Tampa Bay Archives - Florida Politics

Tom Knight backs James Buchanan in HD 72 special election

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight is backing James Buchanan in the special election for House District 72, which was vacated by Alex Miller on Sept. 1.

“I know James will give law enforcement the support we need to keep our community safe.  He stands with us, so I will stand with him,” Knight said in press release.

Knight joins other area Republicans, including future Senate President Bill Galvano and state Rep. Jim Boyd, in endorsing Buchanan, who is the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

“Tom Knight is beloved by our community and is one of the most respected Sheriff’s in our state. I am proud to have him on our team,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan, who filed for HD 72 within an hour of Miller announcing her resignation, is the only Republican in the race.

Buchanan is an alumnus of Florida State University and the University of South Florida, where he earned an MBA. He has worked as a real estate agent since 2006 and is longstanding member of the National Association of Realtors, Florida Association of Realtors, as well as  the Realtor Association of Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

Also running for the Sarasota County seat is Libertarian Alison Foxall and Democrats Margaret Good and Rita Jouniari, who announced her candidacy Friday.

Gov. Rick Scott set the primary election for Dec. 5, with the general election to follow on Feb. 13. The deadline for candidates to enter the race is Sept. 28.

Ruta Jouniari becomes second Democrat to join HD 72 contest

Sarasota businesswoman, philanthropist, and community activist Rita Jouniari announced her candidacy for the special election in the House District 72 seat, becoming the second Democrat to join the race.

A Boston native, the 50-year-old Journiari has worked for much of her career in health care, beginning with Aetna U.S. Healthcare.

She founded the International Staffing Group, back in January of 2004. It’s a recruiting agency that places aviation personnel globally.

In 2016, she founded Universal Crescent Clinic, a free Sarasota healthcare clinic staffed by volunteers that provides care for those without insurance in Sarasota, Manatee, Desoto, and Charlotte counties.

Jouniari joins Margaret Good in the Democratic primary.

House District 72 was won handily last November by Republican Alex Miller, who abruptly announced a month ago that she was resigning from her seat, citing family and business reasons.

Realtor James Buchanan, the son of Congressman Vern Buchanan, has announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination for the seat. Republican Alexandra Coe and Libertarian Alison Foxall has also entered the contest.

The Democratic primary takes place on December 5, with the general election scheduled for February 13, 2018.

David Jolly, Patrick Murphy ready to take their act on the road

While he’s not sure if he will attempt to resume his political career by running against Charlie Crist in Florida’s 13th Congressional District, former Republican congressman David Jolly says he will be part of another campaign in the future – a GOP effort to block Donald Trump from being renominated in 2020 as the party’s presidential nominee. Read more

Nick DiCeglie to hold campaign kickoff Oct. 12

A kickoff fundraiser for Republican Nick DiCeglie’s bid for House District 66 will be held Oct. 12 in Bellair, his campaign announced Thursday.

The event is set to run from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the Bellair Country Club, 1 Country Club Lane. The campaign said formal invitations to the fundraiser will head out soon.

Those looking to attend can send an RSVP to Rick Porter at rick@politicalcapitalflorida.com or by calling 407-849-1112. Those who can’t make it shouldn’t fret – just head over to his campaign website, which is already setup for secure contributions.

The Pinellas County Republican Party Chairman came out of the gate touting his extensive resume in the public and private sectors when he announced his HD 66 bid earlier this month.

In addition to running a lauded local business, Solar Sanitation, Inc., the 20-year Florida resident spent two terms chairing the Clearwater Chamber of Commerce, boasts a gubernatorial appointment to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and has served six years on the Indian Rocks Beach Planning and Zoning Board.

If Pinellas County voters send him to Tallahassee, he vowed he would put that experience to good use by promoting “individual liberty and a Republic that is smaller and smarter than it is today.”

DiCeglie is the second Republican to declare for HD 66, which covers western Pinellas County including Clearwater, Indian Shores and Largo.

He and Berny Jacques are running the GOP primary to replace termed-out Rep. Larry Ahern. Also running is Reform Party candidate Paul Bachmann, who filed in early August.

The invitation is below:

Nick DiCeglie Invitation - Oct. 22 2017

Medical marijuana provider Surterra to pitch in on Irma relief

A Tampa-based medical marijuana company said it will donate a chunk of the total sales of a new vaporizer pen to Hurricane Irma relief efforts.

Surterra Wellness is one of the largest marijuana cultivators in the blooming Sunshine State medical marijuana industry, and among its products are a series of vaporizer “pens” – devices similar in size and shape to the electronic cigarettes found in many gas stations – that deliver marijuana extracts to patients via an inhaled vapor.

Unlike run-of-the-mill vaporizers the new device, the $45 “Relief Vaporizer Pen,” never needs to be charged.

Florida’s implementation of medical marijuana does not allow the plant to be smoked, and it must instead be consumed as an oil, tincture, vapor or some other non-combustable method.

The company said without the tech in the new pen the many Florida patients who lost power due to Irma would have had to go without a way to administer their medical cannabis. The company said added that they planned to celebrate the new tech by putting a percentage of its sales toward Irma relief efforts.

“In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, we want to give some relief with Surterra’s Relief products,” Surterra CEO Jake Bergmann said. “Surterra wants to help more people every day with the highest quality cannabis, and this hurricane served as a great reminder that we must continue to strive for advancements in cannabis options so Floridians never have to go without their medical marijuana treatments.”

The company plans to donate 10 percent, or $4.50 per unit, of Relief Vaporizer Pen sales to relief efforts through the end of the month.

Surterra’s facilities took some hits during the storm, which left millions without power and caused billions of dollars in damages. After Irma cleared the Bay area, the company tweeted out that despite “minor flooding” and a “missing roof” that all the plants at its indoor grow operation were spared.

In the week since Irma, Surterra said all of its dispensaries have reopened and deliveries have resumed statewide. Medical marijuana patients can call (850) 391-5455 to place an order with the company or learn more about their product line.

Democrat Margaret Good running for HD 72

Florida Democrats now have a candidate vying for the open House District 72 in the Sarasota area recently vacated by Republican Alex Miller. She’s attorney and community activist Margaret Good, who announced her candidacy over the weekend.

“As we struggle with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, I’ve been helping my neighbors and our community with recovery – but I know there is so much more I can do,” Good said in a statement. ”It’s time to shake things up in Tallahassee and fight for the health care and jobs we need, the education our children deserve, and the environment that we love.”

Good is the first Democrat to enter into the special election, which is slated to take place next February. Realtor James Buchanan, the son of Congressman Vern Buchanan, is the only Republican to enter the race. He had been running for the House District 71 seat, where he had already raised more than $165,000.

“Margaret is a ‘dream candidate,'” declared former Sarasota County Democratic Executive Committee Chair Christine Jennings. “Republicans, Independents, and Democrats alike will support her because of her spirit of caring about people, her intellect, and her character.”

Good was born in Georgia and received her undergraduate degree from the University of South Carolina. She then attended law school at the University of Florida, where she edited the Florida Law Review. She now works at the Sarasota-based law firm of Matthews Eastmoore.

“We love working with Margaret for the same reasons voters will want her working for them: an outstanding educational background, extensive business and real-world experience, and a demonstrated commitment to caring about people and finding practical solutions to problems which people of all political persuasions agree must get done,” says Lamar Matthews, former general counsel for former Florida Gov. & U.S. Sen. Bob Graham and a founder of Matthews Eastmoore.

The HD 72 seat became open after Miller announced last month that she would be stepping down from the seat almost immediately to spend more time with her family.

The third candidate in the race is Libertarian Alison Foxall, who announced her candidacy shortly after Miller’s said she would exit the Legislature.

 

Vern Buchanan says he’ll back extending CHIP

Sarasota Congressman Vern Buchanan said Monday he intends to support the federal-state program that provides health coverage to millions of children in lower-and middle-class families.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is up for renewal at the end of this month.

“This important program provides peace of mind to families that if their children get sick, they will get the medical attention they need,” Buchanan said. “I grew up in a blue-collar home with five brothers and sisters, so I understand how important that is.”

That appears to be the overriding sentiment on Capitol Hill, where the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Oregon’s Ron Wyden, announced last week that they had reached agreement on a plan to keep the program afloat.

CHIP covers more than 9 million kids, most from families not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, the state-federal program that covers health care for people with low incomes. Income eligibility levels for CHIP vary widely among states, though most set thresholds at or below 200 percent of the poverty level — about $49,000 for a family of four. Unlike Medicaid, CHIP is usually not free to participants. Enrolled families pay an average premium of about $127 a year.

There is bipartisan support for the bill, though there are probably more Democrats than Republicans who support it in the House. In May, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to cut $400 million from the program.

Tampa Representative Kathy Castor participated in a news conference late last month with other local Democrats urging Congress to reapprove funding for the program.

Buchanan voted for extending CHIP the last time its funding came before the House nearly a decade ago.

The legislation originally was created for the federal government and the states to share its costs, but the Affordable Care Act increased the federal share in each state by 23 percentage points. As a result, the federal government pays the entire cost in 11 states, according to The New York Times.

The agreement by the Senate leaders would gradually restore the financial partnership between the federal government and the states. The federal share would continue to be enhanced by 23 percentage points, as under current law, for two more years, in 2018 and 2019. The increase would then be halved, to 11.5 percentage points, in 2020, and would be eliminated in 2021 and 2022.

 

National Weather Service employees ask Charlie Crist to help stop personnel cuts

Charlie Crist was already well aware of how unhappy National Weather Service (NWS) employees were about budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration.

But the St. Petersburg Democrat learned a whole lot more Monday about the concerns of career agency staffers over personnel reductions — specifically in Alaska. They say such cuts could damage the accuracy in forecasting storms and other major weather events.

“I’ve noticed that it’s under attack, but sadly a lot of things that make a lot of good sense are under attack in the recommendations from the administration,” Crist told members of the National Weather Service Employees Organization.

The group was holding its annual convention this week at the Vinoy Hotel in St. Petersburg.

Crist said that while the president can propose, it’s Congress that has the power to appropriate, and he predicted that the agency wouldn’t get the proposed five percent budget cut proposed by the Trump administration.

The former Florida governor said that in all of his decades living in the Sunshine State, he’s never seen federal, state and local officials work better in preparing for Hurricane Irma last week, and he said that much of that credit has to go to the NWS and their colleagues. “You are heroes to an awful lot of my fellow Floridians from this past week,” Crist told the attendee. “People are watching your colleagues on television, practically 24/7.”

But the employees with the National Weather Service don’t feel very appreciated these days.

“In Alaska, we have something like a 23 percent vacancy rate,” said Jim Brader, the Alaska Regional Chair with the NWSEO. “Positions aren’t being filled. Some offices have no employees, and so there’s other people filling in.”

Brader added that in one case, a reduction in personnel forced one employee in his office to work 145 days in a row, and some of those were double shifts. He said such reductions in Alaska impact weather forecasting for the rest of the country.

While there are staffing issues in other NWS offices, other employees also noted the significance of downgrading the Alaskan office.

“If you don’t get the critical data into our models, the forecasts are going to deteriorate,” warned Surranjana Saha, who works at the National Weather Service in Maryland. She said that the Alaska region is critical to read out climate forecasts.

“It’s a data void region and whatever radars you get are so precious because this affects the upper stratospheric winds and the wintertime flow over these areas,” Saha said, calling it “gold” to have such information.

Daniel Sobien, president of the National Weather Service Employees Organization, said that it was information from the Alaska office of the National Weather Service that was able to predict when the eye of Hurricane Irma began moving more eastward and out of the Tampa Bay area last Sunday.

“What causes it to make that turn was a mild attitude system was dropping down into the continent, but the information from Alaska is the information that we use to determine where that mid-latitude thing is going to come down so when that storm is going to turn,” he said.

Sobien also said that the NWS has also stopped sending up balloons to get the weather information needed to feed the models that are used to forecast hurricane.

“They just stopped doing that,” he said.

The problems with the National Weather Service aren’t exclusive to the Alaska, however. Brandon Dunston is with the NWS forecast office in Raleigh, North Carolina. He said that his office has lost five operational forecasters in recent years, approximately 40 percent of their meteorologists’ staff.

Although Trump has proposed a budget cut of five percent to the NWS, officials with the agency say the reduction in hiring additional staffers goes back a decade, and they’re still not certain why.

Some NWS employees said they want to have Crist push the chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment on the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, Arizona Republican Andy Biggs, to call for holding a hearing based on the study the Government Accounting Office has released that confirms the  confirms the vacancy rate in NWS operational units has reached a point where NWS employees are “unable at times to perform key tasks.”

The GAO also found that NWS “staff experienced stress, fatigue and reduced morale resulting from their efforts to cover for vacancies” due to lack of time off and a loss of training.

According to the GAO, NWS managers admit “that employees are fatigued and morale is low” and that employees “were demoralized because they had to cover the workload for multiple vacancies.”

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