Influence Archives - Page 6 of 369 - Florida Politics

‘Water bills’ already on the move in the Senate

A Senate panel on Monday cleared a ‘water bill’ aimed at cleaning up some of the state’s waterways.

The Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee OK’d the measure (SB 204) with a unanimous vote. Legislative committees are meeting in the Capitol this week, in advance of the 2018 Legislative Session that starts in January. 

The bill, by committee chair Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, would approve spending at least $75 million a year on springs projects and $50 million annually on projects related to the restoration of the St. Johns River—the longest entirely within Florida—and its tributaries, as well as the Keystone Heights Lake Region. 

Bradley said it’s “incredibly important” that the river “remain healthy”: “It really defines the character of so much of our state.”

But, he added, “there’s a limited pie of dollars and we need to figure out where to put them,” he added, referring to the Land Acquisition Trust Fund.

A 2014 constitutional amendment, known as the Water and Land Legacy Amendment, or “Amendment 1,” requires state officials to set aside 33 percent of the money from the real estate “documentary stamp” tax to protect Florida’s environmentally sensitive areas for 20 years. That amendment, which needed a minimum of 60 percent to pass, got a landslide of nearly 75 percent, or more than 4.2 million “yes” votes.

The mechanism to spend that money is through the Florida Forever conservation program. Florida Forever regularly received upward of $300 million annually after it became law in 1999, but those expenditures were dramatically reduced after the recession hit a decade ago.

The current 2017-2018 state budget included nothing for Florida Forever, but the Department of Environmental Protection has asked for $50 million for Florida Forever in next year’s state budget.

Moreover, environmental advocacy groups filed suit in 2015, saying lawmakers wrongly appropriated “doc stamp” money for, among other things, “salaries and ordinary expenses of state agencies” tasked with executing the amendment’s mandate. A Tallahassee judge scheduled a trial for that suit next July 23-27.

The committee also took up a bill (SB 174), filed by Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican. It would set aside at least $50 million a year to help address issues such as beach erosion.

“We’re gonna get (the bill) out early so there aren’t any questions” about its effect on appropriations, Latvala said.

The bill, supported by the affected coastal counties, also cleared the committee without opposition.

Both pieces of legislation next head to the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources and the full Appropriations Committee.

Background provided by the News Service of Florida, reprinted with permission. 

Get your checkbooks ready for this week’s legislative fundraisers

Get your checkbooks ready, PAC chairs and Tallahassee uber-lobbyists, there are a handful of fundraisers for legislative candidates planned for this week, the first committee week in advance of the Legislative Session.

On Monday, state Rep. Jim Boyd is hosting a fundraiser supporting the “Building on Your Dreams” committee. The event begins 5 p.m. at the Governors Club Board Room, 202 S. Adams St. in Tallahassee. Boyd represents HD 71, which covers parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Senate Republican leaders are hosting a reception on Tuesday for their colleague Dana Young.

Other events include:

State Reps. David Santiago, Thomas Leek and Bob Cortes will hold a fundraiser beginning 11 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 11, at the Governors Club, 202 S. Adams St. in Tallahassee. RSVP with Derek Falcon, Leek is seeking re-election to the Volusia County HD 25; Santiago is running for HD 25, also in Volusia, and Cortes is running in HD 30, which covers parts of Orange and Seminole counties.

Also at the Governors Club, State Rep. Rick Roth will hold a luncheon fundraiser Wednesday beginning 12 p.m. Roth is seeking re-election to HD 85, which covers parts of Palm Beach County.

Also Wednesday:

Later, the Governors Club will be where state Rep. Sam Killebrew, Randy Fine, Ralph Massullo and Rene Plasencia will hold a joint fundraising event beginning 5 p.m. Massullo is running for HD 34 in Hernando County; Killebrew is seeking re-election in Polk County’s HD 41; Plasencia is looking for another round in HD 50, which covers parts of Brevard and Orange counties; Fine is seeking a second term in Brevard’s HD 53.

Also Wednesday:

Personnel note: Andrew Marcus, former insurance regulator, joins Holland & Knight government advocacy team

With so many known unknowns in the regulatory markets, it can’t hurt a law firm’s governmental affairs practice to have as many former insurance regulators on staff.

That has to be part of the thinking at Holland & Knight, which on Monday announced that Andrew Marcus, a former senior attorney and deputy director with Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR), has joined its Tallahassee office as a member of the firm’s government advocacy team.

“We are thrilled to have Andrew, a talented lawyer who is highly regarded at the OIR, join our team,” said Mark Delegal, co-chair of the firm’s government advocacy team in Florida. “Our clients will be well served by Andrew’s experience and insight as they navigate Florida’s insurance regulatory process.”

Marcus was deputy director of Life and Health Product Review and assistant general counsel at the Florida OIR from 2013 to 2016, during the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Most recently, Marcus was a co-partner in the St. Petersburg-based firm of Marcus & Manning, P.A.

In his new position, Marcus will advise insurers, health care providers, third party administrators and other related clients in the areas of insurance, health and administrative law.

A press release from the firm states that Marcus has experience with product filings, market conduct examinations, financial examinations, and licensing and merger applications. He also served as an assistant state attorney in the Twelfth Judicial Circuit of Florida, where he litigated more than 40 jury trials.

The latest edition of INFLUENCE Magazine features the 2017 Golden Rotunda award winners

GrayRobinson, the mammoth legal-lobbying firm whose governmental affairs practice is headed by former House Speaker Dean Cannon, has won the Golden Rotunda for Lobbying Firm of the Year.

Brian Ballard, the Florida-based lobbyist with deep connections to the Trump administration, was named Lobbyist of the Year.

The award for Boutique Lobbying Firm of the Year went to The Mayernick Group, the firm headed by husband-wife duo Frank and Tracy Mayernick.


This is the second year of awarding the Golden Rotundas, given by INFLUENCE Magazine to recognize the best in the governmental affairs profession. Winners are determined by voting within the profession.

To determine the Lobbying Firm of the Year and the Boutique Lobbying firm of the Year, each of the 30 largest governmental affairs firms (by reported compensation) were give one ballot and asked to submit a weighted ballot what they are the top three firms.

A first place vote earned three point, while a third-place vote earned one.

GrayRobinson saw its staff size and client list grow faster this past year than almost any other major firm. It also landed one of the key recruits coming out of the Scott administration when it hired Kim McDougald, the former chief of staff to the governor.

From left, Jason Unger, Kim McDougal, Katie Flury, Jessica Love and Dean Cannon from Gray/Robinson gather in downtown Tallahassee to celebrate being named Lobbying Firm of the Year.

“It’s an honor for our firm to win this prestigious award,” said Cannon. “It speaks to the hard work of every member of governmental affairs team as well as to the deserved successes of the clients we represent.”

For the second year in a row, Southern Strategy Group finished second in Firm of the Year voting. Sean Pittman‘s practice was the runner-up in the Boutique category.

A note here about one firm that did not finish first or second, yet deserves recognition. Smith Bryan & Myers landed in the Top 5 in final voting for Firm of the Year. This is noteworthy because, year after year, the same four or five firms finish at the top of rankings based solely on compensation reports. While SBM certainly does well in compensation, it doesn’t earn as much as a Ballard or a SSG. What it does earn, clearly, is the respect of its peers since it is other lobbyists — most of whom are the managing partners of a firm’s governmental affairs practice — who voted on the Firm of the Year awards. Kudos to the entire team at Smith Bryan & Myers.

In addition to the firm awards, more than a dozen lobbyists won individual Golden Rotundas.

After ride-sharing legislation was finally signed into law, Uber’s Stephanie Smith was the runaway winner in the In-house Lobbyist of the Year category. Eileen Stuart, who helped Mosaic Company navigate a difficult situation when a sinkhole opened at its New Wales plant, is the runner-up.

Smith and Stuart are among several female lobbyists who won Golden Rotundas, setting a new benchmark within the governmental affairs profession.

Stacy Arias (Law Enforcement), Jennifer Green (Disruption), Ashley Kalifeh (Insurance) and Heather Turnbull (a runner-up in two categories) are among this year’s recipients.

Other noteworthy award winners were:

— Bill Rubin, in the new category of Lobbying Play of the Year. Rubin, who is closely aligned with the Scott administration, finished second to Ballard in Lobbyist of the Year voting.

Allison Liby-Schoonover and husband Chris Schoonover, were recognized for their work on education industry issues.

Personnel note: Paul Jess becomes FJA executive director

Paul Jess has become executive director of the Florida Justice Association (FJA), the group announced Monday.

Jess, a veteran attorney and association executive, had been acting as FJA’s interim executive director since January.

“Paul has been with FJA for almost three decades, during which time he served in just about every professional capacity at the association, including general counsel, deputy executive director, and most recently, interim executive director,” said FJA President Dale Swope of Tampa.

“Our mission, our principles, and our calling have not changed,” he added. “With Paul as FJA’s Executive Director, the modes by which we defend and enhance the civil justice system for the afflicted in our state are about to be more effective and powerful than they have been in the history of our organization.”

Jess received his undergraduate degree in social work from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

He served on active duty in the U.S. Navy as an intelligence officer. After that, he received a law degree with high honors from Florida State University College of Law in Tallahassee.

While with FJA, Jess continued to serve in the U.S. Naval Reserve as an intelligence officer, eventually serving three tours as Commanding Officer of various commands before retiring at the rank of Captain.

He has decades of experience lobbying the Florida Legislature and executive branch, has testified before legislative committees,  and drafted countless pieces of proposed and adopted legislation.

“I have always been committed to the philosophy, principles and mission of the Florida Justice Association, and I am honored and humbled by this opportunity,” said Jess, after a unanimous vote by the FJA Board of Directors to select him as executive director.

“We are dedicated to serving individuals and families. People who have been injured or damaged by wrongdoers, including corporations and insurance companies. We are about to begin a new era of greatness and I look forward to helping lead us into this new era.”

Spencer, Chris

Personnel note: Chris Spencer heads to GrayRobinson

Chris Spencer, longtime aide to Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes of St. Petersburg, is leaving the Legislature to become a lobbyist at the Tampa office of GrayRobinson, the law firm announced Monday.

“Spencer has nearly a decade of experience working with Florida’s legislative and executive branches,” a press release said. “Prior to joining GrayRobinson, he managed successful campaigns for multiple legislators, including Brandes and Sen. Dana Young,” a Tampa Republican.

“We are thrilled for Chris to join our Tampa office,” Tampa managing shareholder David L. Smith said. “He will be an asset to our Tampa-area clients in addition to supporting the Firm’s statewide lobbying practice.”

As chief legislative assistant to Brandes, he “directed all legislative priorities and focused on a wide range of policy and appropriations issues, including transportation, economic development, energy, insurance and financial regulation,” the release said.

Spencer, 29, also served as legislative assistant to state Rep. Clay Ingram, a Pensacola Republican.

“Chris comes to us with invaluable relationships inside the Capitol and around the state,” said GrayRobinson executive vice president and statewide chair of government affairs Dean Cannon, a former House Speaker. “His experience working with legislators, staff, campaign offices and grassroots organizations will be a great resource for our clients.”

Spencer will focus his lobbying efforts in policy and appropriations matters throughout the Tampa and Tallahassee markets. He received bachelor’s degrees in economics, political science and international affairs from Florida State University.

Beer, wine from vending machines? Fla. company says ‘yes’

A newly-formed Miami-Dade company is seeking an OK from state regulators to install what it calls “self-checkout micro marts” with beer and wine.

Or, as one regulated industries lobbyist privately put it, “Hey, booze from vending machines? What could go wrong?”

Nothing, the company suggests.

La Galere Markets of Coral Gables, which filed articles of incorporation with the state in August, submitted its request with the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco on Sept. 27, records show.

The company asked the agency for a declaratory statement that the machines would be legal under existing law and regulations.

Pennsylvania, for instance, in 2010 tried but ultimately pulled the plug on self-service “wine kiosks,” which verified age through a driver’s license scan and required customers to blow into a Breathalyzer. They were in some of that state’s supermarkets, where wine isn’t allowed to be sold.

And earlier this year, “American Green, a Phoenix-based medical-cannabis technology company, unveiled a prototype for a vending machine that uses biometric verification to sell controlled and age-restricted items,” USA Today reported.

“Besides (marijuana), it can dispense other items where positive identification is a purchasing prerequisite—pharmaceuticals, casino chips, alcoholic beverages or even guns.”

Here’s La Galere’s “unique business model”:

The company intends to place the micro marts “in residential condominium developments in several Florida locations,” the filing says. They would also sell food, including sandwiches and snacks, but the company does not have a liquor license.

Condo residents would have to go through “checkpoints” to get to the machines, including building security, and use their fingerprints to buy any alcoholic beverage.

Scanned prints would be in a “pre-approved” database. Moreover, the machines would be monitored at all times by surveillance cameras.

All that is to prevent minors’ access, the company says. To compare, the state now allows hotel mini-bars, “which have no employee supervision and generally lack anything other than superficial age verification,” the filing says.

La Galere’s president is listed as Rashid Siahpoosh, who couldn’t be reached Friday at his Miami office.

Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who sits on the Senate’s Regulated Industries committee, said he’d “be shocked if that’s legal.” The committee handles, among other things, alcohol-related legislation.

Brandes, informally known as a member of the Legislature’s “disruptive technology caucus,” has long championed shaking up the status quo, including supporting ride-booking services like Lyft and Uber, legalizing delivery drones, and allowing digital versions of state-issued licenses.

“Look, I’m open to considering all kinds of options, but (as a state) I don’t think that’s where we heading,” he said, referring to La Galere’s business idea.

Oscar Braynon II, the Senate Democratic Leader who also sits on the committee, laughed when told of the plan.

“I have never heard of that,” said Braynon, who’s from Miami Gardens. “There’s a smile on my face because I think that’s funny. But I don’t know if it would fly.

Braynon surmised getting ABT’s approval “would be a challenge,” he added. “But it might be a good idea … you know, go in, get your six-pack or whatever.”

But Susan Pitman, founder and executive director of Drug Free Duval, an alcohol and substance abuse prevention group, said “it doesn’t sound like a really good idea.”

“We know that whenever we increase access (to alcohol), we increase use,” she said. “I don’t want (condo residents) walking by the machine, thinking, ‘Some wine would be great right now.’

“I’m not freaking out about it, but as a society, do we have to be just a vending machine away from our booze?”

Enterprise Florida gives raises, ditches bonuses

Raises will be provided to 16 upper-level and mid-level employees of Enterprise Florida, as the state’s business-recruitment agency does away with a controversial bonus program.

The Enterprise Florida Executive Committee voted unanimously during a conference call Friday to approve a recommendation — supported by Gov. Rick Scott — to replace the bonus program.

The pay increases are seen by committee members as a way to maintain Enterprise Florida without causing an exodus of employees. The public-private agency has faced heavy scrutiny during the past year, with House leaders even seeking to eliminate it.

“No one is excited about taking away the bonuses, but it does make sense given the fact that the Legislature has expressed an interest in this,” committee member Holly Borgmann said.

The raises — retroactive to July 1 — range from $3,000 to $25,000 and will increase payroll by $118,000 for the year, under the plan outlined for the committee.

In August, several members of the executive committee expressed concern that withholding performance pay, when employees have done an “admirable job” in difficult times, could result in an exodus of experience.

“Certainly, none of us foresaw this path coming in the previous weeks and months,” committee Chairman Stan Connally, who is also president and CEO of Pensacola-based Gulf Power, said during the conference call Friday. “We want to be sure we’re fairly compensating this team.”

In a memo Thursday to the committee, Enterprise Florida President and CEO Pete Antonacci explained that while the bonus program has worked, it has also been a source of criticism.

“The bonus practice, typically across the board, has had the effect of smoothing over rough spots (under payment) while at once creating unwarranted expectation (over payment),” Antonacci said in the memo. “Under circumstances and for reasons known well to all, staff bonuses are an object of public derision and will not ever be well accepted.”

“Practically speaking,” Antonacci continued, “most Floridians having opinion about EFI at all, believe our employees are public servants in the broadest sense.”

Last October, Enterprise Florida handed out $448,662 in bonuses to 57 employees.

In 2015, with up to $765,000 in bonuses being offered, then-President Bill Johnson received $50,000, half of what he could have received, despite being on the job for just six months.

A year earlier, the Enterprise Florida board approved a $120,000 bonus to then-President Gray Swoope, surpassing a $100,000 cap, while also approving $765,000 in bonuses.

The bonus program, which officials promoted as coming from money pooled by private contributions rather than tax dollars, was tied to a series of recruitment and hiring objectives for each year.

The possibility of scuttling bonuses came after the House this year sought to eliminate Enterprise Florida and the tourism-marketing agency Visit Florida. The House’s efforts were ultimately blocked by the Senate and Scott.

The Legislature settled on cutting state money for Enterprise Florida’s daily operations from $23.5 million in 2016-2017 to $16 million for the budget year that began July 1.

Along with the revised funding, lawmakers also imposed new rules such as increasing financial-disclosure requirements and prohibiting the use of tax dollars for performance bonuses or severance pay unless authorized by law.

Also, any employee pay exceeding the governor’s authorized salary of $130,000 a year must be funded out of private contributions.

Antonacci said Friday the agency has sufficient resources to cover the raises.

Under the plan outlined for the committee Friday, the largest raise, $25,000, will go to Senior Vice President of Business Development Tim Vanderhoof.

Vanderhoof, who would see his annual salary grow to $155,000, will also take over marketing for the agency.

The second-largest raise, $13,000, will go to Heather Shubrig, who serves under Vanderhoof as vice president of business development. She currently is paid $80,000 a year.

Manny Mencia, the senior vice president of international trade and development, will get a $4,000 raise. Mencia, who oversees the agency’s trade missions, currently is paid $160,000 a year.

Comptroller Robert Schlotman will see a $10,000 increase in pay, to $130,000 a year, with a promotion to senior vice president.

Antonacci and Executive Vice President Mike Grissom — who served as interim president before Antonacci joined the agency in August — were not among those up for raises.

In August, Scott sent a letter to members of the boards of directors at Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida outlining his opposition to employee bonuses.

“Employees are the key to success in any organization,” Scott, who serves as chairman of Enterprise Florida board, said in the letter. “But, after a long legislative session where the spending at these organizations was greatly debated, I do not believe that employee compensation should include bonuses at this time.”

Instead, Scott advised the agencies to review employee pay “to ensure that everyone is being compensated fairly relying on salaries rather than bonuses.”

Visit Florida, which gave out $440,915 in bonuses to 119 employees in May, has announced it has ended the performance reward program.

Wilton Simpson’s committee raised $209K in September

Future Senate President Wilton Simpson brought in more than $200,000 through his political committee last month, and forked over half that sum to the committee supporting GOP candidates for state senate.

The Trilby Republican’s committee, Jobs for Florida, raised $209,500 in September, with a good chunk of that money coming in through a handful of large checks.

Heritage Property & Casualty Insurance gave $50,000, while the Florida Medical Association, Mosaic Global Sales and a political committee tied to former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, Growing Florida’s Future, chipped in $25,000 each. Florida Blue and the Florida Hospital Association also made the donor roll with $20,000 contributions.

The committee’s spending clocked in at $204,700 for September, but $100,000 of that money went directly into the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, chaired by Senate President Joe Negron and used to help Republican senate campaigns statewide.

Citizens Alliance for Florida’s Economy, chaired by uber political consultant Anthony Pedicini, got a $20,000 contribution from Simpson’s committee.

Also on the expense report were Capital Finance Consulting, which received $50,500 for fundraising and consulting work, and Meteoric Media Strategies, which was paid $22,500 for consulting.

With September in the books, Jobs for Florida has about $1.63 million in cash on hand. Simpson, who is almost certain to take over as Senate president in 2020, has another $280,000 on hand for his 2018 re-election bid.

Bill seeks priority for nursing home power restoration

A House Republican on Friday proposed a measure that seeks to ensure power restoration for nursing homes and hospitals is a priority after hurricanes and other emergencies.

The bill (HB 245), filed by Tampa Republican state Rep. Shawn Harrison, comes after the deaths of residents of a Broward County nursing home that lost its air-conditioning system Sept. 10 because of Hurricane Irma. Eight residents of The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills died Sept. 13, and four more died later after the sweltering facility was evacuated.

Harrison’s bill, which is filed for the 2018 legislative session, would require a state comprehensive emergency-management plan to include guidelines for restoring electrical service with “prioritization of critical end-use facilities,” including hospitals and nursing homes.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

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