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Tampa Bay area GOP Representatives weigh in on American Health Care Act

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) predicted Monday that changes occurring with a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the implementation of the American Health Care Act would result in 14 million people losing coverage in just the first year.

The CBO continued by saying that it expects premiums to come back down afterward, but the number of people without coverage would continue to rise ― eventually reaching 52 million in 2026, or 24 million more than what the CBO expects if the Affordable Care Act remains in place.

Gus Bilirakis press folks directed us to his speech on the House floor last week:

“In recent weeks, I held three town hall meetings and a roundtable discussion about health care in my district. Hundreds of constituents attended, and altogether I spent more than ten hours listening to folks. The best ideas come from the people, and I feel it is my duty as a representative to hear my constituents’ input.

“The American Health Care Act reflects what I’ve heard from patients, families, doctors, and many others over the past eight years. Our bill will lower costs, increase choices, and give patients greater control of their health care. It strengthens Medicaid, and helps middle-income Americans gain access to affordable coverage.

“It also protects those with pre-existing conditions, and allows young adults to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26.

“Most importantly, this legislation is moving through Congress in an open and transparent manner.

“I invite the people of Florida’s 12th District to read and share the American Health Care Act at ‘ReadTheBill.GOP.'”

Dennis Ross issued out this statement Tuesday:

“Obamacare is in a death spiral with skyrocketing premiums, insurers dropping out left and right, burdensome tax increases, and failed subsidies. It has left Americans with less choice and less control over their own health care. Premiums in Florida alone will increase 19 percent this year. This is absurd and unacceptable. We must provide relief for the millions of Americans who were kicked off their health care plans and are suffering from astronomical health care costs due to the failure of Obamacare.
“The American Health Care Act will not only put patients and doctors back in charge of their health care decisions, but it will also allow for a stable transition so no one has the rug pulled from under them. This legislation will provide affordable coverage and choice for all, eliminate crushing taxes, regulations and individual and employer mandate penalties, allow children up to 26 years old to stay on their parents’ plans, and ensure individuals with pre-existing conditions have access to coverage.
“This is a beginning, not an end. Congress and the Trump Administration are open to suggestions and working with others, something President Obama and Democrats were unwilling to do when they rammed Obamacare through Congress. This legislation is only Phase One of three to further lower costs and increase choice for families. By repealing and replacing Obamacare, we are keeping our promise to the American people. We are putting patients first.”

Sarasota Rep. Vern Buchanan will be hosting a town hall meeting this Saturday, where undoubtedly the American Health Care Act will be the subject of intense discussion.

“This is an important first step toward restoring choice and affordability to health care for all Americans,” Buchanan said. “This bill replaces a failing government-run program that forces people to buy insurance with a system based on choice, free markets and competition.”

A spokesperson for Buchanan says that he believes that the legislation will protect coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, allow children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 and eliminate lifetime caps on coverage.

And what about CD 11 Rep. Daniel Webster, who now represents parts of Hernando and Citrus counties? A spokesperson directed us to a newsletter Webster issued Monday.

“One thing is certain, the Affordable Care Act has been everything but affordable and is collapsing across the country, raising costs for patients and forcing insurers out of the marketplace, which leaves patients and families with nowhere to go.”

“This week, House leadership released their proposal for repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

This proposal, the “American Health Care Act,” is the first of three phases to provide 21st- century health care reform. The other stages include administrative/regulatory changes from Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, as well as additional legislative reforms passed as separate bills, including selling insurance across state lines.

More information about the American Healthcare Act is available at www.readthebill.gop.

Additionally, Rep. Mark Sanford (SC) and Sen. Rand Paul (KY) have introduced their own proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare.  You can read more about their proposal here.

“While I am strongly committed to repealing the failed Affordable Care Act and adopting real health care reform,” Webster said. “I have concerns with both proposals. For one, I am very concerned about the impact proposals will have on the demand for Medicaid beds in Florida nursing homes. This is critical to the access some of our senior population has to our hospitals and nursing homes. I also believe the final plan must provide the care we need, at a price we can afford, from the doctor we choose.

“These bills will continue to be the subject of much discussion and debate. I anticipate changes will be made before a bill comes up for a final vote in the House. It is my desire that the final proposal will, restore Medicaid to the original intent of the program — providing health care services to low income children, their caretaker relatives, the blind, and individuals with disabilities. Additionally, the following protections should be included in any final proposal.

“Additionally, the following protections should be included in any final proposal:

— Protect patients with pre-existing conditions: Ensures you will never be denied health care coverage regardless of their health status.

— Protect coverage for young people: Allows dependents up to age 26 stay on their parents’ plan

— Prohibits insurers from turning away patients when you renew your plan simply because you may be sick.”

In Tampa, potential CFO candidate Jeremy Ring tells his story

Broward Democrat Jeremy Ring isn’t officially a candidate for Chief Financial Officer, but he talked the part during a stop in Tampa on Friday.

Speaking at the Oxford Exchange as part of the Cafe Con Tampa weekly event, the former Yahoo executive introduced himself to the audience by humble-bragging about his private sector background, describing himself as the first salesman for the internet search engine company when he started there as a 24-year-old (he’s 46 now).

As proud as he was of his private sector career, Ring was self-deprecating when it came to his knowledge about politics when he decided to first run for the state Senate in 2006.

“I had never been to Tallahassee,” he says. “I barely knew that Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida. When I lived in Silicon Valley, Nancy Pelosi was my Congresswoman – I never heard of her (actually, Pelosi represents San Francisco, an hour north of Silicon Valley, which is located in Santa Clara County). All true. I was the least experienced candidate in the history of the state of Florida.”

The meat of his message is on making Florida an innovative economy, a theme he campaigned on during his first run for office a decade ago. And he’s produced results.

In 2008, he helped create theFlorida Growth Fund, which invests in state and local pension funds involving technology and high-growth businesses with a significant presence in the state, and the Florida Opportunity Fund, a multimillion-dollar program that directs investments to high-performing funds committed to seed early stage businesses.

Ring says that Florida has one of the most complete innovation “ecosystems” in the country, not that it’s something that many lawmakers know or understand.

“Most elected officials in Tallahassee will inspire you instead of becoming the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, they’ll inspire you to be the next homebuilder or land use attorneys,” he said. “The biggest thing that we’re lacking in this state to build an innovation economy is not the pieces. The pieces exist. It’s the culture. We don’t have the culture.”

Ring’s legislative record shows that he is definitely unorthodox compared to his Tallahassee colleagues. Last year he sponsored a bill that would make computer coding a foreign language option, an idea he received from his 14-year-old son. The bill failed, though St. Petersburg Republican Jeff Brandes is sponsoring it again this year (Brandes and Tampa Republican Representative Jamie Grant were singled out by Ring as understanding innovation).

Ring is adamant that the worst thing the state could do was to “starve our universities,” and he was critical of House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s new offensive scrutinizing state university foundations. And he said that Florida cannot afford to freeze college tuition.

He tends to think that lawmakers (and the press) are in a bubble in regards to the general public’s attention span. In describing the uproar over former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli pulling the House out of Session days before it was scheduled to end (only to have to come back in a special session), he says ,”Not a single person called my office caring about that. It just wasn’t relevant to their lives.”

Acknowledging that it’s like a cliche, but Ring describes himself as a fiscal conservative and a social liberal. And he is coldly realistic about his chances of success in capturing the CFO seat next year.

It would require raising an “incredible amount of money,” having a solid campaign team and essentially ignoring the Florida Democratic Party. The bigger challenge, he said, is that most Floridians don’t give a hoot about the CFO race, and that part of the campaign will be out of his control.

“What’s the Governor’s race going to look like?” he asked. “Is Donald Trump at one percent or 99 percent?”

Though he said he’s confident of raising substantial money both inside and outside of Florida and having a strong campaign team, “If Adam Putnam is leading the Governor’s race by 10 points, then no, but if John Morgan is leading the Governor’s race by 10 points, then a Democrat’s probably going to win.”

Donald Trump could be forcing out U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley

President Donald Trump has asked for resignations from 46 U.S. Attorneys appointed by former President Barack Obama, possibly including A. Lee Bentley of the Middle District of Florida.

The Tampa Business Journal contacted multiple sources to see if Bentley had been asked to step aside, but did not get a confirmation as of Friday evening.

Bentley was sworn in to the position just a year ago, and was appointed based on the recommendation of Florida U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio. Before becoming U.S. Attorney, Bentley spent 15 years as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the same district.

The Middle District of Florida is headquartered in Tampa.

U.S. Attorneys generally step aside when the presidential administration changes parties, but the process usually takes place gradually to ensure replacements are lined up for a smooth transition.

Miami U.S. Attorney Wilfredo Ferrer, also an Obama appointee, announced his resignation last month.

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the ranking minority member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, equated asking for the resignations to an “abrupt firing.”

“Under previous administrations, orderly transitions allowed U.S. Attorneys to leave gradually as their replacements were chosen,” she said. “This was done to protect the independence of our prosecutors and avoid disrupting ongoing federal cases.”

Feinstein said she is “very concerned about the effect of this sudden and unexpected decision on federal law enforcement.”

Tampa a ‘final four’ city to host National Gay & Lesbian Chamber Convention

Tampa is one of the final four cities in the running to host the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Convention this summer.

Last week, a team of NGLCC officials visited Tampa to evaluate the location for the gathering scheduled for Aug. 7-10, 2018.

Visit Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber of Commerce have joined forces to attract the conference to Tampa — competing against Austin, Texas; Philadelphia and New Orleans. The chosen city could see an economic impact of more than $2.1 million, with bookings for approximately 2,450 hotel rooms, including another 700 on the peak night.

If Tampa does make the final cut, local leaders say it would represent a significant nod toward Tampa’s thriving economy, inclusive policies, and regional support of LGBTQA issues. Both Tampa Mayor Bob Bckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, along with Visit Tampa Bay, have welcomed and supported the selection of the city as a host of the 2018 conference.

Nick Janovsky, a Board Member of the Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber — the local chapter of the NGLCC — says Tampa hosting the convention would cap off series of successful scholarship programs and a record year for the annual Diamonds in Diversity gala, which honors local political and business leaders.

 “We at the Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber of Commerce are proud of our members and their companies for embracing diversity as a strength and the impact their small, medium and large companies are having to make our region a thriving economic hub — attracting a talented workforce,” Janovsky said in an email. “We applaud Mayor Buckhorn and Mayor Kriseman for their support and are confident Tampa is the best city in the country to host the 2018 NGLCC Convention.”

Visit Tampa Bay president and CEO Santiago Corrada says hosting this event will “elevate the entire Tampa Bay community in the eyes of the world as a major LGBTQ destination capable of putting on a significant, high-quality national event.”

Ashley Brundage, President of the Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber added that the national conference “will put Tampa Bay on the Map with LGBTQ Conventions and the more than 200 major corporate partners of the NGLCC.”

Ashley, along with her wife Whitney, will serve as co-chair for local efforts in the event should Tampa be selected.

For more than 30 years, the Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber has provided an environment for business owners and local organizations to “build an alternative community based on shared goals, friendship, and trust.”

More information about the Tampa Bay Diversity Chamber is at https://www.diversitytampabay.org.

Minority Whip Steny Hoyer returns to Florida for Charlie Crist fundraiser March 24

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer will be back in Florida later this month as special guest at a fundraiser for St. Petersburg Democrat Charlie Crist.

Hosted by Kathy and Joe Saunders, JoAnn and John Nestor, Janette and Tom Carey and Watson Haynes, the reception will be Friday, March 24, at the Saunders’ St. Petersburg home at 4916 62nd Ave. S. The $500-a-ticket event begins 5 p.m.

Hoyer represents Maryland’s 5th Congressional District and has served as House Majority Leader (2007-11) and House Majority Whip (2003-2007). The last time he was in Central Florida was October in Sanford to stump for Democrat Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

Crist, the freshman lawmaker representing Pinellas County’s 13th Congressional District, sits on the House Financial Services and Science, Space and Technology committees.

RSVPs are available online; for more information, contact Evan Lawlor at Evan@CharlieCrist.com or (202) 741-7215.

New details emerge in case of foster mother charged in murder of Tampa-area toddler

Aedyn Agminalis

All the red flags were there.

There was a toddler with medical needs; a medically untrained, first-time foster parent with occasional problems falling behind on rent and a possible need for extra income in raising her two biological children; and multiple visits to the hospital, according to news reports and information gathered independently by FloridaPolitics.com Thursday.

However, on paper LaTamara Stackhouse Flythe met all the criteria for foster parenting. She lived in a nice suburban Tampa neighborhood and listed her income at around $70,000, according to an article by The Tampa Bay Times Thursday, which noted her earnings were a combination of child support and a salary from her employer, Children’s Home Network, an “agency subcontracted by Eckerd Kids to recruit, license and support foster parents.”

A Door of Hope, another Eckerd subcontractor, approved Flythe’s foster parenting license. Foster parents get a minimum of $439 per month, per child, aged 5 or under in Florida. Flythe had the option to foster one more child in her home, meaning a potential four minors could have been living under her roof.

Eckerd Kids is one of the biggest so-called community-based care agencies (CBCs) contracted to do foster care and adoption business with the state of Florida. In 2012, DCF officials in Tallahassee awarded the lucrative $65.5 million annual contract to Eckerd Kids for Hillsborough County, where they claim more children die every year than in any other county in the Sunshine State. (Eckerd is headquartered in Clearwater, and when they got the Hillsborough contract they already had contracts with Pinellas and Pasco counties.)

LaTamara Stackhouse Flythe

Adrienne Drew, the spokesperson for Eckerd Kids, confirmed Thursday to FloridaPolitics.com the agency had no policy in place to flag repeated medical incidents with foster children placed in the care of foster parents, but have since instituted one.

Drew also said Gulf Coast Jewish Family & Community Services, yet another subcontractor of Eckerd Kids, was assigned to handle Aedyn’s case, specifically, while he was in foster care — his case worker would’ve been allocated from that agency.

But now Flythe is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse in the death of toddler Aedyn Agminalis, who was removed from the home of his biological parents, Brynn and Artha Agminalis, under which Aedyn was living in below standard conditions, a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office spokesman said.

“The CPID (child protective investigation division) worker said their living environment was in deplorable conditions,” Lt. Larry McKinnon told FloridaPolitics.com Thursday. “There was feces in the crib and on the boy — it wasn’t a good situation.”

No one from Eckerd Kids was at the hospital the day Aedyn’s life support system was shut off.

The mother, Artha, had been interviewed by the local CBS-affiliate TV news station, claiming she and her husband had decided to give Aedyn up for adoption, but that wasn’t true, according to McKinnon.

“People say all kinds of things when this happens, but in this case, she can say what she wants — they (CPID) were taking the boy out of their home anyway the same day they first visited the home,” he said. “They had already decided he needed to be removed.”

According to the Times article, the Agminalis’s admitted to child welfare investigators they were ill-equipped to care for Aedyn and requested he be taken into the foster care program.

“The charges arise from the care and feeding of their son before he was placed in state custody in September,” the Times reported. “The couple, who moved to Florida from Kentucky when Aedyn was about 10 months old, had decided they weren’t ready to be parents. Through an adoption agency, they had chosen Colleen Kochanek and her wife, Stephanie Norris, to adopt Aedyn.”

***

But without Kochanek’s or Norris’s knowledge, Eckerd Kids was trying to get Aedyn’s paternal grandparents to adopt him.

FloridaPolitics.com reached out to Kochanek, but a response was not immediately returned before the publishing of this article.

In December, just after Aedyn’s death, the CBS-affiliate in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, WTSP 10News, interviewed Kochanek and Norris, who had just successfully adopted a separate child and were waiting to add Aedyn to their family.

“It just seems like we were fighting them instead of them saying, ‘Gosh, this is great. This little guy is going to find a permanent home,’” Kochanek, with Norris standing next to her and responding directly about Eckerd Kids, told a 10News reporter. “Why the delay? If people have already been through adoption, let’s expedite that. Let’s get children out of foster care as soon as possible. I’m not saying that any child is going to be harmed any minute in foster care. Sure, there’s excellent foster parents out there but why delay? Why not have him with us as soon as absolute possible?”

Eckerd Kids is widely known to promote Christianity, and the fact the pair were a married lesbian couple may have played a factor in the stonewalling the couple received. Kochanek is a North Carolina Bar-certified lawyer.

David Dennis, the CEO and executive director for Eckerd Kids, is a Baptist from Oklahoma, who earned $566,151 in combined compensation and income during fiscal year 2014, according to an IRS 990 records (untaxed nonprofits are required to file one annually). The next fiscal year, 2015, he got a significant raise, pushing his combined earnings as head of Eckerd Kids, also known as Eckerd Youth Alternatives, to $708,028 — a $141,877 bump up.

Dennis has a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling from Southwestern Baptist Seminary and a bachelor’s degree in religion from Oklahoma Baptist University, according to the Eckerd website.

Kochanek and Norris believe Aedyn’s death needs to be investigated beyond the reasons he died, primarily on why he wasn’t placed into adoption sooner, they told 10News. They also want to see Aedyn’s medical records from the time he went into foster care until the moment he died.

FloridaPolitics.com asked DCF why the medical records haven’t yet been given to the couple yet.

Jessica Sims, a spokesperson for DCF, emailed this message about the medical records: “Regarding the prospective adoptive parents and the medical records, this was through a private adoption agency, so (they) would need to reach out to that entity on their processes. There are also likely HIPAA considerations in a situation related to the release of medical records.

“In general, there may often be more than one permanency plan being sought for a child to ensure permanency is achieved as soon as possible. This is called concurrent case planning. Additionally, there may also be more than one prospective adoptive parent(s) being reviewed as a placement option at one time, especially individuals related to the child.”

***

In four of the last six years, Hillsborough County has led the state in the number of children removed from their homes. In Hillsborough, DCF does not lead child welfare investigations — the sheriff’s office does.

The idea of sheriff’s offices taking over from DCF began as an experiment in the 1990s in Manatee County and spread to three other Tampa Bay-area counties, to include Pasco, Pinellas and, of course, Hillsborough. Only six counties in the state let the sheriff’s offices handle what would normally be DCF-led investigations.

The other two counties are Seminole and Broward out of the six — six counties out of 67 in the state.

However, in Hillsborough County by the end of the 2016 fiscal year, “investigators with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office removed 1,672 children, the highest number in more than 10 years. That’s almost 450 more than Miami-Dade County, home to roughly 1.3 million more people than Hillsborough,” according to a Tampa Bay Times article from August 2016.

The article went on: “For some, the numbers suggest that the county at times removes children unnecessarily. Others speculate that Hillsborough’s large low-income population, scattered over urban and rural areas, makes it difficult to help with social services. Whatever the reason, the result is an overburdened child welfare system.

“Almost 40 children ended up sleeping in offices and other make-do accommodations over a three-month period this spring and summer because state contractor Eckerd Kids could not place them in foster homes.”

Hillsborough’s Child Protective Investigation Division is comprised of more than 70 civil investigators, not sworn law enforcement deputies. They only take a 12-week training course and then additional on-the-job training to get certified by DCF, then they are granted the power to separate children from their biological parents at their discretion.

The Times article from 2016 also noted Eckerd Kids sets a mediocre goal of “getting 60 percent of children returned to their families or placed permanently with foster parents within one year of removal.”

Over a 12-month period ending in June 2016, the Times noted, Eckerd “failed to meet that goal even once and in May and June also failed to meet the state target of permanently placing 40.5 percent of children within one year.”

FloridaPolitics.com asked Eckerd about these goal percentage failures, but they were unable to answer in time for the publishing of this article.

In Aedyn’s case, both his biological parents and foster parent failed him.

DCF Secretary Mike Carroll responded a request for comment by FloridaPolitics.com, issuing a statement.

“Quality foster parents are essential to our work in helping vulnerable children begin to heal in a safe environment,” Carroll said. “Because we place such sacred trust in them, each one must pass a background screening and home study, as well as go through specific training. There was nothing in Ms. Flythe’s background that indicated she could be a threat to any child placed in her care.

“We ask individuals and families all across the state to step up and become foster parents. We trust them to help us care for these children and that makes it even more devastating when one is accused of hurting the very child they were charged to protect.”

 

After 27-hour committee hearing, Kathy Castor calls GOP House push to pass health care bill without CBO scoring ‘ unconscionable’

The House Energy & Commerce Committee passed the GOP health care repeal bill this afternoon, in a session that lasted 27 hours. It was the second committee on Thursday to pass the legislation, after the House Ways and Means Committee voted 23 to 16 to advance the American Health Care Act shortly before 4:30 a.m. Thursday after about 18 hours of debate.

Tampa Representative Kathy Castor serves as Vice Ranking Member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, and she went off her GOP colleagues after the bill passed this afternoon.

“It is unconscionable that House Republicans rammed this repeal bill through committee without understanding how much the bill will cost, the impact on the deficit and how many Americans will lose their health insurance,” Castor said. “Republicans repeatedly rejected amendments to protect and fight for patient protections and health care affordability.  We stayed up through the night and forced them to debate and go on record opposing measures that address the concerns that we have all have been hearing about from our neighbors at town halls throughout the country.”

The requirements for the bill have been extensively reported on this week since it was unveiled on Monday night. It would result in major cuts to Medicaid funding which has been crucial for people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act, and eliminates the subsidies that approximately 85 percent of those on the ACA are relying on to stay on their current plan.

Castor also took aim at the fact that the House Republican declined having the bill “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to determine the costs to the American public, and how many people will be able to afford the new plan.

“Rather than rush a Republican repeal bill, I urge my colleagues to work together to improve health care coverage for families across America,” she said. “We are at the lowest rate of uninsured in history, we have kept health care costs in check for people with insurance and we can do more by tackling the cost of pharmaceuticals, but that has been left out of the Republican repeal bill.”

Although the bill did make it through the two GOP-led committees and may ultimately pass in the GOP-held House, there is considerable pushback from a number of Republican Senators, jeopardizing the repeal and replace plan at the moment.

The political class react to Bob Buckhorn’s decision not to run for Governor

Bob Buckhorn’s decision not to run for Governor is eliciting plenty of reaction in Tampa. Many people say they are not surprised Buckhorn has chosen not to pursue a path to the top political job in Florida.

“Am I the only one who felt he wasn’t heading in that direction?” asked City Councilwoman Yolie Capin.

“I truly believe that he made the right decision because he has not demonstrated over the past six months that he had a keen interest in running for governor,” said Councilman Frank Reddick.

Alluding to the fact that he has done little over the past year to travel around the state to get to know Democrats like potential candidates Gwen Graham and Philip Levine, Reddick said: “I think his chances of winning would have been very, very slim. So I think he did the right thing to wait this out.”

“While I absolutely believe that the State of Florida needs a course correction and a new direction, the timing for me and my family would be a challenge,” the Mayor said in his statement issued out shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday. “As the father of two daughters who are 15 and 11, the all-consuming task of running for Governor would cause me to miss the milestones in their lives that I could never get back.”

“Although I’m not surprised, I’m a little sad that we won’t have a representative from Tampa running for Governor,” said Councilman Mike Suarez. “I would have loved to have seen him go out and talk about the vision that he’s been able to put together in Tampa for the rest of the state.”

“I think that Mayor Buckhorn should be commended for putting the interests of his family and the City of Tampa first,” said Councilman Harry Cohen. “Being Mayor is more than a full-time job, and the continued success of much of what is happening in Tampa right now depends on having a strong and totally focused Mayor.”

“Bob Buckhorn is an extraordinary leader who has transformed one of Florida’s and America’s great cities,” Graham said in a statement. “His successful service in Tampa shows what Florida can accomplish if we work together and focus on creating economic opportunity and improving the quality of life for families.

“As a Tampa native, I’m incredibly thankful for his vision and leadership,” says Democratic operative Ana Cruz, a close Buckhorn ally.

A former official with the Florida Democratic Party, Cruz appeared wistful that Buckhorn will not be making a run for governor next year.

“Mayor Buckhorn has transformed our city, led with integrity and is exactly what we need in Tallahassee,” she said. “Bob Buckhorn will always be my favorite pick for Governor.”

“He would have been a strong candidate and a great governor, but can’t blame my friend Bob for putting his family and Tampa first,” said St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
“The withdrawal of Bob Buckhorn leaves the democrats without a critical I-4  corridor candiates who has won an election,” said St. Petersburg political strategist Barry Edwards. “The I-4 cooridor is critical to the success of a democratic nominee in a general elction and this further errodes democrats pathways back to power.”

“His legacy will be that of a truly great man who loved Tampa and elevated our city to the national stage,” said Tampa state Senate Republican Dana Young. “Although he will not run for Governor, Bob Buckhorn is not going away by any stretch — except him to be a major player for years to come.”

Reddick said the same thing about the mayor, who will turn 59 in July.

“He’s still a young man, and he got a great future ahead of him if the timing is right for him, and that could be in another four years.”

The mayor himself had a news conference later on Thursday morning, which you can read all about here.

Ed Miyagishima departing position at Port Tampa Bay

Ed Miyagishima, the Vice President of Communications and External Affairs at Port Tampa Bay and a senior adviser to CEO Paul Anderson, announced that he is leaving his position to “lead the charge” to have Tampa Bay host the 2019 Medal of Honor Convention.

Miyagishima, who had been with the port for four years, made the announcement on his Facebook page Wednesday night.

“I’m humbled and excited for this new chapter which will allow me to represent and showcase the American heroes and military community I love and honor, in the city I’m proud to call home,” Miyagishima wrote.

Tampa is working to win the bid for the 2019 convention and will make a presentation to the Medal of Honor Society later this month in Washington, D.C., he said, reports the Tampa Bay Business Journal. If the city wins the bid, a non-profit host committee will be formed and he will serve as president and CEO.

A prominent figure in Republican politics before coming to Port Tampa Bay in 2013, Miyagishima has worked with a number of GOP officials over the years, including Florida Governor Rick Scott. After Scott’s victory over Alex Sink in 2010, Miyagishima worked in the state’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development.

Prior to coming to Port Tampa Bay, Miyagishima had served on the U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Connie Mack IV in 2012. He also served a stint on Herman Cain’s presidential campaign in 2011.

A California native, Miyagishima served briefly with former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009, before going to work for Meg Whitman’s unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign against Jerry Brown in 2010.

His resignation comes a day after WFTS-Channel 28 reported that Port Tampa Bay is lagging significantly behind when it comes to the number of containers coming in, dramatically behind smaller Florida ports like Jacksonville, Miami and Port Everglades.

WFTS also reported that Anderson’s annual salary of $382,287 is more than the annual salaries of the CEO’s of the ports in New York/New Jersey and Los Angeles, despite the fact that those two ports bring in millions of containers every year, compared to Port Tampa’s thirty-nine thousand.

House bill could transfer millions from FHP to county sheriffs

The Florida Highway Patrol came out against a proposed committee bill Wednesday that would hand over agency funding and jurisdiction in two counties.

CRJ 17-01 from the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee could give the Pinellas County and Polk County sheriff’s offices a combined $6 million to handle crashes on state roads within county borders.

FHP Lt. Col. Mike Thomas said the move “would be a stark change to our business model” and that FHP hasn’t “had the chance to really evaluate any of the fiscal impacts as well as the impacts on the public.”

FHP has jurisdiction to investigate crashes on state roads in many Florida counties, though sheriffs say they end up doing a lot of the heavy lifting because FHP doesn’t have the boots on the ground to handle the case load.

“We’re already doing it,” Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said in an interview with the Times/Herald. “I believe we can do it faster, better, cheaper.” He added: “The citizen doesn’t understand why the guy in the green uniform goes by five times while they’re sitting there waiting for the guy in the brown uniform.”

Under the bill, FHP would be required to enter into a contract with the Pinellas and Polk sheriff’s offices if  requested, while the sheriff’s offices would be required to employ displaced FHP troopers unless they decide to transfer locations or leave to pursue another job.

The bill also requires payments to the sheriff’s offices to be less than the cost of having FHP do the work. The cap for Pinellas County is $2.8 million a year, while the cap in Polk is set at $3.2 million.

 

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