Influence Archives - Page 6 of 350 - Florida Politics

Bill seeks payment for injured sunbather

After the proposal stalled during the 2017 legislative session, a Central Florida senator this week filed a bill that would direct payment of nearly $1.9 million to a woman who suffered severe injuries when she was hit by a Volusia County Beach Patrol truck.

Republican state Sen. David Simmons of Altamonte Springs filed the “claim” bill, which would lead to Volusia County paying $1.895 million to Erin Joynt. The bill (SB 38) would help carry out a $2 million judgment in a lawsuit filed by Joynt, a Kansas woman who was injured in July 2011.

A legal concept known as “sovereign immunity” typically shields government agencies from paying large amounts in such lawsuits. But the Legislature, through passage of claim bills, can direct agencies to make payments.

Joynt was hit by the truck while sunbathing on Daytona Beach. Simmons’ bill, which is filed for the legislative session that will start in January, said she suffered injuries such as cranial fractures, facial fractures and rib fractures.

A similar bill was approved by one Senate committee during the 2017 session but then stalled.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Dania casino shut out in gambling permit case

State gambling regulators this week shot down a request by a South Florida gambling permitholder who wanted sell the permit and allow the next operator to build on a new location in Broward County.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation on Monday said both sales of permits and any relocation of gambling—both time-consuming processes—have to be OK’d by the department’s Division of Pari-Mutuel Wagering, which regulates gambling in the state.

The decision further cements the state’s control over where and how gambling is offered, particularly after a permit is granted.

The department’s “final order” also is a win for the Seminole Tribe of Florida, which asked to intervene in the case.

The Seminoles, who operate the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, had said allowing gambling licenses to be moved within a county “would provide out-of-state companies (with) an incentive to (buy) a license, possibly resulting in increased business competition for the Tribe.”

Dania Entertainment Center, the company that owns The Casino @ Dania Beach, asked for a declaratory judgment on its “converted” summer jai alai permit.

Pari-mutuels, particularly in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, covet jai alai gaming permits because at a minimum they also allow a facility to open a cardroom and offer simulcast betting. The Casino @ Dania Beach also currently offers slots and electronic table games.

The company has a tentative deal with an unnamed buyer that wants to build a casino at a new location. The terms of the sale require the ability to set up shop elsewhere in the county. The casino is owned by a group of Argentine investors and South Florida’s Havenick family, which also runs the casino.

If the permit can’t be relocated, that limits its “marketability” and “will diminish the tax revenue and opportunity for mass local job creation that could be generated,” the original request said.

John Lockwood, the company’s Tallahassee-based attorney, said his client is considering an appeal to the 1st District Court of Appeal.

NRCC launches ad targeting Democrats over single-payer healthcare

National Republicans are targeting Democrats in several states over single-payer healthcare.

The National Republican Congressional Committee released a digital ad Thursday in eight states, including Florida, asking Democrats whether “they’ll support Nancy Pelosi’s vision for a European-style single-payer healthcare plan.”

“European-style single-payer healthcare is the new litmus test in the Democratic Party,” said Matt Gorman, the communications director for the NRCC. “Every day from today until Election Day, Democrats will be forced to answer whether they support this disastrous plan which raises trillions in taxes, controls all your healthcare decisions, and could even end Medicare Part D and the VA.”

The 60-second spot says a move to a single-payer plan would lead to “trillions in higher taxes, government control of your doctor, hospital and even prescriptions.”

“It could even abolish Medicare Part D and the VA,” a voice over says.

The digital ad is part of a six-figure ad buy that targets Democrats in California, New York, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Colorado, Minnesota, and Virginia, in addition to Florida.

DLCC designates SD 40 as ‘Spotlight Race,’ commits $150K to help Annette Taddeo

Annette Taddeo is officially in the spotlight.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee announced Thursday it had named the Senate District 40 race as a “Spotlight Race.” Jessica Post, the committee’s executive director, also announced the DLCC has committed $150,000 to Democrats’ efforts to carry the district in the September.

Taddeo will face Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in the Sept. 26 special election to replace former Sen. Frank Artiles, who resigned in April amid scandal, in Senate District 40. Taddeo defeated Ana Rivas Logan in the July 25 special primary, 71 percent to 29 percent.

“The Spotlight Races platform will highlight Annette to the national progressive community and help future supporters get to know her and her campaign,” said Post in a statement. “We will employ DLCC programs and lessons learned from our previous wins this year to ensure Annette’s campaign has a winning strategy in place, access to the best data, and an expansive field plan. DLCC is proud to stand with this community leader as she fights to protect Democratic values at the state level.”

Post said a Taddeo victory in September will bring Democrats “one step closer to taking back the chamber in 2018.”

Democrats see the Senate District 40 seat as a potential pick-up, but could face a tough road ahead. The Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee has committed its full support to Diaz, and the Republican State Leadership Committee has committed $100,000 to the race.

Ken Lawson to tourism industry: ‘I want to earn your trust’

VISIT FLORIDA CEO Ken Lawson is telling tourism industry leaders he “want(s) to earn (their) trust” in a Wednesday post on the public-private tourism marketing agency’s blog.

Ken Lawson

“As you know, I have been traveling the state, engaging with our partners, board members, legislators and other stakeholders to listen, learn, and offer VISIT FLORIDA’s support at every stop,” he wrote on “Sunshine Matters.”

“I want to earn your trust and learn from you first hand. This has been a hard year for all of us,” he added. “VISIT FLORIDA is your organization, one that each of our industry partners have built over the years. Its value cannot be underestimated.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran had aimed to gut the organization this Legislative Session from nearly $80 million in state funding to $25 million, even suing after it refused to reveal a secret deal with Miami rap superstar Pitbull to promote Florida tourism. Pitbull himself published a copy of the contract via Twitter, revealing he was promised a maximum of $1 million.

Corcoran, Gov. Rick Scott and Senate President Joe Negron later agreed to a deal that ensured $76 million in state funding with increased transparency measures on spending.

Scott moved Lawson from secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to head VISIT FLORIDA in January. The former Marine went hat in hand to lawmakers this session to ask for funding—a “hard and messy battle,” he called it.

Since then, Lawson has hit the road, going around the state to meet with stakeholders.

“It is now time to heal and come together,” he said Wednesday. “As part of this process, I am humbly reaching out to you to hear your story, learn about your challenges, and determine how VISIT FLORIDA can help with your future success.”

He shared stories of his latest visit to the Miami area, including meetings at Jungle Island and with the Vice Consul General of Germany.

Lawson also met with Democratic state Rep. David Richardson of Miami Beach and Senate Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon II of Miami Gardens. “They both expressed their continued support of VISIT FLORIDA’s mission, and I updated them on our new marketing plan and exciting opportunities on the horizon,” he wrote.

“As I plan other trips like this in the weeks and months to come, I look forward to engaging with as many of you as I possibly can to better understand the vital role each of you play in the continued success of our industry,” Lawson wrote.

Matt Spritz HD 89 Republican candidate

Matt Spritz crosses six-figure fundraising mark in HD 89 race

Republican House District 89 candidate Matt Spritz announced his campaign had brought in more than $100,000 since he filed for the seat in late June.

Spritz’s July campaign finance report isn’t available online yet, but he said in a Wednesday news release that 124 donors have contributed over $78,000 to his campaign since he filed on June 26. The Boca Raton Republican also touted $35,000 in money raised through his committee, “Invest in Florida,” over the same span.

Spritz kicked off his campaign with a $40,000 loan and raised an additional $5,300 during the last five days of June, so his July report will likely show $33,000 in contributions.

“I am very excited by the early support we have received,” Spritz said. “Though the primary is over a year away, we are working hard to make sure we have the resources to reach voters with our positive message of economic prosperity and principled conservatism. Our campaign will not be outworked.”

While the primary is indeed a year away, Spritz is not yet facing any Republican opposition for the GOP-friendly pocket in Palm Beach County, and announcements celebrating six-figure campaign hauls may be an attempt to keep it that way.

The Emory University and New York University Law School alumnus is one of two candidates running for the seat, which is currently held by term-limited Republican Rep. Bill Hager. His opponent, Democrat Ryan Rossi, filed back in May and had raised about $3,200 through the end of June.

District statistics from 2016 show about 3,000 more registered Republicans than Democrats, and Hager never had much of a problem holding the seat in the three elections since it was redrawn.

Hager won both his 2012 and 2014 re-election campaigns with 53 percent of the vote, while in 2016 his opponent failed to qualify for the ballot, leaving him unopposed for his final term.

Personnel note: Jonathan Kilman joins Hispanic Chamber board

Foley & Lardner lobbyist and partner Jonathan Kilman has been appointed to the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce‘s Board of Governors and the its newly-formed Strategy Committee, the group announced Wednesday.

“We did our homework and Jonathan is regarded as a widely respected and visionary leader who understands the intersection of business and policy in Florida,” said Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of the Chamber, in a statement. “FSHCC is proud to welcome Jonathan’s leadership.”

Kilman added: “The Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce has grown in its status and stature in Florida, representing the interests of hundreds of thousands of small, medium and large businesses throughout the state.

“Last session, the Hispanic chamber was instrumental in passing several high-profile issues such as ridesharing, and is poised to expand its influence upon the Florida policymaking landscape,” he said. “I’m proud to be a part of its continued success.”

Kilman, co-chair of the firm’s Florida Public Affairs Practice, was featured on the cover of INFLUENCE magazine’s Lobbying Avengers issue.

He also was behind some of Foley’s recent marquee hires, including former Department of Economic Opportunity head Jesse Panuccio (later tapped by President Donald Trump for a U.S. Department of Justice position), former Environmental Protection secretaries Jon Steverson and Herschel Vinyard, and former state CIO Jason Allison.

“Our strategy committee will be a driving force for the Hispanic chamber’s public education and advocacy efforts,” Fuentes said.  “We are currently one of the largest Hispanic chambers in the nation, but that doesn’t mean we are satisfied. Our appointment of Jonathan will ensure we will continue to grow and prosper on behalf our statewide membership.”

Email insights: Congressional Leadership Fund targets Debbie Mucarsel-Powell in CD 26

The Congressional Leadership Fund has wasted no time in lobbing its first attack after Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who announced this week she would challenge Republican Carlos Curbelo in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

The super PAC, which has the backing of the entire House Republican leadership, sent an email Wednesday saying Mucarsel-Powell is “slowly becoming a perennial candidate.”

“Despite having a war chest and strong establishment support throughout her campaign last year, including that of President Obama, South Florida strongly rejected her,” reads an email from Courtney Alexander, the press secretary for the Congressional Leadership Fund. “Mucarsel-Powell lost in a district where Hillary Clinton won by a whopping 10 points.”

Mucarsel-Powell ran against Republican Sen. Anitere Flores in 2016 in the newly drawn Senate District 39, which stretches from Miami to Key West. She was endorsed by then-President Barack Obama, and had the backing of other top Democrats. It wasn’t enough to get her to Tallahassee, though. Flores defeated Mucarsel-Powell, 54 percent to 46 percent.

The Congressional Leadership Fund email goes on to call Mucarsel-Powell a “soldier of the so-called extreme and at times violent ‘Resistance’ movement.” It also says she is the “handpicked candidate of Nancy Pelosi’s DCCC.”

“This makes sense, much like the DCCC, Mucarsel-Powell has no message, no strategy and no real reason to run – except to complain,” reads the email. “Not to be a Debbie downer, but voters rejected her and her campaign last year – and they’ll do it again in 2018.”

Curbelo, a second-term congressman, defeated former Rep. Joe Garcia 53 percent to 41 percent in 2016. However, his seat has been viewed as a possible Democratic pick-up in 2018.

State issues more medical marijuana licenses

Two more medical-marijuana businesses have joined seven already licensed by the state, and another three are in the works, as the potentially lucrative industry continues to develop.

The Florida Department of Health this week issued licenses to Tornello Landscape, also known as “3 Boys Farm,” and Plants of Ruskin, both based in Ruskin. Licenses for Jacksonville-based Loop’s Nursery and Greenhouses, Eustis-based Treadwell Nursery and Arcadia-based Sun Bulb Nurseries are in progress, according to department spokeswoman Mara Gambineri.

The new licenses are the result of a law approved by the Legislature during a June special session to carry out a constitutional amendment that legalized medical marijuana for a broad swath of patients with debilitating conditions. Voters overwhelmingly approved the constitutional amendment in November.

Florida lawmakers in 2014 legalized usage of non-euphoric cannabis, touching off legal and administrative battles as companies sought a limited number of licenses in five different regions of the state. The low-THC treatment approved in 2014 paved the way for the full-strength marijuana laws now on the books.

The law approved during the June special session required health officials to issue additional licenses – on top of the state’s seven current marijuana operators – and included criteria. Licenses would be issued to businesses whose applications were reviewed and scored by the Department of Health and who were denied licenses, or who had one or more administrative or judicial challenges pending as of January. The law also required health officials to issue licenses to applicants who had a ranking of within one point of the highest applicants in their regions.

The licenses issued Monday by health officials bring to nine the number of marijuana operators in the state, which could be home to as many as 500,000 patients under the constitutional amendment.

In addition to the two newly issued licenses and the three that are in progress, the new law gives health officials until Oct. 1 to issue five more licenses. The law includes a controversial element instructing health officials to give special preference for licenses to applicants that “own one or more facilities that are, or were, used for the canning, concentrating, or otherwise processing of citrus fruit or citrus molasses.”

Earlier this year, an administrative law judge recommended that 3 Boys Farm and Plants of Ruskin each be given licenses, after excoriating the state for relying on what Judge John Van Laningham found was a faulty system to determine which applicants should be selected.

Van Laningham in May called for the state to issue licenses to both nurseries, which had challenged health officials’ decisions regarding an initial five medical marijuana licenses granted nearly two years ago.

3 Boys Farm already produces organic herbs, vegetables and fruit, company president Robert Tornello said in a news release after receiving the state’s approval to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana.

“This organic product is not available from other producers,” Tornello said. “Our team members’ experience and credentials, coupled with their deep knowledge of, and passion for, cannabinoid science, will bring the proven medical benefits of this wonderful plant to those who need it most.”

Loop’s, meanwhile, lost an administrative challenge last year, after Administrative Law Judge Bruce McKibben found that the Jacksonville grower failed to prove its application was superior to its competitors in the Northeast Florida region.

Loop’s had been considered a front-runner in the contest for a license, and part of the Jacksonville nursery’s case hinged on the grower’s exclusive relationship with CWB Holdings, headed by Joel Stanley.

The Colorado-based company owns the rights to “Charlotte’s Web,” a substance whose name has become synonymous with the low-THC, high-CBD treatments believed to eliminate or drastically reduce life-threatening seizures in children with severe epilepsy.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

Personnel note: Chester Spellman tapped to lead AmeriCorps

Chester Spellman, the long-time chief executive officer of Volunteer Florida, has appointed by the White House to serve as the director of AmeriCorps for the Corporation for National and Community Service.

“I believe there is no greater calling than the calling to serve,” said Spellman. “I am deeply honored to be appointed by the White House and thrilled for the opportunity to lead AmeriCorps at the national level. National and community service changes lives every day, and I look forward to working with the team at the Corporation for National and Community Service to strengthen communities across the U.S.”

Gov. Rick Scott named Spellman the head of Volunteer Florida in April 2012. Since then, he has overseen more than $32 million annually in federal, state and local funds supporting AmeriCorps and statewide volunteer programs to meet critical needs in Florida communities.

Spellman also led statewide coordination of volunteers and donations before, during and after disasters in partnership with the Florida Division of Emergency Management.

Prior to joining Volunteer Florida, Spellman worked for Scott as the director of appointments in the Executive Office of the Governor. He also has more than 15 years of experience working in nonprofits, including several faith-based organizations.

“Florida is proud to be the home of many great volunteers who dedicate their time to helping others,” said Scott. “I appreciate Chester’s leadership at Volunteer Florida and wish him the best of luck as he continues to build on his commitment to serving families and communities.”

His last at Volunteer Florida is Aug. 25.

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