Maverick PAC, the “premier conservative young professionals network,” has selected Steph Smith for inclusion in its “Future 40” Class of 2017.
Smith is currently Manager of Florida Public Policy at Uber. Prior to joining Uber, she was Public Affairs Director for AT&T Florida & Georgia.
“The Future 40 is our opportunity to recognize young professionals across the country that best represent the next generation of leadership in the public or private sector,” the group said in a press release.
Other “Future 40” Floridians include Vance Aloupis, the CEO of the Children’s Movement of Florida who is running for the seat being vacated next year by term-limited Miami Republican state Rep. Mike Bileca.
Also on the list: Kevin Hernandez, a James Madison Institute fellow who works for the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Keith Fernandez, previously a SaintPetersblog “30 Under 30” rising star in Florida politics.
“Maverick PAC has a proven track record of driving young professionals to the political process through fundraising and events,” according to its website.
“We provide young professionals with access to elected officials, national thought leaders and high profile CEO’s through low dollar events,” it says. “For most young professionals, a Maverick PAC contribution is their first political donation, and our opportunity to get engaged. Maverick PAC then recruits many event attendees into our network, building out an organization of the best and brightest of the next generation.”
Maverick PAC was founded by a group of young bundlers in Texas in 2004. The founders include U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. It went national when George P. Bush became chairman in 2009 and served until his election as Texas Land Commissioner. The organization has grown to 35 chapters across the country.
Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing laws are working as planned, putting thousands of people behind bars for an extended period in the wake of the state’s devastating opioid epidemic.
While these measures aim to be tough on crime, they also come with a host of unintended consequences, including prison overcrowding, high costs and disproportionate punishment that often ruins the lives of nonviolent offenders battling drug addiction.
Consider Kenneth Miller, serving 12 years at Lawtey Correctional Institute, to be followed by 10 years’ probation as part of a negotiated plea agreement for “Trafficking of a Controlled Substance — Hydro-morphine.”
In a letter to Jason Pye, public policy director of the libertarian advocacy group Freedom Works, Miller, now 42, described his struggle with addiction after a diagnosis of traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder from a near fatal car crash when he was 12 years old.
“The truth of my situation,” Miller writes, “is that I am an addict who got caught up in a large-scale, Osceola County, Florida drug task force effort to thwart the pill epidemic in Central Florida.”
Miller’s crime was possession of more than 100 Dilaudid pills, a potent opioid pain medication used to treat moderate to severe pain.
“I need some help. Real help,” Miller says. “I feel I am a casualty of the culture that seeks to punish addicts, rather than to pursue treatment.”
Miller is among thousands of prisoners and loved ones who are all-too-familiar with the consequences of overly harsh mandatory prison sentences, an issue which advocates say is the downside of a one-size-fits-all approach to punishment, especially in relation to drug-related crimes.
While some consider them criminals, many others take a more compassionate view — seeing these people as victims Florida’s mandatory minimum laws, which helped contribute to a 300 percent increase in U.S. corrections spending over the past two decades. While mandatory minimum laws were initially crafted for capturing key players in the drug wars, such rules frequently ensnare low-level offenders, many without the resources or information to use as leverage for a reduced sentence.
In Florida, a state with the most severe drug laws in the country, there is growing support for mandatory drug sentencing reforms, despite pushback from law enforcement around the state.
Oxycodone and hydrocodone are the easiest targets for abuse, as legal opioid painkillers when prescribed by medical professionals. However, they are also highly addictive, and when obtained illegally, are considered in the same category as heroin under Florida law.
And when illegal possession rises above certain weight thresholds — as in the case of Kenneth Miller — it automatically becomes a first-degree felony subject to mandatory minimum prison terms.
For example, the prison term for “selling or possession” between seven and 14 grams of oxycodone — about 100 pills of a typical dose — is three years in prison and $50,000 fine. When the quantity reaches 14 to 24 grams, the mandatory term jumps to seven years and $100,000 fine.
At 25 to 100 grams, the penalty rises to a 15-year term and $500,000 fine; for 200 grams and up, offenders get a guaranteed 25-year term and $750,000 fine — the same punishment as sexual battery on a minor under the age of 12.
Hydrocodone pills, which are often larger, have a lower threshold for mandatory sentencing. Only available in a pill form, hydrocodone combines the controlled substance with acetaminophen, making the pills heavier. Subsequently, fewer pills are needed to meet the threshold. Seven pills of 10-milligram hydrocodone in large pills (containing 325 to 750 milligrams of acetaminophen) can reach the 4 grams for a minimum three-year mandatory prison sentence.
According to a recent report by Florida’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government, more than eight in 10 offenders incarcerated for “drug trafficking” have no previous conviction for violent crime; 81 percent had no prior dealing or trafficking convictions; 74 percent have never been to prison.
At the same time, 65 percent of those imprisoned for drug-related offenses are, like Miller, dealing with substance-abuse issues. Just under two-thirds of them pose no risk of recidivism.
“I’m willing to invest in my future,” Miller pleads in his letter, “and learn best how to give back to community service and addiction counseling. Any and all ideas or assistance you might have to help me to pursue these potential remedies is greatly appreciated.”
Miller’s story — as well as the growing number of inmates in similar circumstances — highlight the need for a renewed focus on mandatory minimum drug sentencing reform, as well as supporting innovative re-entry, substance abuse and mental health services.
Several behavioral health care programs, like Bridges of America, The Transition Houseand Stuart Marchman, which feature “therapeutic communities,” are increasingly at the forefront of the compassionate treatment movement for drug addiction, employment services and the like, all critical to the success of ex-offenders.
Democrats “Better Deal” receives ho-hum response from Delegation
President Donald Trump has been in office for six months. With all the tweets, nonstop coverage of “Russian collusion,” and a fractured GOP, it would seem logical that Democrats would be in a strong position going into next year’s midterm elections.
Polls and money say otherwise. Congressional Democrats’ strategy of “resist” and “delay” is not paying off according to the ABC News/Washington Post poll. Released last week, the poll showed 37 percent of Americans believe the Democratic Party “currently stands for something,” while 52 percent believe that it “just stands against Trump.”
In the money race, the Republican National Committee (RNC) already has $44.7 million cash on hand with no debt, while the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has $7.5 million while carrying $3.5 million of debt.
As a way to demonstrate they stand for the middle class, national Democrats looked to re-brand themselves with a new slogan called “A Better Deal.” Instead of simply being the anti-Trump party, they are seeking to reclaim some of the working-class voters they lost in the previous election.
The response from Florida Democrats has been underwhelming. Only one of the delegation’s Democrats, Lois Frankel of West Palm Beach, has a strong statement of support on her website.
“Too many families are struggling, feeling they have been left behind in a system that’s rigged against them,” said Frankel. “The American people deserve a better deal that offers a brighter, more secure economic future.”
Without mentioning the new slogan, Kathy Castor of Tampa tweeted “Democrats in Congress are focused on better jobs and wages for Americans.” Al Lawson of Tallahassee tweeted thefact sheet provided by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Eugene Robinson, the progressive columnist from The Washington Post said the slogan is “not terribly bold,” while MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, the former Republican from Pensacola, called it “bland,” “vanilla,” and “terrible.”
Republicans, predictably, mocked the new brand.
“After losing to Republicans at the ballot box year-after-year, this is the best they have to offer?” said RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel. “Today’s recycled Democrat talking points do nothing to change the fact that the far-left has taken hold of the Party and continues to push a message of resistance and obstruction.”
Over the coming weeks and months, will the party focus on jobs, health care and wages instead of Russia? Will the media let them?
In the era of Trump, no one knows for sure.
Meanwhile, here are this week’s insights from the Beltway to the Sunshine State.
Few delegation members weigh in on health care vote
The Senate’s vote to begin debate on the Republican health care legislation captured the media’s attention, if not the rest of the country, on Tuesday. With Sen. John McCain returning to cast a vital procedural vote, the debate moved forward.
Understanding the vote was to begin debate, the delegation was not uniformly outspoken following the outcome, which was not decided until Vice President MikePence cast the decisive 51st vote.
“This senator never thought that on the issue of the vote that we would see a vote to advance a bill that to so many feel like it is going to harm so many of our fellow Americans,” said Florida Democrat Bill Nelson on the Senate floor. “Obviously, we can disagree on specifics, but we have seen that particular expression of opinion of harm, we’ve seen that expressed over and over and over.”
Florida’s junior senator, Republican Marco Rubio, did not speak on the floor and did not issue a statement.
Weston Democrat Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement “this repeal attempt is cruel at its core and I will oppose it every chance I get.” She went on to say “it is time for Republicans to put an end to this destructive effort and work with us to update and improve the Affordable Care Act.”
Winter Park Democrat Stephanie Murphy was one of 88 House Democrats who signed a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan urging a bipartisan repair of the Affordable Care Act.
“We strongly support the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and oppose any effort to repeal it,” they wrote. “We are ready to work with you in a bipartisan manner to stabilize and improve the individual market.”
The issue crept into the race for Florida governor with former Congresswoman Gwen Graham of Tallahassee launching a salvo toward Washington.
“Senate Republicans’ new repeal shell bill is a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will result in drastic cuts to Florida’s seniors on Medicaid, higher costs for working families and less coverage for millions of Americans,” Graham said in a statement. “It is heartless politics at its worst.”
Miami Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the mother of a transgender son, also took to Twitter, but in full opposition to the new policy.
“No American, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity, should be prohibited from honor + privilege of serving our nation #LGBT,” she tweeted. She pinned the tweet to the top of her Twitter page.
“President Trump’s mean-spirited decision to exclude qualified and dedicated Americans from our military has no legitimate justification,” said Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch in a statement. “In the face of our Commander In Chief’s bigoted tweets, I’m standing proudly with the LGBT community and am committed to fighting his shameful, harmful policy.”
Republican Senators calling out the president included Arizona’s John McCain, Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Alabama’s Richard Shelby and Utah’s Orrin Hatch.
Among the few willing to speak out in support of Trump’s action was Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.
“I applaud President Trump for keeping his promise to return to military priorities — and not continue the social experimentation of the Obama era that has crippled our nation’s military,” Perkins said.
Iowa GOP Congressman Steve King also added: “we don’t need to be experimenting with the military.”
Changes in paid leave for federal workers expand some, narrow others
Changes in the rules for paid leave for federal workers would clarify — and narrow in some cases — when agencies grant paid time off without reducing available vacation time or other paid leave.
The Washington Post explains that “administrative leave” has been mostly informal, and varied among agencies. Some policies kept employees away from work — still paid, though — for extended periods as they consider taking disciplinary actions or during appeals.
Changes are part of a 2016 law ending the practice, creating new forms of leave — clarifying the practice of “investigative leave” while discipline is being considered and “notice leave” after discipline is ordered but before taking effect.
New rules show how agencies can keep employees in paid status while not at work, as well as specify the length of time. The law also creates a “weather and safety leave” for severe weather or similar conditions, as well as outlining other administrative leave, such participating in agency-sponsored volunteer events or blood drives.
Rubio urges sanctions on Venezuela
Ahead of a July 30 vote in Venezuela to rewrite that country’s constitution, Sen. Marco Rubio is calling for sanctions on the Marxist regime headed by Nicolas Maduro. In a letter to President Trump co-authored by New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, Rubio already calls the upcoming vote “fraudulent.”
“As the economic and political conditions in Venezuela continue to deteriorate and generate a humanitarian crisis, the Maduro regime has responded with repression and brutality,” the senators wrote. “We believe that the time has come to impose additional sanctions against those individuals who have led Venezuela into the abyss.”
The letter identified ten individuals “deserving of sanctions,” including a Brigadier General and the director of the national police.
“Sadly, there is no shortage of individuals deserving of sanctions,” they wrote. “We intend to provide you with additional names in the days to come.”
“Your leadership will send a clear message to those who violate fundamental freedoms, and may also discourage others acting on behalf of the Maduro regime to continue the systemic repression and violation of human rights,” the senators wrote.
On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed legislation imposing sanctions on three of the biggest headaches facing the U.S.: Russia, Iran and North Korea. By a vote of 419-3, the House passed the Countering Adversarial Nations Through Sanctions Act designed to “counter aggression” by the governments of those three countries.
Within the delegation, both Democrats and Republicans expressed strong approval for the bill’s passage, but with a different focus on what the bill contained.
Jacksonville Republican John Rutherford exemplified the reaction from several Republicans. Rutherford praised passage of the bill through a release titled “Rutherford Votes to Sanction North Korea, Russia, and Iran.”
“From North Korea’s nuclear ambitions to Russia’s illegal activities in Ukraine and attempts to interfere in our and other democratic elections, to Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, we must use every tool at our disposal to hold these regimes accountable for their actions,” said Rutherford.
Boca Raton Democrat Ted Deutch represented Democratic reaction in support of the bill’s passage. The headline of his release read “Rep. Deutch Applauds House Passage of Russia Sanctions Bill.”
“We cannot allow a direct attack on our democracy to go unpunished,” Deutch said. “Months after every one of our intelligence agencies confirmed that Russia interfered in our elections, the House has finally responded by passing sanctions against those culpable.”
The House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by the Panama City Republican designed to assist veteran-owned businesses. The Ensuring Veteran Enterprise Participation in Strategic Sourcing Act requires the Veterans Affairs (VA) work within the federal government to ensure veteran-owned enterprises are given preference in government contracts.
“We will forever be in debt to our nation’s heroes, which is why we should be doing all we can to ensure they are taken care of when they come home, ” Dunn said in a statement. “We need to hold the VA accountable to the veterans it serve, and this legislation does just that.”
Dunn worked with California Democrat Jimmy Panetta on the bipartisan bill. Before the vote, Dunn urged his colleagues to support the measure.
“Over 10 years ago, Congress gave veteran — and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses — the highest preference to compete for VA contracts,”Dunn said on the House floor. “Last year, the Supreme Court ruled in the Kingdomware case that this preference applies in all situations, even when the VA uses contracts awarded by other agencies. It is the right thing to do, and I urge all members to support it.”
Murphy, who called small businesses the backbone of the nation’s economy, said the bill would help jump-start new businesses and create jobs in Central Florida by connecting more entrepreneurs to the capital they need to start and grow their enterprises.
“As a former businesswoman, I know that access to capital is the greatest challenge facing new and growing businesses. That’s why I’m proud my Microloan bill passed the House with bipartisan support,” said the Winter Park Democrat, who serves on the House Small Business Committee along with fellow Democrat Al Lawson of Tallahassee. “Obtaining a loan can mean the difference between a small business starting up and succeeding or struggling and shuttering.
Under the Microloan program, SBA makes loans to nonprofit organizations known as intermediaries, who make short-term loans to small businesses and nonprofit child care centers. Murphy’s bill would increase the total amount an intermediary can borrow from SBA from $5 million to $6 million, giving small businesses and entrepreneurs greater access to microloans.
The bill was the first legislation written by Murphy, who was sworn into office 6 months ago. Among the 11 bipartisan co-sponsors was Orlando Democrat Darren Soto.
Soto announces grants for Central Florida airports
Two Central Florida airports will get an assist from the federal government.
Rep. Soto announced two regional airports — Kissimmee Gateway Airport and Bartow Municipal Airport — will receive $2.7 million in grants from the Department of Transportation for improvements. The money will be used to carry out improvements to meet federal design standards.
“I am happy to announce that the Kissimmee Gateway Airport and the Bartow Municipal Airport have received $2.7 million in federal grants for critical enhancements to the airports’ infrastructure,” the Orlando Democrat said in a statement. “The funds will upgrade the airports’ infrastructure, making it safer for the millions of visitors to central Florida.”
The money will be used for improvements to runway guard lighting, runway paving and drainage. The upgrades are part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA)Runway Incursion Mitigation program.
Bilirakis introduces ‘Pups for Patriots’ legislation
Rep. Gus Bilirakis is taking steps to make sure veterans get the help they need, even if that comes in the form of a four-legged friend.
The Palm Harbor Republican recently introduced legislation — dubbed the Pups for Patriots Act — that promotes the use of service dogs for veterans by establishing new VA pilot program that works with nonprofit service dog organizations.
“The benefits of service dog therapy can in some ways go beyond anything that comes in a pill bottle,” said Bilirakis, the vice chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, in a statement. “Many of us have known the unconditional love dogs bring us in our lives. This bond can do wonders to help our nation’s heroes as they deal with their invisible wounds.”
Bilirakis said the legislation would help support dog therapy as an alternative treatment “by connecting the VA to the many qualified nonprofits nationwide who train and provide service dogs.”
Bilirakis isn’t the only lawmaker pushing for legislation to allow pups to be used to help veterans. Nebraska Republican Sen. Deb Fischer and New Jersey Democrat Sen. Cory Bookerreintroduced legislation — dubbed the Puppies Assisting Wounded Service members (PAWS) Act — earlier this year, which would provide veterans suffering from PTSD with access to a service dog. The House version of the bill was introduced by Florida Republican Ron DeSantis.
Bilirakis has long been an advocate for alternative treatments for veterans. Last year, his bill to promote treatments like outdoor sports therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and accelerated resolution therapy was signed into law.
Buchanan urges Senate to quickly pass hearing aid legislation
Rep. Vern Buchanan is urging the Senate to step up the pace in taking up a bill designed to assist those suffering from hearing loss. In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Sarasota Republican urged the Senate to take up the measure before leaving for any August recess.
“Let’s help reopen the world to seniors who struggle to hear everyday conversations with their family and friends,” Buchanan wrote. “Before the Senate adjourns for its summer recess, I urge you to pass bipartisan legislation that will make hearing aids more affordable for our nation’s seniors.”
The Over-the-Counter Hearing Aid Act, co-sponsored by Buchanan, was folded into the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, which passed the House on July 12. The bill is designed to drive down costs by allowing people with a mild to moderate hearing loss to purchase hearing aids without a doctor’s prescription.
“Nearly 50 million people have some degree of hearing loss — more than diabetes, cancer or vision impairment,” Buchanan said in his letter. “The impact of hearing loss, particularly among seniors, can lead to isolation and other health problems including anxiety and depression.”
Buchanan cites reports that hearing aid costs could be brought down from several thousand dollars to “a few hundred dollars.”
Veterans bill co-authored by Mast unanimously passes House
The bill extends educational benefits to all honorably discharged Purple Heart recipients, regardless of their length of service. It also contains numerous other veterans’ benefits. The measure is personal for Mast, who earned a Purple Heart in the U.S. Army when he lost both of his legs following an explosion from an Improvised Explosive Device (IED).
“When my time in the Army was cut short, I was fortunate to be able to use funding from the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill to get my degree at Harvard. Without it, I may not be a Member of Congress right now,” said the Palm City Republican. “Providing a high-quality education to these heroes is the least we can do, which is why I’m proud to have led this effort to ensure that every single Purple Heart recipient who is honorably discharged can get the benefit of this great program.”
This bill brought both parties together to support those who were injured serving their country.
“Our veterans and military families deserve — and have earned through their service and sacrifice — the best care and benefits,” said St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist. “We owe them nothing less.”
Frankel blasts Trump Administration for ACA outreach cutbacks
Rep. Lois Frankel is criticizing a decision by the Trump administration that cuts public information efforts surrounding enrollment in the Affordable Care Act. Contracts with vendors offering online and in-person assistance during open enrollment were shelved affecting 18 U.S. cities, including Tampa, Orlando and Miami.
“This action will make it more difficult for consumers to find the best insurance under the Affordable Care Act,” the West Palm Beach Democrat said in a statement. “This is a cruel and deadly move by the President of the United States.”
Existing contracts for the outreach services will expire on August 29. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services claim they have sufficient resources to assist consumers.
“CMS has a robust assistance program in place to help consumers with enrollment, including in-person assistance,” the agency said in a statement. “In addition, CMS operates a year-round exchange call center to assist consumers by phone with all of their enrollment needs.”
This move coincides with a recent announcement cutting the open enrollment period from three months to 6 weeks. Open enrollment begins November 1 and ends December 15.
Imran Awan, the House staffer at the center of a criminal investigation that could impact dozens of Democratic lawmakers, was arrested this week for bank fraud and has been prevented from leaving the country, reportsHeather Caygle and John Bresnahan of POLITICO.
Awan, who served as an aide to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, pleaded not guilty to one count of bank fraud in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He is accused of attempting to defraud the Congressional Federal Credit Union by obtaining a $165,000 home equity loan for a rental property. Those funds, according to the POLITICO report, were then included as part of a wire transfer to two people in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
Awan, a longtime IT staffer, has worked for more than two dozen Democrats since 2004, and is at the center of a criminal investigation related to procurement theft. POLITICO reported in February that several of his relatives, including his wife Hina Alvi, were also being investigated in the procurement scam.
Awan was arrested Monday before boarding a flight to Lahore, Pakistan. His wife and children have already left for Pakistan, and POLITICO reported that federal agents do not believe Alvi has any intention of returning to the U.S.
Paulson’s Principles: The “Efficiency Gap” may turn politics upside down
Most people, including most political activists, have not heard of the “efficiency gap.” Political activists better read about the efficiency gap and its potential implication on congressional elections. Republicans, in particular, have much more to lose if the U. S. Supreme Court upholds a federal district court decision overturning Wisconsin’s partisan gerrymandering based on the use of the efficiency gap.
For over 200 years, the federal courts have refused to overturn partisan gerrymanders because they viewed them as “political questions” best left to the state legislature. The Supreme Court came close to overturning a Pennsylvania partisan gerrymander, but deadlocked 4 to 4.
In October, the U. S. Supreme Court will once again hear a case involving partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin, Gill v. Whitford. In 2010, Republicans won control of the state legislature for the first time in 40 years. Although Republicans and Democratic vote totals were fairly evenly split, the new Republican maps allowed Republicans to win 60 of 99 legislative seats while winning only 48.6% of the vote.
A federal district court ruled that Republicans had gone too far in drawing district lines and ruled the maps an unconstitutional violation of the “equal protection clause.” It was the first time in over 30 years that a court rejected a partisan gerrymander.
The Wisconsin challenge to the Republican map was based on the “efficacy gap,” a tool developed by two law professors to measure partisan gerrymandering. Nicholas Stephanopoulos and Eric McGhee looked at “wasted votes” in congressional elections. All of the votes of the losing candidate were considered wasted votes, as well as all votes over 50% plus 1 for the winning candidate.
An efficiency gap of 7 percent was considered acceptable. Anything over 7% was a sign of partisan gerrymandering. Stephanopoulos and McGhee concluded that on a national basis, Republicans were advantaged by 25-30 seats in the 2012 congressional election; by 14-21 seats in the 2014 election and by 11 to 17 seats in 2016.
In Florida, the efficiency gap showed a Republican advantage of 2.6 seats in the 27-member congressional delegation in 2012 and 2014 elections, and by 1.5 seats in 2016. The smaller Republican advantage in 2016 was due to the state court redrawing of congressional districts.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) calls the efficiency gap “a tool that advances the partisan interests of the Democratic Party.” In their brief filed with the Supreme Court, the RNC argued that the gap was due to geography and not partisan gerrymandering.”
Professor Daniel Smith of the University of Florida notes that Republicans have done a better job of fielding quality candidates and running effective campaigns in competitive districts.
Democratic consultant Steve Schafer contends that Democrats have an institutional problem of selecting “the first person who raised his hand, and that was not always the best option.”
If the Supreme Court upholds the lower court decision in overturning Wisconsin’s partisan gerrymander, the impact could turn the political world upside down.
Not only would Wisconsin have to quickly redraw its congressional districts to prepare for the 2018 election, but one-third of the states would find themselves in the same position because they did not meet the standards of the efficiency gap. Florida is one of those states.
Will the court uphold precedent that they have held to for 200 years, or will the court find the efficiency gap is a viable tool in calculating unconstitutional excesses in partisan gerrymandering?
North Florida Neighbors brings in $10K from helicopter company
A political committee that backed Republicans Matt Gaetz and Neal Dunn in 2016 brought in $11,000 during the first half of the year, according to new reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission.
North Florida Neighbors, which spent close to $800,000 during the 2016 election cycle to back Gaetz and Dunn, received three contributions between January and June. Records show Integrated Independent Physicians Network gave the super PAC $1,000, while Vertol Systems Company, Inc. and James Montgomerie, the company’s president, each gave $5,000.
The Destin-based company operates out of the Destin Airport and has a contract with the Defense Department to train helicopter pilots.
The committee spent about $1,700 during the reporting period on accounting and legal fees and incurred $2,000 for debt services from i360 LLC., a Baltimore-based voter data company.
North Florida Neighbors had about $18,500 cash on hand at the end of June.
Gaetz and Dunn represent Florida’s 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts, respectively. The two districts serve all the Florida Panhandle. So far, neither has drawn a challenger for the 2018 election cycle.
Mack IV starts new firm — Former Rep. Connie Mack IV is teaming up with three partners to launch a new D.C. lobbying firm.
Mack, a Fort Myers Republican, is launching Black Diamond Strategies with Rick Wiley, the former political director for Republican National Committee, campaign manager for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential bid, and a former Trump campaign official; Doug Davenport, another Trump campaign official who operates Davenport Ventures, and Hans Klinger, the former chief of staff to Texas Republican Mike McCaul.
“We all have our own different experience and knowledge base,” Mack recently told POLITICO Influence. “We determined we’re stronger working together than individually.”
POLITICO Influence reported the firm has already signed seven clients, although Mack declined to disclose them. The partners are will maintain their current companies to handle existing clients, but POLITICO Influence reports new clients will be signed through Black Diamond.
Mack, who served in the U.S. House from 2005-2-13 and who launched an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2012, is the head of Mack Strategies. Mack and Klinger currently represent GEO Group, a private prison operator, through Mack’s firm.
Personnel note: Christina McGarry joins HLP&R Advocacy — McGarry, who served as a legislative aide to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, has joined HLP&R Advocacy as a policy associate, according to POLITICO Influence.
McGarry worked for the Miami Republican from November 2014 until April 2017. Before working for Diaz-Balart, she spent about six months as an intern for Washington Republican Rep. Doc Hastings. McGarry received a bachelor of arts in history from the University of Virginia, according to her LinkedIn page.
HLP&R is a bipartisan government affairs and public policy firm. The firm, according to itswebsite, serves as advisers to more than 30 of the country’s best-known organizations, including five Fortune 100 companies.
Uber hires Ballard Partners for D.C. work
Ballard Partners’ D.C. client roster just keeps growing.
Tony Romm with CNBC reports that Uber has tapped Brian Ballard and his firm to lobby for friendlier regulation in Washington, D.C. The ride-hailing company’s decision to add Ballard to its team of D.C. lobbyists seems like a natural one; Ballard and his firm are also registered to represent Uber before the Florida Legislature.
Romm reports that Uber’s decision to hire Ballard in D.C. reflects the “great degree to which tech companies are trying to forge new ties with a president that many in liberal-leaning Silicon Valley did not support during the 2016 election.”
Ballard opened his D.C. outpost earlier this year, building on his relationship with President Donald Trump. Ballard, who served as the finance chairman for Trump’s Florida campaign and a top adviser during his 2016 presidential bid, quickly built up a team and a client roster, which includes Amazon and the government of Dominican Republic.
POLITICO Influence reported Ballard Partners brought in $2.3 million in domestic lobbying revenue in the second quarter and reported another $660,000 in foreign revenue to the Justice Department.
Tampa Bay to D.C.
Tampa Bay commissioners visit White House — At least four Tampa Bay county commissioners accepted invitations to attend a meeting at the White House this week, reportsAndrew Dunnwith the Tampa Bay Times.
Pinellas Commission Chair Janet Long and Pinellas Commissioner Charlie Justice, both Democrats, were scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to meet with various members of the Trump administration as part of the Florida County Commissioner Conference, which was organized by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Pasco County Commissioners Kathryn Starkey and Jack Mariano, both Republicans, are also expected to attend the same conference Thursday.
All of the county commissioners in Florida were invited to attend.
Florida is the second state to have a conference. More than 60 Pennsylvania county commissioners attended a similar meeting earlier this month.
Long and Justice, theTampa Bay Times reported, were also hoping to meet with local members of the congressional delegation to make the most of their trip.
Spotted: Brad Miller, the CEO of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, participating in a recent U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs roundtable on public transportation. Miller presented on the PSTA’s mobility partnerships with Uber, Lyft and taxi companies.
Florida’s ‘Most Beautiful’
The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful list is out, and — probably not surprising to anyone who hails from the Sunshine State — several Floridians made the cut.
Rep. Stephanie MurphytoldJudy Kurtz she would love “nothing more to bury (her) face in a cupcake” but has to keep a gluten-free diet, or else she’ll get sick. That means she keeps a stash of Kind bars and Fruit Roll-Ups with her for snacks on crazy days and makes up for those indulgences, according to Kurtz, “with running and yoga.”
You’ll also find 25-year-old Janie Blanco, who currently works for Invariant, on the list. Blanco toldThe Hill’s Morgan Chalfant that although she loves D.C., she “misses the beaches of her home state of Florida and longs for some good Cuban food.”
Ashley Morgan, a 25-year-old Fort Lauderdale native and Florida State graduate, toldEllen Mitchell with The Hill she is training for the Army Ten-Miler in October and spends six days a week working out. Morgan is a staff assistant for Sen. John McCain.
— Editors’ note: Last week, we encouraged readers to go and vote for Florida’s handsomest hounds in the Independent Journal Review’s “Cutest Dogs on Capitol Hill” competition, where two pups — Nola, a French bulldog belonging to Cesar Gonzalez, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s chief of staff, and Riggins, a Welsh terrier belonging to Joanna Rodriguez, Rep. Carlos Curbelo’s communications director — were battling it out for the golden doggie bowl.
Well, the results are in, and while neither dog landed in the top spot, Floridians should be “pawsitively” proud of their showing.
Riggins landed in the No. 9 spot; while Nola was named the 6th cutest dog on the Hill. Also making the Top 25 list: Brady, a Brittany spaniel who belongs to Elizabeth Fusick, Rep. Ron DeSantis’ communications director.
Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
When the history of the 2025-26 legislative sessions is written — undoubtedly Bill Cottrell will be on his sixth retirement by then — what transpired Tuesday may play a large role. Consider:
The dream of the first Cuban-American Senate President is one step closer to fruition with Jose Felix Diaz’ win in the SD 40 GOP primary. If Diaz can get past Taddeo in the special general election and subsequently win re-election, he will have a leg up in the leadership race to succeed Bill Galvano, Wilton Simpson, and, let’s say, Dana Young.
— By winning the GOP primary in HD 116, Daniel Perez could also be in the mix for Speaker in the next decade — assuming he wins the special general election. If he does win, Perez will be a redshirt freshman, meaning he will get to serve all of this and next year without it counting against the eight-year term limit cap. Redshirt freshmen have won more than their fair share of Speaker’s races, including the most recent scrum between Paul Renner and James W. Grant.
— Another development which could shape future legislative sessions is Rep. Dan Raulerson announcing he is resigning his House seat come August. This will create a domino effect that will lead to the election of a redshirt freshman legislator from a Tampa Bay House seat. Whoever this is (one name we’re already hearing about as a possible Raulerson’s successor is Lawrence McClure) will likely be part of a future Speaker’s race.
There are countless reasons why what is discussed here won’t happen. For example, Florida Democrats could actually get their act together and reclaim control of the House, Senate or both. But if you are part of the legislative process 10 years from now, you’ll remember what happened in the summer of 2017.
Email I didn’t open: “Trump’s apprentice just got the GOP nomination” via Jeff Clemens‘ Flip Florida committee
“Dem poll says Annette Taddeo has slight lead over Jose Felix Diaz in SD 40 race” via Florida Politics — A Democratic polling firm says Taddeo has a four-point lead over Diaz going into the Sept. 26 special election in Senate District 40, but the margin of error makes it a dead heat on the first day general election campaigning. The survey — which was conducted between June 21 and June 26, one month before the special primary — showed Taddeo led Diaz, 42 percent to 38 percent. The poll of 400 likely special election voters was completed by Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, a Washington, D.C.-based firm. It has a margin of error of 4.9 percent. … According to the memo, the June poll showed Taddeo’s vote share increased after voter hear “balanced positives on her and Jose Felix Diaz.” The pollsters report Taddeo opens a 10-point lead over Diaz once they hear about her background and are “receptive to Taddeo’s positive profile.
“American Express sues Taddeo for nearly $38K in credit card debt” via Daniel Ducassi of POLITICO Florida–Attached to the lawsuit, filed last month in circuit court in Miami-Dade County, is a December 2016 American Express credit card bill addressed to Taddeo and her translation company, LanguageSpeak Inc., listing an unpaid balance of $37,794. “In approximately December of 2016, there were some disputed charges made to American Express for items on our company card,” Taddeo told POLITICO Florida in a statement. … Taddeo suggested that the timing of the lawsuit brought by the multinational financial services company is politically motivated.
RSLC commits $100K to SD race via Florida Politics – The day after Diaz defeated Alex Diaz de la Portilla in a contentious campaign, the Republican State Leadership Committee, an organization of Republican state officials, donated $100,000 to the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee (FRSCC). The FRSCC is the fundraising arm for Senate Republican leaders and is controlled by future Senate presidents Bill Galvano and Wilton Simpson.
It might be easier at this point to list the Democrats NOT running for Congress in FL-27 given how many who currently are in the race. But the entry today of former circuit court judge and Obama judicial nominee (never confirmed, thanks to Marco Rubio) Mary Barzee Flores shakes up the dynamic of the primary in ways that have to be making on-paper front runner, state Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez nervous.
Florida’s 27th district is a Democratic seat, although it’s been occupied for a generation by the universally beloved, electorally invincible, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Hillary Clinton won the district by a 20 point margin last fall, Crist by 6 in 2014, and Obama by 7 in 2012.
But then a tall, ginger, juice magnate, named Scott Fuhrman came around last year and ran against Ros-Lehtinen, hoping to ride what was then anticipated to be a Hillary “wave.” The wave never materialized and Fuhrman lost by just shy of 10 points. But Ros-Lehtinen spent every penny of her $3 million plus war chest to defeat the Juice boy and a few month later made the calculation that it wasn’t worth another nasty election cycle with a big target on her back in the form of a D +20 presidential performance – the largest in the country in a seat held by a Republican.
District 27 also happens to be one of the most Hispanic districts in the country, which on its face might make it seem tailor made for JJR.
That is, until Barzee Flores’ announcement today.
Barzee Flores may not be Hispanic (the “Flores” comes from her husband, who is Mexican-American), but she’s a Miami native who has lived in the district her whole life, including the last three decades as an attorney. That piece of biography makes her credible as a candidate and, potentially, formidable as a fundraiser. Her generation of lawyers who worked as Assistant U.S. Attorneys and Federal Public Defenders are now some of the biggest players in Miami’s legal and political community – former state Senator Dan Gelber is among that cohort.
She’s also a woman, if you couldn’t tell by her name. That’s a big deal when Democratic primaries are generally close to 60% female. It’s also a big deal if it means you get the support of EMILY’s List, which can mean hundreds of thousands of dollars to a campaign, as well as national political infrastrucure, and which seems likely given that MBF’s past support of the pro-choice organization was cited by Rubio as one of the reasons he blocked her federal judgeship.
(Miami Beach commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez is also in the primary, but has a tendency to say things that – “give cops back their bullets, remove their body cameras” for instance – that are simply disqualifying in a relatively liberal Democratic primary electorate. Rosen Gonzalez is also widely viewed as the candidate least likely to make it all the way through to filing.)
And, by the way, the primary electorate ain’t that Hispanic. The registration numbers show an ever so slightly majority Hispanic registration among Democrats, but turnout tells a different story. Hispanic turnout is just under 40% of the total primary vote, with the vast majority of the balance being white voters, just over double-digits African-American and a handful of “other”s. Of the roughly 40% of Hispanic Democrats likely to vote in a primary, half of those voters are Cubans, JJR’s assumed base given the fact he launched his campaign in Little Havana. His path gets narrower as you peel back the onion.
We’ll have a better sense of the dynamics come mid-October, when all the campaigns will have to report their first quarter of fundraising. If Barzee Flores comes out of the gate strong, she immediately becomes the one to beat in this primary.
As evidenced by Patricia Mazzei‘s gauzy profile in the Miami Herald, the woman is serious and has a hell of a compelling biography. There’s a clear demographic pathway to victory for a white woman with a Hispanic last name. And her background in the legal community suggests she’ll be a strong fundraiser.
When the history of the 2025-26 Legislative Sessions is written — undoubtedly Tallahassee Democrat reporter Bill Cottrell will be on his sixth retirement by then — what transpired July 25, 2017, may play a definitive role. Read more
Sarkissian’s reporting focuses on Miami-based lobbyist Fausto Gomez for his involvement in Education Management Services(EMS), an educational curriculum company owned and operated by his wife, Alina.
It’s revealed that EMS cleared a million-dollar profit from a contract to deliver anti-hazing curriculum to Florida Polytechnic University. Fewer than 100 students took the course, but for the third time (Sarkissian has produced versions of the same story) he never bothers to explain how that is EMS’s fault.
Never mind that EMS delivered its anti-hazing course to the university — as per the contract terms — and had no authority to compel students to take the course. That was incumbent upon the school.
Instead, Sarkissian whistles his way past that thorny problem, while popping Gomez for – gasp – not only being a lobbyist but also for EMS having the audacity to spend the income it received.
Perhaps the lowest point in Sarkissian’s story is where he attempts to show that EMS used the profits to pay off a $50,000 line of credit as if it was somehow wrong to pay off debts with the income a company receives. After all, if a state employee cashes his (rightfully-earned, taxpayer-funded) paycheck and chooses to pay off his personal car loan, should that private transaction also call for front-page coverage at the Naples Daily News?
Not only is the line of credit attack on EMS intellectually dishonest, but it’s also factually false.
In the story, Sarkissian admits that Gomez told him he paid off the line of credit years earlier. When Sarkissian demanded proof, Gomez refused — he was not about to turn over EMS’s private bank records and account information to a newspaper.
The real questions surrounding this case have nothing to do with Education Management Services, but everything to do with the broken state university system and how it pocketed millions of dollars that should have gone to combat hazing.
No, the real scandal here isn’t that EMS was paid a million dollars for its anti-hazing product. The scandal is that the state university system paid for it, and didn’t use the product at all.
Sarkissian should ask himself how he would have written this story: State lawmakers appropriated $100,000 for a university to buy a car from Ford Motor Company, but instead, the school pocketed $75,000 and used the rest to purchase a car. Then they had the car delivered to an empty lot, locked the doors and let it rust away.
Would Sarkissian smear Ford for delivering a perfectly drivable car that the university simply refused to drive? Of course not. So why did the NDN go after Alina Gomez and not the universities?
Since Gomez’s day job is as a lobbyist, he is low-hanging fruit for public scorn from readers of the Naples Daily News.
Meanwhile, the real scandal is a staggering sum of taxpayer money pocketed by Florida’s state university system, which has siphoned off $2.2 million over the past four years from the Legislature to cover “administrative costs” of a hazing program.
That, too, is scandalous, since the hazing programs were purchased as turnkey solutions and the only administration needed from the school was to require students to actually take the course.
Clearly, that didn’t happen.
Through all of this, Alina Gomez, in a show of good faith, told the Legislature that EMS would make its anti-hazing program available to students across the entire state university system this coming school year, at no added cost to taxpayers. But just as before, the state university system hasn’t lifted a finger to take EMS up on the offer, let alone do anything else to address the hazing issue.
Florida universities cannot just pocket $2.2 million, while blaming a lone vendor when that vendor has no power to force students to use the provided curriculum and expect to get away with it.
Sunburn — The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry and Jim Rosica.
— SOFLA SPECIAL —
It’s been just over three months since Frank Artiles resigned, and now voters in Senate District 40 have their first chance to decide who they want to send to Tallahassee to represent them.
The special primary election to replace Artiles is today. Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, former Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Lorenzo Palomares, who is largely viewed as a long shot candidate, are battling it out for the Republican; while Democrats Ana Rivas Logan and Annette Taddeo are fighting for the chance to represent their party in the Sept. 26 special general election.
The GOP primary has been particularly nasty, and increasingly expensive. Outside groups have poured thousands upon thousands of dollars into the race, saying DLP is “not a conservative” andattacking his legislative record. The Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee removed DLP — along with eight other members — from the committee for missing three consecutive meetings without an excuse. And he has lagged behind Diaz in the money race,loaning his campaign $443,500.
Diaz is considered the establishment favorite and has the money to show for it. He raised $809,725 for his official campaign account and another $420,500 for Rebuild Florida, his political committee, since jumping into the race. He’s received the backing from many of his House colleagues, who have spent their days in South Florida knocking on doors and campaigning for Diaz. He’s also received ahelping hand from Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera and has been backed by the Florida Medical Association PAC and the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Diaz spent more than $2 million — $703,172 from his official committee and $1.33 million from Rebuild Florida — on his campaign; while DLP has spent $331,886.
Matthew Isbell noted in a post Monday that the GOP primary is all about Hispanic voters. Nearly 80 percent of the likely GOP primary electorate will be Hispanic, and Isbell wrote that the vote-by-mail returns are more than 80 percent Hispanic, “a hair under the 83% they were in 2016.”
The fight between Logan and Taddeo has been much tamer by comparison. Both are well-known in the district — Taddeo was Charlie Crist’s running mate in 2014, and has twice run for Congress; while Logan, a former Republican state Representative, challenged former Sen. Dwight Bullard in Senate District 40 in 2016. While she dropped out of the race, she still received 24 percent of the vote, mainly from Hispanic voters in the district.
Isbell notes Democrats lag behind Republicans when it comes to returning their absentee ballots, with 7,300 ballots returned compared to more than 10,000 GOP ballots. Taddeo has consistently outraised Logan, but Logan recently received an assist from an outside political group, whichreleased mailers attacking Taddeo.
The winner of the Republican and Democratic primary will face Christian “He-Man” Schlaerth in the Sept. 26 special general election.
The Senate District 40 race isn’t the only race on the ballot Tuesday, though. Jose Mallea and Daniel Anthony Perez will face off in the GOP primary to replace Diaz, who resigned effective Sept. 26 to run for state Senate, in House District 116.
The winner of that election will face Democrat Gabriela Mayaudon in the Sept. 26 special general election.
— Caputo has a point: “If Mallea loses, it might be time to rethink how much Jeb’s endorsement matters.”
“Ana Rivas Logan reports ‘You are dead’ Facebook post to police” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald— The comment appeared on Rivas Logan‘s official Facebook page at 7:08 p.m.Sunday. “Michelle Obama sucked!!!!” a user named Minerva Rodriguez wrote. “If you are a democrat, then you are for raising taxes and flooding this country of illegal immigrants. Guess what? You are dead!!!@” After consulting with her attorney, Rivas Logan said she telephoned Miami-Dade police, who took a report by phone and assigned her a case number, as is routine. But no detective had followed up by Monday morning, prompting Rivas Logan to question how seriously police took the case. “What upsets me is, I just think it’s unequal treatment,” said Rivas Logan. “Somebody threatens Jose Felix Diaz, everybody goes to help him. You know, I have kids, too. I have family, too. Nobody cares. It’s like, ho-hum. The guy said to me, ‘There’s no imminent danger.’ There is imminent danger. I’m a public person. They can recognize me.”
“Committee attacking Annette Taddeo paid rival Rivas Logan’s political consultant” via Patricia Mazzei of the Miami Herald — Rivas Logan asserted earlier this month that she had no connection to a political committee attackingTaddeo. Rivas Logan claimed she’d even try to call the managers of the Floridians for Accountability committee after they mentioned Taddeo’s 11-year-old daughter in a campaign flier, but “they don’t answer their phones,” Rivas Logan said in a televised July 16 exchange. But two days later, Floridians for Accountability spent $250 buying photographs from a source Rivas Logan knows well: Her campaign’s political consultant, Pedro Diaz. A campaign-finance report filed by Floridians for Accountability … lists a $250 expenditure to “Diaz Campaigns” July 18 for “photos.” The Miami P.O. Box address listed is the same Rivas Logan has listed in her own report to pay “Diaz Consulting.”
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— NOTES FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL —
Not spotted: Florida on a list of 17 states where President Donald Trump’s approval rating is over 50 percent. Also not on the list, according to Axios: Texas, Georgia, Michigan, Ohio or North Carolina.
“RNC: Bill Nelson, Democrats should fear Republican data operation” via Marc Caputo of POLITICO Florida — Nelson is one of 10 Democratic senators from states that President Donald Trump won in 2016 thanks, in part, to his and the RNC’s sophisticated data-based operation to organize, train volunteers, model the electorate and move voters. In all, the GOP has spent $175 million on its voter-targeting program and trained more than 4,500 volunteer “fellows” through their Republican Leadership Initiative Institute nationwide since 2013, when the RNC studied the reasons for President Barack Obama’s successful 2012 re-election and his much-vaunted data operation … the RNC is surveying voters monthly across the state and nation, honing its message, identifying beneficial “wedge issues” and improving its mammoth three-terabyte database system that weds voter history and consumer information. After last year’s election and in recent weeks, the RNC has begun boasting of its program’s effectiveness in Florida as well as Wisconsin and Missouri.
“Was Adam Putnam for amnesty?” via Amy Sherman of PolitiFact— Tony Fabrizio, a pollster hired by House Speaker Richard Corcoran who may challenge Putnam in the 2018 primary, cast Putnam as not being conservative enough. “He was for amnesty,” Fabrizio told POLITICO … while criticizing Putnam’s positions on a long list of issues … While in Congress, Putnam supported legislation that would have expanded work visa categories for undocumented immigrants and put them on a path to legal permanent status. After leaving Congress, he supported the 2013 immigration legislation, which wasn’t blanket legal residency but did include a path, albeit a long one, to legal status. Putnam’s campaign points to examples of legislation he supported that weren’t favorable to undocumented immigrants such as toughening up border security and opposing the DREAM Act. The claim is partially accurate but lacks important context. We rate this claim Half True.
Andrew Gillum committee upside down $88K through first two weeks of July via Florida Politics — July could be shaping up to be another slow month for the Tallahassee mayor. Forward Florida, the political committee backing the Democrat’s 2018 gubernatorial bid, has raised just $10,000 so far this month. The committee received the sole contribution on July 14, according to rolling donation data posted to the committee’s website. During the same time period, the committee spent $98,573, meaning it has spent $88,000 more than it has brought in.
What Gwen Graham is reading — “Blue Dogs eye comeback in 2018” via Heather Caygle of POLITICO — The Blue Dog Coalition, a fading wing of the Democratic Caucus in recent years, is leaning on a controversial ally as it tries to gain a toehold of power back to regain a toehold on power in the House: President Trump. The group of moderate and conservative Democrats, which was all but wiped out when Republicans swept the House in 2010, has been slowly rebuilding its membership. And with Democrats eager to woo the white working-class voters who flocked to Trump, the coalition is prodding party leaders to support Blue Dog-backed candidates, saying that’s the key to taking back the House in 2018. It’s a push that is quickly running into conflict with the party’s energized left flank.
Spotted: Reps. Charlie Crist and Stephanie Murphy in a Roll Call report about first-term Democrats outraising Republicans in the first and second quarters of the year.
Law enforcement backs Ed Hooper in SD 16 — The Florida Police Benevolent Association and the Sun Coast Benevolent Association has endorsed Ed Hooper in his bid to replace Sen. Jack Latvala in Senate District 16. “as a state representative, Hooper was a go to lawmaker that law enforcement count rely on,” said Matt Puckett, president of the Florida PBA, in a statement. “We proudly endorse Ed Hooper for the State Senate and look forward to continue working with him.” George Lofton, the president of the Sun Coast PBA, said Hooper has earned “the respect and the trust of the men and women who wear a badge and risk their lives for their respective communities.”
— Spotted: The Senate District 40 election on the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee’s “Spotlight Races” list.
Rene Plasencia backs Berny Jacques in HD 66 — Rep. Rene Plasencia has endorsed Berny Jacques in House District 66, Jacques’ campaign announced Monday. “Over the past few months, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to Berny Jacques about his vision for House District 66,” said Plasencia in a statement. “I’ve found him to be a principled conservative who’s ready to fight for his constituents on day one! I give him my full support and look forward to having him as a colleague in the Florida House of Representatives.” Jacques is vying to replace Rep. Larry Ahern in House District 66. Ahern can’t run for re-election again because of term limits.
Three House members back Matt Spritz in HD 89 — Reps. Byron Donalds, Alex Miller, and Bob Rommel have endorsed Matt Spritz in his bid to replace Rep. Bill Hager in House District 89, Spritz’s campaign announced Monday. “Matt is a dynamic individual with a deep understanding of complex issues we are tackling in Tallahassee,” said Miller, a Sarasota Republican in a statement. “He has the right vision for how to move Florida forward.” Donalds, a Naples Republican, called Spritz a “principled conservative;” while Rommel, also a Naples Republican, said Spritz is “extremely dedicated to serving the public.” Spritz faces Democrat Ryan Anthony Rossi. Hager can’t run for re-election because of term limits.
More legislative hopefuls announce 2018 bids — LobbyTools’ Legislative IQ reports several candidates filed to run for legislative seats in 2018. Republican Judson Cooper Epperly is challenging Rep. MaryLynn Mager in House District 82. Epperly is the global director of international recruitment for Kaplan Medical. Republican David Hasenauer has thrown his hat in the race to replace Rep. George Moraitis, making him the first Republican to file for the seat. Three Democrats — Emma Collum, Jonathon May, and Stephanie Myers — have already filed for the seat. Moriatis can’t run again because of term limits. Democrat Deede Withorn is vying to replace Rep. David Richardson, who is running for Congress, in House District 113. The former Miami Beach commissioner filed to run in 2016 but later withdrew from the race. She will face Democrat Jeff Cyamon.
— 50 STATE LAWMAKERS GET AN ‘A+’ ON AFP-FLORIDA SCORECARD —
Fifty legislators received top marks from Americans for Prosperity-Florida, the largest number of A+ legislators since the organization began issuing its annual legislative scorecard.
The organization released its 2017 Economic Freedom Scorecard, which graded 5,500 votes on 96 issues, on Tuesday. The scorecard showed 50 legislators — 11 senators and 39 representatives — received an A+.
AFP-FL factors in committee and floor votes, with each vote carrying the same weight regardless of the issue, to calculate the score. This year, the group looked at how lawmakers voted on 96 key bills, including $600 million in tax cuts, school choice, and economic incentives.
Sen. Greg Steube scored the highest in the Senate, with a score of 140 percent, followed by Sen. Tom Lee at 114.29 percent; Sen. Jeff Brandes with a score of 113.33 percent; Sen. Denise Grimsley with a score of 110.53 percent; and Sen. Dennis Baxley with a score of 106.67 percent.
Over in the House, Rep. Bryan Avila received the highest score with 108.1 percent, followed by Rep. Paul Renner at 106.1 percent; Rep. Jason Fischer at 105.7 percent; Rep. James Grant at 105.4 percent; and Rep. Chris Sprowls at 105.4 percent.
“I am thrilled to see that this year, 50 legislators earned an A+ on our Economic Freedom Scorecard,” said Chris Hudson, the state director for AFP-FL, in a statement. “That’s the most A+’s the Florida legislature has earned since we began publishing our annual report. Our activist base is growing, our network is expanding and always finding ways to maximize our impact, but we are far from done. I believe the best days are ahead of us, and we are committed to deliver even more victories in 2018.”
On: Amber Moody is a new support analyst for the House Office of Information Technology.
Off: Michael Ellis is no longer a journal writer/editor for the Legislative Process Division.
Off and on: Natasha Sutherland has replaced legislative analyst David Spore has left In the House Democratic Office.
Off: Cheryl Dewees is no longer budget assistant for the House Appropriations Committee.
Off: Sarah deNagy is no longer budget assistant for the House Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee.
Off: Nicholas Merlin is no longer attorney for theHouse Criminal Justice Subcommittee.
On: Timothy Morris is the new legislative assistant for Fort Myers Republican Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.
On: Kyle Alexandre is a new legislative assistant for Ocoee Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy.
On and off: Luisana Perez moved from district secretary to legislative assistant in Miami Democratic Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez.
On and off: Tennille Moore moved from district secretary to legislative assistant forSt. Petersburg Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson.
Off and on: Michele McCloskey has left as administrative lead for the House Commerce Committee to work for Bradenton Republican Rep. Jim Boyd asdistrict secretary.
On: Stephany Montano is now district secretary for Miami Democratic Rep. Robert Asencio.
On: Sadie Haire is now district secretary for Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer.
Off: Amy Miller is no longer district secretary for Venice Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez.
Off: Meagan Hebel is no longer district secretary for Winter Haven Republican Rep. Sam Killebrew.
Off: Coleton Reece is no longer district secretary in Clearwater Republican Rep. Chris Latvala.
Off and on: Rosana Fonseca changed from district secretary to legislative assistant for Orlando Democratic Rep. Amy Mercado. Melissa Porcaro has become district secretary.
Off and on: Charles Smith is no longer legislative assistant in Fort Lauderdale Republican Rep. George Moraitis. Kassie Satterly is now a legislative assistant.
Off: RJ Myers is no longer legislative assistant for South Pasadena Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters.
Off and on: Jannette Nunez is no longer district secretary for Miami Democratic Rep. David Richardson. Roberto Alvarez is replacing her.
Off: Matthew Spritz is no longer legislative assistant for Naples Republican Rep. Bob Rommel.
Off: Deniz Ozaltin is a new district secretary for Boca Raton Democratic Rep. Emily Slosberg.
Off: Dalie Sejour is no longer district secretary for Miami Democratic Rep. Cynthia Stafford.
Off and on: Dennis Ragosta has changed for district secretary to legislative assistant for Ocala Republican Rep. Charlie Stone.
On: Donntay Cooper is the new district secretary for Miami Gardens Democratic Rep. Barbara Watson.
“Pete Antonacci confirmed as Enterprise Florida CEO at $165,000” via Steve Bousquet of the Tampa Bay Times — Hired without a formal search, Antonacci arrives with the strong backing of the most important person in EFI’s world, Gov. Scott, who delivered a strong endorsement of his former legal adviser. “He will clearly help get deals done,” Scott told board members. EFI vice chairman Stan Connally, who recommended Antonacci’s hiring, called him a “fantastic” pick, and board member Dominic Calabro of Florida TaxWatch called him “a real class act.” Antonacci has a long and diverse resume in state government. He served as Scott’s general counsel, as Scott’s appointee as interim state attorney in Palm Beach County and as the executive director of the South Florida Water Management District, whose members are Scott appointees. He’s a former lawyer and lobbyist with the Gray Robinson law firm and spent much of his career as deputy attorney general under Bob Butterworth, a Democrat who was Florida attorney general from 1986 to 2002.
“Rick Scott announces Latin America summit in Miami, continues to speak out against Cuba and Venezuela leaders” via John Lucas of The Capitolist — Scott says the summit will bring together world leaders to improve current partnerships and build new relations that he says will better serve the interests of Florida, while promoting democracy and human rights throughout Latin America. “When I was elected Governor, I made a commitment to work every day to listen to Florida families and fight for what’s most important to them,” said Scott. “As the unrest and oppression continue in Cuba and Venezuela, I am hearing from more and more Floridians who are expressing the need for change in Cuba and Venezuela. I join them in demanding democracy and freedom across Latin America.” Scott recently has been speaking out in opposition to what he calls the “brutal and oppressive dictatorship” of Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.
First on #FlaPol — “Florida will pay $1M in legal fees over ‘docs vs. Glocks’ ” via Florida Politics — Gov. Scott approved a deal to pay $1.1 million in legal fees to groups that “successfully challenged an NRA-backed Florida law that prevented doctors from talking to their patients about the risks of guns in the home,” according to a Sunday news release from the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. One of the law firms, Ropes & Gray, “announced it would donate $100,000 of its fee award to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, enabling the center to expand its initiatives to protect children from the risks posed by guns,” the release said. Florida officials last month declined to appeal a federal ruling striking down the so-called “docs versus Glocks” law. In 2011, Florida lawmakers passed a bill which prevents doctors from asking patients about guns. Since then, a federal court invalidated several parts of the law.
“Appeals court sides with smoker’s family on new trial” via Florida Politics — The 1st District Court of Appeal on Monday ruled against cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris USA, ordering a new trial on pain-and-suffering claims lodged by the family of Norman Lamar Danielson. The court, however, shot down a request for a new trial on punitive damages. A jury “awarded (Danielson’s wife) $25,000 in economic damages, $0 for pain and suffering, and $325,000 in punitive damages. It awarded Mr. Danielson’s three children $100,000 each for pain and suffering,” the court said. The trial judge “granted a new trial on noneconomic damages because it found the jury’s verdict both inadequate and against the manifest weight of the evidence.” The appellate court agreed, noting “the parties stipulated to a $2.3 million amount of economic damages, which should have been reflected in the jury’s verdict.” But “no one argues that the $325,000 punitive damages award is excessive,” it said.
“Horse breeders can challenge divvying up of award money, court says” via Florida Politics — Breeders have legal standing to “challenge the annual plan for distribution of owners’ and breeders’ awards,” according to a unanimous appeals court decision Monday. In a case ultimately about who controls the money and how much goes back to horsemen and breeders, Southern Cross Farm had appealed a ruling from state gambling regulators. The (state) said the Ocala horse breeder couldn’t challenge the doling out of money from a pool managed by the nonprofit Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ & Owners’ Association, “specifically designated by the Legislature in 1977 to collect and distribute wagering prize monies as awards” … Monday’s opinion concluded, “the very persons the statutory framework was designed to benefit — breeders of Florida thoroughbred racehorses — (cannot) be excluded from administratively challenging a plan that, by statute, is intended to benefit them; and we are disinclined to do so absent clearer legislative direction.”
“Jason Fischer calls for financial audit of Duval County schools” via A.G. Gancarski of Florida Politics — Fischer, a former member of the Duval County School Board … in a letter to Joint Legislative Auditing Committee Chair Rep. Debbie Mayfield dated July 24, requests an operational audit into Duval’s budgetary and spending practices. “As a past Duval County School Board Member,” Fischer writes, “I understand the complexity of their local budget … I’m deeply concerned that the school district is taking their eye off the ball by considering frivolous lawsuits against the State rather than getting their financial house in order,” Fischer adds, referring to Duval’s consideration of suing over HB 7069, the “Schools of Hope” bill for which Fischer was a staunch advocate. Fischer has “major concerns” about what he calls “$21 million in overspending,” and hopes “this special audit brings clarity and reconciliation to the school district’s poor financial practices.”
“FPL spends billions to strengthen power grid” via Tim Fanning of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune — With the hurricane season expected to heat up soon, one of Florida’s largest power companies is completing a massive 14-year upgrade to strengthen the power grid and improve service and reliability in the face of storms. In Sarasota and Manatee counties alone, Florida Power & Light has enhanced more than 62 main power lines, inspected 122,372 power poles and installed more than 3,231 “intelligent” devices that detect and prevent power problems. After the ruinous 2004-05 hurricane seasons, when eight hurricanes raked the state, causing tens of billions of dollars in damage, the Florida Public Service Commission adopted rules requiring investor-owned utilities such as FPL to adopt plans to cost-effectively strengthen, or storm harden, the state’s electric grid. The nearly $3 billion statewide effort began in 2006, and was part of a push to make Florida a smarter, more storm resilient system.
“Sea level rise is accelerating in Florida, scientists warn” via The Associated Press— The average person visiting a favorite beach or fishing hole surely won’t notice the difference. But soon, if the trend of the past 30 years continues, the impact will be hard to miss. Midrange projections by NOAA scientists — not the worst-case scenario — put the seas around Florida up to 17 inches higher by 2030, with the highest rise at Mayport, Fernandina Beach and Daytona Beach. With just a 9-inch rise in sea level, NOAA advisories for coastal flooding capable of causing “significant risks to life and property” could occur 25 times more often … He Higher seas would push seawater inland in waterfront areas along bayfronts in Sarasota and Apalachicola and in low-lying areas along the St. Johns, Suwanee and other rivers, flooding neighborhoods with increasing frequency and longer duration. Just 3 feet of sea level rise could force at least 1.2 million Floridians to abandon low-lying communities and migrate to higher ground, according to a study co-authored by Jason Evans, an assistant professor of environmental science at Stetson University. A six-foot rise could displace 6 million.
“Report: Florida park official inappropriately touched worker” via The Associated Press — The report by the agency’s inspector general documents allegations made in 2015 against a manager of De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton … The male manager touched a female worker inappropriately, made inappropriate comments and invaded her personal space, according to the report, which redacts the names of the manager and employee. The female worker told investigators that the manager would sit or lie on her desk, hug her and once drove by her house. She asked him to stop and when he told her about driving by the house she told him “that this was ‘creepy’ and ‘stalker’ behavior,” the report said. “She told us that he also made unwanted comments to her and called her ‘pretty’ and ‘beautiful,’ which made her uncomfortable,” investigators said in the report. In the report, the manager denied harassing the worker, saying he only touched her while hugging. He denied invading her personal space.
— OPINIONS —
“Charlie Crist: Congress should make flood insurance accessible, affordable” via the Tampa Bay Times — Floods can happen anywhere and at any time. The National Flood Insurance Program has provided peace of mind and economic security to millions of American families and property owners for nearly five decades. For many, NFIP is the only choice they have for protection against floods. The biggest challenge facing NFIP is how to balance the solvency of the program with the rising costs of premiums. One of NFIP’s structural challenges is that it is deeply in debt — to the tune of $25 billion … The reality is that sea levels are on the rise and severe weather is occurring more often. This means NFIP will only become more important for Florida families … there is bipartisan work being done to strengthen the program and make it more affordable for policyholders. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the SAFE NFIP Act, which was introduced in the House by my friend, Rep. Clay Higgins and in the Senate by a group of bipartisan lawmakers, including Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio from Florida. From freezing interest payments on the debt to providing affordability assistance for those who need it most to promoting better mapping technology, the SAFE NFIP Act moves the program in the right direction.
Daniel Ruth: “Adam Putnam sells out to the NRA” via Daniel Ruth of the Tampa Bay Times — Putnam … went on an NRA boot licking tour a few days ago. He noted what a swell idea it is to permit gun owners to carry their little friends on college campuses, as well as endorsing proposals to allow the open carry of weapons in public places. Yep, this chap is really running for governor. It is entirely possible by the time the 2018 campaign gets into full swing, the Opie of open carry will be suggesting that any newborn infant in the state should be given a Glock in the maternity ward. It should hardly come as much of a surprise that Putnam would be hitting the campaign trail as an NRA marionette. Think of the agriculture commissioner as the Howdy Doody of Smith & Wesson. Putnam has so wrapped himself around the Second Amendment it is probably only a matter of time before he shows up at campaign events decked out as Patrick Henry.
— MOVEMENTS —
“Personnel note: Daniel Ducassi moves to education beat for POLITICO Florida” via Florida Politics — Ducassi, who had covered regulated industries for the upstart subscription-based news site, takes over education coverage for Jessica Bakeman. She’s moving to public broadcaster WLRN in South Florida. Ducassi announced the beat change Monday on Twitter. The 2014 graduate of New College of Florida also covered crime and local government as an intern at the Miami Herald, according to his online bio. Before joining POLITICO Florida, Ducassi worked as a freelance writer and video producer and contributed to WLRN, The New Tropic and the Miami Herald. No word yet on who will fill Ducassi’s position.
“Personnel note: Joshua Gabel now with Florida Chamber” via Florida Politics — Gabel, formerly with Florida TaxWatch, is Director of Grassroots Development and Engagement at the Florida Chamber of Commerce, he reports. He’s responsible for working with local chambers to engage with the Florida Chamber and lawmakers in “advancing the local and statewide priorities that improve the lives of Floridians,” he said. Before his time at TaxWatch, he worked on LennyCurry‘s campaign for Jacksonville mayor and for Meredith O’Rourke when she headed up Gov. Scott’s fundraising for the 2014 gubernatorial race. He also interned for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. He’s a 2016 Florida Politics ”30-under-30 Rising Star” and was featured in the Winter 2016 edition of INFLUENCE Magazine.
“Personnel note: Angela Adams Suggs to lead Florida Sports Foundation” via Florida Politics — Suggs is becoming president of the foundation, which serves as the Sports Industry Development Division of Enterprise Florida beginning Aug. 7. She also becomes Senior Vice President of Sports Development for Enterprise Florida. Suggs comes to the foundation from Florida A&M University where she has held various roles since 2009. Her most recent role has been the Senior Associate Athletics Director for External Affairs and Senior Woman Administrator (SWA). “The Florida Sports Foundation is an amazing organization and I am honored to accept the president role,” she said. “Sports support jobs in all Florida communities and bring billions into our economy. I look forward to working with the board of directors, staff and industry leaders as we continue the growth of sports tourism and development in Florida.”
New and renewed lobby registrations
Gregory Black, Joanna Bonfanti, Larry Williams, Cameron Yarbrough, Gunster Yoakley & Stewart: Mada’n Kosher Foods, Inc.
Jorge Chamizo, Floridian Partners: Wellmerica LLC
Kim McDougal, GrayRobinson: Jobs for Florida’s Graduates
Timothy Meenan, Karl Rasmussen, Meenan PA: Magic City Casino
David Ramba, Ramba Consulting Group: Jobs for Florida’s Graduates
Samuel Verghese, One Eighty Consulting: Copley Consulting Group
Charlie Crist was born 61 years ago today. That’s not all Crist did on July 24ths through the years. Let’s look back at Crist’s birthdays over the years.
On July 24, 2006, Crist – then a Republican gubernatorial hopeful – said that he disagreed with President George W. Bush‘s veto of a bill that would have expanded funds for embryonic stem cell research. His opponent, Tom Gallagher, praised Bush’s veto.
A few years prior, on July 24, 2002, during a heated Republican primary for Attorney General of Florida, Crist found himself on his birthday responding to taunts that he was unqualified to be the AG. Opponent Tom Warner jeered, “If Charlie Crist were qualified to be attorney general of Florida … I would not run.”
To which the ever-puckish and positive Crist replied, “I feel fully qualified or I wouldn’t run … I think the summer heat has gotten to him.”
Apparently, the summer heat has also had something of a romantic wind in Crist’s personal life — it was in July 1979, that he was first married to Amanda Morrow; and in July 2008, that he became husband to his now-wife Carole Rome.
It was also in July 2008, that Crist was becoming known as a strong John McCain ally — appearing on talk shows on his behalf; and the favors were returned in July 2013, when McCain pumped up Crist’s prospects as a competitive opponent to Gov. Rick Scott.
Our final non sequitur of Crist’s July moments brings us to July 1995, when the then-state senator passed a bill reviving chain gangs in Florida, earning him the moniker all in these circles know well.