Orlando Archives - Florida Politics

Report: After Pulse massacre, police training needs changes

As a law enforcement foundation reviews how the Orlando Police Department responded to a 2016 mass shooting at a gay nightclub, the organization’s staffers say in a paper that police training and protocols may need to change.

They suggest that regular patrol officers should be trained in how to respond to a terrorist attack or a hostage situation. The paper was published earlier this month by three staffers of the Police Foundation in the CTC Sentinel, a publication of the Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point.

Both situations usually are handled by highly-trained SWAT team members, but the paper says patrol officers are usually the first to get to a scene.

“Routine patrol work places officers in neighborhoods where terrorists hide, plan, and attack, giving them the opportunity to gather critical intelligence as well as to identify potential threats,” the paper says.

The foundation is reviewing the Orlando police response, but it hasn’t yet issued a report. The paper is separate from the group’s review.

The paper uses the nightclub massacre, as well as an attack in San Bernardino, California, as examples.

The paper acknowledged some second-guessing in the media about why Orlando police officers didn’t take out gunman Omar Mateen sooner in the Pulse nightclub mass shooting on June 12, 2016. Forty-nine people were killed and dozens more were injured in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Mateen was killed in a shootout with officers after a three-hour standoff.

“It should be stressed, however, that the police responding to the attack followed protocols and best practice for hostage situations,” said the paper, noting that people can debate about whether those protocols need to change.

In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Orlando Police Department said the agency’s policies and procedures are constantly being updated. The statement also said the agency would adjust its policies and training as needed once the foundation’s review was finished.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Dates set for special election to replace Eric Eisnaugle in House

The special election to replace Eric Eisnaugle in the Florida House will take place on Oct. 10, following a special primary election on Aug. 15.

Gov. Rick Scott set the schedule in an executive order Friday, as Eisnaugle’s resignation from his District 44 seat took effect.

Scott selected Eisnaugle on May 8 to replace former Judge C. Alan Lawson on the 5th District Court of Appeal. Lawson now sits on the Florida Supreme Court.

Eisnaugle, 40, of Windermere, has represented western Orange County district since 2014 but dropped his 2018 re-election bid in February.

The special session was expected to draw at least five candidates: Republicans Dr. Usha JainJohn NewstreetBobby Olszewski, and Bruno Portigliatti; and Democrat Paul Chandler.

Rene Plasencia appointed to Southern Regional Education Board

State Rep. Rene Plasencia, a former public school teacher, was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott as one of the state’s board members on the Southern Regional Education Board, a 16-state compact.

“I am a firm believer we need to start reducing some of the high-stakes testing that we offer,” Plasencia told POLITICO Florida. “I want to make sure they are hearing from a conservative voice who believes we’ve probably gone a little too far” in implementing accountability.

Through the board, each state receives core services funded by annual appropriations. States also benefit from targeted programs funded by grants from foundations and agencies. In addition, states, districts or schools may opt to contract for additional services or participate in networks with annual fees.

Plasencia, a Republican representing the Orlando-based House District 50, also is a district relations manager with Florida Virtual School. He sits on the House Education Committee.

He replaces former state Sen. Nancy Detert of Venice on the SREB. His term starts immediately and runs through June 30, 2018.

Shhhh! Stephanie Murphy seeks to stop presidential leaks to enemies

Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy wants to make sure that if a president or any other high official in the administration casually passes along classified intelligence to a country the United States is not happy with, he’ll have to tell Congress about it.

Murphy, from Winter Park, announced Wednesday afternoon she has introduced the Prevention Oversight of Intelligence Sharing with Enemies Act.

It would require the president to promptly notify the House and Senate Intelligence Committees if someone in the administration “intentionally or inadvertently discloses Top Secret information to government officials of nations that sponsor terrorism or, like Russia, are subject to U.S. economic sanctions.”

The bill and a press release announcing it make no specific mention of reports of President Donald Trump seemingly casually shared ISIS intelligence with Russian officials during a meeting earlier this month.

Yet Murphy, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and who has intelligence analysis background as a former U.S. Department of Defense analyst, made her ire clear.

“As a former national security specialist in the Pentagon, I’ve seen the damage our adversaries can inflict when they gain access to our classified information,” she stated in a news release. “When U.S. intelligence falls into the wrong hands, it puts our service members, intelligence operatives, and diplomats at risk and undermines our national security interests around the world.

“Additionally, our allies are unlikely to share highly-sensitive intelligence if they lose confidence in our ability to protect such information,” she continued. “My bill will enable Congress to assess any damage, conduct appropriate oversight, and keep our country safe whenever classified information is intentionally or inadvertently disclosed.”

It’s not the first time Murphy has introduced a bill taking a swipe at Trump’s national security and intelligence handling, nor is it the first time the freshman congresswoman has taken on those issues outside of trump.

Earlier she introduced the Protect the National Security Council from Political Interference Act, gained 183 cosponsors and helped generated a groundswell of public support for Steve Bannon’s removal from the National Security Council.

She also introduced a bill to create an inter-agency unit to oversee intelligence about North Korea, and another that would create a defense commission to deal with security and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

Opioids epidemic crisis blamed on careless doctors, unsupervised children

The crisis of heroin and other opioids that is pounding Orlando, every part of Florida and every part of America might not be any easier to solve than it is to blame, as panelists from Orange County’s Heroin Task Force blamed doctors, middle schoolers and dealers.

It’s a crisis that is causing three to five overdoses a day in Orange County, and killing 100 people a day nationwide, surpassing gunshot wounds and car crashes for the first time in history, the panelists said.

For timeshare mogul David Siegel it’s a personal crisis, as he and his wife Jackie lost their 18-year-old daughter Victoria to a heroin overdose in 2015. Orange County Health and Public Safety Director Dr. George Ralls, its a broad crisis touching every neighborhood, straining treatment assets, and crying out for innovative efforts. For Orlando Health ER doctor and medical toxicologist Josef Thundiyil, its a day-to-day crisis, as he sees overdose victims parade through the emergency room. And for Orange County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Carlos Espinosa, commander of the narcotics unit, its a crisis of supply, where heroin is “very easy” to get, he said.

The quartet of members of the Orange County Heroin Task Force that was set up two years ago by Mayor Teresa Jacobs spoke before the Tiger Bay Club of Central Flordia Tuesday, with Sheriff Jerry Demings as co-chair. The panelists agreed on the magnitude of the crisis, but not entirely on the necessary responses.

Siegel, the Westgate Resorts president who has become a nationally-outspoken critic of all illegal drugs including marijuana since his daughter died, pushed his call to random drug test middle-school students in public schools, saying too many heroin addicts like his daughter started out smoking marijuana a few years earlier and then stepped the stones.

“Since our children are starting to experiment with marijuana when they are 14, 15, it only makes sense to stop them then, before they go further. Every heroin addict didn’t start with heroin. They started with marijuana,” Siegel said.

“This new marijuana law is the beginning to the end,” he said. “The fear of getting caught is the best deterrent. Peer pressure…. ‘My school is testing. My parents are testing. I’m afraid I’ll get caught,'” Siegel said

But moments before Siegel made his appeal, Thundiyil made the case for why so many older heroin addicts are showing up, and dying, and it’s not because they smoked pot as kids.

“It’s a sad story how we got here. It started many times with well-intentioned physicians trying to mediate pain and suffering. If you talk to heroin addicts now, about three-fourths say they got their start through prescription drugs,” Thundiyil said. “Reversing that trend and educating physicians, educating citizens, that even as little as three days of narcotics, oral, prescribed, medical narcotics, is enough to start addition and create drug-seeking behavior.

“Drug-seeking behavior is the tendency to then go looking for more drugs. If you can’t find it in the medical system, the place you might go next is to look for heroin,” he added.

“My focus for the last two years has been to end the drug epidemic. Not to build timeshares, not to sell real estate, but to save lives,” Siegel said.

“From a law enforcement point of view, I can tell you we’re attacking the supply side of this. The demand side, that’s another animal,” Espinosa said.

“It’s a problem that has affected the entire county…. It used to be that we had pockets of Orange County that weren’t affected by this stuff. Heroin affects the entire county, all sectors, including our tourist areas,” he added.

Eric Eisnaugle makes House departure official

Call him former state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle now.

The Republican from Windermere announced his resignation would come on the last day of Florida’s Legislative Session to accept an appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals, but delayed the actual departure until late last week.

With his now official resignation — spelled out in a letter last Thursday to Speaker Richard Corcoran — Eisnaugle officially opens the way for the Florida Division of Elections and Rick Scott to set dates for special elections in Florida’s House District 44, covering western Orange County.

Already that race has drawn five candidates: Republicans Dr. Usha Jain, John Newstreet, Bobby Olszewski, and Bruno Portigliatti; and Democrat Paul Chandler.

Eisnaugle asked Corcoran to leave the district office open so that the staff may continue to serve the district.

Fourth Republican, Bruno Portigliatti, enters HD 44 race

Republican businessman Bruno Portigliatti announced his candidacy for what will be a special election this summer for House District 44 in the Orlando area.

Portigliatti, 29, of Orlando, is chief executive officer of Excellence Senior Living, a developer of luxury assisted living facilities for seniors, and executive vice president of Florida Christian University, a global online university. He also helps manage real estate enterprises for his family’s Portigliatti Group LLC.

He’ll be running on a platform topped by his passions for reducing regulation and red tape for businesses, creating businesses, and fostering education.

He enters a race that already features Republicans Bobby Olszewski of Winter Garden, John Newstreet of Orlando and Dr. Usha Jain of Orlando. The Democrats are running Paul Chandler of Orlando.

“As an entrepreneur and CEO of a small business, I know what it’s like to face tough decisions and make payroll,” Portigliatti stated in a news release. “Central Florida can’t afford politics that simply show up – we need a fresh face, a new voice with real world business experience and true understanding of our community.”

He is a rookie candidate but said he has contributed and assisted in other campaigns.

“I know it’s going to be a very spirited campaign, a very spirited race,” he said. “But I strongly believe that out of all the options I feel I will be the strongest voice in Tallahassee. I will bring a fresh face, a new voice, with real-world business experience that the others don’t have.”

A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, Portigliatti has been a Central Florida resident since 1999. He graduated froM Dr. Phillips High School, received a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida, a law degree from the Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, and a master of business administration degree from Florida Christian University in Orlando

He was recently married, and he and his wife Stephanie are both active members of the First Baptist Church of Orlando. He’s also a board member of the Dr. Phillips YMCA, Chairman of the City of Orlando Minority & Women Business Enterprise Certification Board, and a member of the Rotary Club of Dr. Phillips. He’s also president of New Beginnings Global Outreach, a non-profit charitable organization, and manages several of his families real estate properties and developments.

Scott Boyd declines HD 44 race, backs John Newstreet

The special election race for Florida’s House District 44 became clearer Friday morning when former Orange County Commissioner Scott Boyd said he has decided to not run and will back Republican John Newstreet instead.

“Solid guy, absolutely the best qualified individual for this position,” Boyd declared of Newstreet in a message to Orlando-Politics.com.

Newstreet, the chief executive officer of the Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, entered the race Thursday, challenging former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski for the Republican nomination.

The race also has a long-shot Republican, Dr. Usha Jain, and Democrat Paul Chandler, an Orlando businessman. The western Orange County district is considered fairly safe for Republicans, especially if there is a low-turnout special election. And it could give the winner a legs-up as a candidate for Florida House Speaker.

The seat is open because Republican state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving take a judicial appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals. A special election primary and general election are yet to be set.

Boyd, whose confirmed earlier this month that he was contemplating a run in HD 44 himself. His county commission seat, which he won for two terms before being term-limtied out, covered much of the same territory.

On Friday he wrote, “I’m out; 150 percent behind Newstreet.”

Bobby Olszewski fundraisers set for Orlando, Miami in HD 44 race

Republican House District 44 candidate Bobby Olszewski is rolling out his endorsement backers for two major fundraisers late this month as he gears up for what will be a big special election primary battle in Orange County.

One fundraiser, set for the Shutts and Bowen law firm in Orlando on May 30, features the trio of honorary hosts U.S. Rep. Dan Webster, former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and former Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

It also features 30 other hosts who cover a who’s-who of local politics in west Orange County, where HD 44 is located.

The other fundraiser is set for the next night at SMGQ Law Firm in Coral Gables.

The HD 44 race has not been scheduled for a special election yet, but it will be, because incumbent state Rep. Eric Eisnaugle who is leaving for an appeals court judicial appointment to Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeals,

And earlier this week the HD 44 Republican primary contest, seen by Republicans as an important seat with a strong track to a speaker’s job, became a battle, with the entry of Kissimmee chamber CEO John Newstreet.

Olszewski has spent the past couple of months lining up endorsements, and he’ll be rolling out those people at his Orland fundraiser.

Among dozens of other hosts listed are Winter Park Mayor Ken Bradley, Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn, Belle Isle Mayor Bill Brooks, Orange County School Board Members Joie Cadle, Christine Moore, and Linda Kobert, former Orange County Clerk of Courts Eddie Fernandez, Ocoee Mayor Rusty Johnson, Apopka Mayor Joe Kilsheimer, Orlando Commissioner Tony Ortiz, Lake County Commissioner Sean Parks, and Winter Garden Mayor John Rees.

Susie Plakon honored for role in passing HB 883 for memory disorder clinic

Susie Plakon, wife of state Rep. Scott Plakon, was honored Thursday for inspiring HB 883 for the creation of a memory disorder clinic at Florida Hospital – a victory for a woman who is herself battling Alzheimer’s Disease.

The Florida-based hospital unveiled a  plaque Thursday declaring, “Florida Hospital proudly honors Susie Plakon for her courage and inspiration to help pass HB 883. The Maturing Minds Clinic was created to address the growing need for care of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia.”

“That was a really nice moment this morning,” said Scott Plakon, a Republican from Altamonte Springs.

Scott Plakon, a Republican from Altamonte Springs, publicly announced last summer that his wife of 32 years was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

HB 883, which establishes the 16th memory disorder clinic in Florida, was approved 119 to 0 in the Florida House and 35 to 0 in the Florida Senate. Plakon and Republican state Rep. Mike Miller of Winter Park sponsored it, and it had a list of bipartisan cosponsors, including Republican state Reps. Bob Cortes of Altamonte Spring and Larry Metz of Yalhala, and Democratic state Reps. Amy Mercado of Orlando and Matt Willhite of Wellington. Republican State Sen. David Simmons of Longwood sponsored a Senate version.

Plakon spoke of his wife being an inspiration to his colleagues.

“Even though her words are becoming fewer, her voice is still being heard,” Scott Plakon said.

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