10 million increase in a program that allows districts to establish or expand school-based mental-health programs, for a total of $79 million.

The budget proposal is part of a lengthy process that will culminate early next May, when the 2019 Legislature passes a new state budget, which takes effect July 1. There is more uncertainty this year as Tallahassee prepares for new legislative leaders in November and a new governor in January.

But the budget proposal, which was approved by the Board of Education at a meeting in Naples, drew support from education advocates.

“We appreciate the many concerns that you addressed,” Kamela Patton, superintendent of schools for Collier County, told the board on behalf of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents.

Patton praised the increases for school-safety initiatives as well as a $75 million increase in transportation funding for the districts. She also said the schools would be helped by the increase in the so-called “base student allocation,” which provides operational funding for the districts.

In the current budget, the allocation increase was slashed to an average of 47 cents per student, as lawmakers shifted funding to major school-safety programs following the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

The new budget proposal includes a more robust $118.75 per-student increase for the allocation.

The $673 million increase in the K-12 budget is built on a $170 million increase in state funding coupled with a $503 million increase in local school property tax collections.

The bulk of the local tax increase, or $421 million, comes from the “required local effort” levy. The budget proposal would keep that tax rate the same as it is now, with the increased funding coming from taxes on new construction and taxes on increased property values.

In recent years, the House has pushed to offset the rise in local property taxes. The Senate has favored using the full increase.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, said Friday that the Senate will continue to advocate for using the entire increase in the new budget negotiations. In the current budget, the House and Senate reached an agreement to use only the increase in local school property taxes related to new construction.

In other areas of the education budget proposal, the Board of Education backed a series of increases for the state college system, including a new $26 million initiative to help the 28 schools develop “workforce training” programs.

The proposal also includes a new $10 million initiative for safety and mental-health programs for the colleges, and a $4 million increase for industry-certification programs.

The colleges would also continue to receive $60 million in annual funding based on performance metrics.

And the budget proposal includes $520 million for the Bright Futures scholarship program, to provide merit aid to more than 103,000 students attending state universities and colleges next year.

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Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

casino table

Gambling industry ponies up to fight Amendment 3

Faced with a proposed constitutional amendment that could make it harder to expand gambling in Florida, the gambling industry early this month put another $1.25 million into a political committee fighting the November ballot measure, according to a newly filed finance report.

The money was contributed from Sept. 4 to Sept. 7 to a committee known as Citizens for the Truth About Amendment 3, Inc. Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International and Jacksonville Greyhound Racing, Inc. each contributed $500,000, while the South Florida Racing Association contributed $250,000.

The committee, which started in July, had raised $3.52 million as of Sept. 7 and had spent $91,868, the report shows.

The committee opposes a proposed constitutional amendment, known as Amendment 3, that has been heavily backed by Disney Worldwide Services, Inc., and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

If approved by 60 percent of voters, the proposed amendment would change the Florida 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 and effectively reduce the power of the Legislature and governor to decide gambling-related issues.

Disney has been a longtime opponent of casino gambling in Florida, while the Seminole Tribe already operates lucrative casinos.

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