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Bill Galvano adds $500K in committee cash during March

Future Senate President Bill Galvano brought had a monster March, with nearly $500,000 in contributions to his “Innovate Florida” political committee.

The Bradenton Republican brought in $494,200 for his committee the week before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session, including $50,000 each from the Florida Medical Association and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, with the chamber chipping in another $25,000 through an affiliated political committee.

Lawmakers must pause their fundraising efforts during the Legislative Session, which this year started on March 7, though they often bring in large amounts of money during a fundraising sprint in the days leading up to Session.

Other big donors included Florida Power and Light and the Florida Jobs PAC, which each chipped in $25,000, and the Florida Hospital Association and Altria Client Services, which each gave $20,000.

Innovate Florida’s contributions were offset by $405,000 in spending during the month, including a $100,000 contribution to the Free Speech PAC run by Republican consultant Randy Nielsen and $75,000 a piece to the Taxpayers in Action and Citizens First political committees.

Galvano, who is set to take over as Senate President after the 2018 elections, had about $785,000 on hand at the end of the March. He has raised more than $6.8 million for the political committee since 2013.

Pasco Commissioner Mike Moore files for re-election

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Moore filed campaign paperwork Tuesday in his re-election bid.

Moore, the founder of a medical supplies business which he later sold, was first elected in 2014 to represent District 2 and was selected in 2016 to be vice-chair of the Board of County Commissioners. He will also become chair in 2017.

“To build a small business or achieve other success in any area of life, you must set goals and then work tirelessly to deliver results,” Moore said in a statement. “Over the past two years, our community has set goals and we’ve worked together to accomplish them.”

Moore added that he has worked tirelessly to improve the local economy and “bring good paying jobs to Pasco County.” He worked to accelerate improvements to county roads, parks and infrastructure.

He said the helped fund public safety “so residents are safe and secure.”

“We’ve targeted blighted areas and we are improving those areas, benefiting our entire community. We’ve accomplished all of this while working to keep taxes low, reduce wasteful spending, right-size our local government and improve responsiveness and customer service,” Moore added.

“While there is much to be proud of, there is still a great deal we still must do. With your support, I’ll continue to fight for our shared principles while helping lead Pasco County to an even better and brighter future.”

Among the various boards and committees Moore sits: Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Authority, Circuit Conflict-Sixth Judicial Circuit, Dependency Drug Treatment Court Planning Steering Committee, Government Operations Committee, Insurance Selection Committee, Public Safety Coordination Council, Habitat for Humanity, CARES, the Boys and Girls Club and chair of the Homeless Advisory Board.

Also, Gov. Rick Scott appointed Moore to the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council in 2014 and appointed by then-House Speaker Will Weatherford to the Florida Department of Elder Affairs Advisory Council in 2014.

“He is not scared to jump into the stickier issues,” Weatherford said of Moore to FloridaPolitics.com. “A lot of politicians won’t do that, but Mike will roll up his sleeves and go to work. When I think of him, it’s like the old political saying – do you want to be something, or do you want to do something? He wants to do something.”

Moore lives in Wesley Chapel with his wife and three children.

Carlos Frontela chastened by 2016 mistakes, is fired up for House District 62 bid

In declaring his candidacy early for the Tampa-based House District 62 seat, Carlos Frontela already demonstrates he’s learned from rookie mistakes made last year in his bid for the Hillsborough County School Board.

“I jumped in really late, two months before the primary,” he says, reminiscing about his ill-fated run for the District 7 seat ultimately captured by Lynn Gray last November.

“No time to really organize, no time to really gain any campaign contributions,” he says which is why he’s working on qualifying by petition to get on the ballot next year in the seat that will be vacated by a term-limited Janet Cruz.

The 42-year-old Frontela was born in Cuba and grew up in New Jersey before moving to Tampa in 2004. He owns his own small business, a document preparation service based in an office located near Raymond James Stadium in West Tampa.

“I think the Legislature could use somebody like me with business experience,” he said Tuesday. “I’m not necessarily a career politician. I can bring some sense of normalcy where I can reach across the aisle and do things a bipartisan process.”

Frontela looks forward to campaigning next year in earnest, acknowledging that with a full-time business and five children, it won’t be easy.

Frontela often speaks about working to find common ground with Republicans in Tallahassee to pass bills helping his constituents.

“That’s very important,” he says. “If you’re going to just go up there and play partisan politics, it’s not going to work.”

The subject prompts a riff on what Frontela calls a mistake by Senate Democrats in Washington opposing Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump‘s first nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court. Gorsuch was sworn onto the court Monday.

“Neil Gorsuch was confirmed unanimously via voice vote to the 10th Judicial Circuit (of Appeals),” he recounts about that 2006 vote in which Chuck Schumer, Diane Feinstein and other Senate Democrats — those who opposed him last week — supported him 11 years beforehand.

“People can see clearly that was a show. It was partisan politics,” he says, criticizing his own party. The Democratic wall of opposition in the Senate led Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to break out the “nuclear option,” allowing just a bare minimum approval of 51 senators to confirm Gorsuch, versus the filibuster-proof 60 votes previously required to confirm Supreme Court no.

“Next time when a real, right-leaning conservative judge gets appointed, you’d have faith with the general public,” he says. “Now you don’t. You got the nuclear option. God knows a way right-wing justice will get through (next time) with just 51 votes.”

Regarding the battle between Republican Richard Corcoran and Rick Scott over Enterprise Florida, Frontela takes Scott’s side in believing tax incentives help businesses and communities.

He not only supports medical marijuana (though not the way the GOP-led Legislature is debating how to implement the matter) but the legalization of recreational marijuana as well. “We have two other drugs on the market that are completely legal and completely taxes, and they kill countless individuals every year,” says Frontela. “And those are alcohol and tobacco.”

“We have two other drugs on the market that are completely legal and completely taxes, and they kill countless individuals every year,” says Frontela. “And those are alcohol and tobacco.”

He considers raising the state’s minimum wage to at least $10 an hour his top issue, as well as restoring the civil and voting rights of ex-felons.

About last year’s presidential contest, Frontela is of the opinion that the Democratic National Committee “rigged” the primary fight between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in Clinton’s favor.

“That turned off a lot of people,” he says of fellow Democrats, “and a lot of people didn’t turn out.”

Frontera had a lifelong interest in politics, going back to when he was 13 and volunteered for the campaign of New Jersey Democratic Albio Sires, who in 1986 was running for Congress for the first time.

As a Cuban-American, Frontela supports the diplomatic breakthrough with the communist island led by Barack Obama in 2014.

Learn more about Frontela’s platform by going to his website: CharlieFor62.com.

Marco Rubio to headline Pinellas GOP Lincoln Day Dinner on May 19

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will be the featured speaker next month at the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee’s 2017 Lincoln Day Dinner, one of the region’s premier political events.

The Miami Republican will keynote the event on Friday, May 19, at the Hilton Carillon Hotel in St. Petersburg’s Gateway community.

The annual event not only celebrates recent local GOP victories but has grown to become one of the key fundraising events to support future races.

Lincoln Day dinners are annual GOP celebrations held nationwide by various Republican Party organizations. After Ronald Reagan’s death in 2004, Lincoln Day festivities evolved into a celebration of the former president’s life and achievements, as well as an occasion to honor the party’s conservative successes over the past year.

Certain for inclusion in the celebration is the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as Donald Trump’s first choice for the U.S. Supreme Court.

As Pinellas GOP Chair Nick DeCleglie said in a April 7 Facebook post: “With the help of a Republican-controlled Senate, whose members stood up to the Democrats’ partisan filibuster, Donald Trump will successfully follow through on what I consider to be his most important campaign promise – to appoint conservative jurists to the Supreme Court. Judge Neil Gorsuch is a jurist who will hold true to the Constitution, much like his predecessor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. I am proud of our Republican Senators who used the precedent set by Harry Reid and the Democrats in 2013 to end debate and confirm this qualified member of the legal community.

“It is a great day for the rule of law in the greatest country the world has ever known,” DiCeglie added. “God Bless Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump, and the United States of America.”

The event also traditionally announces the winner of the C.W. “Bill” Young Public Service Award.

Emmett Reed: Who best entrusted with senior care – caregivers or insurers?

Emmett Reed is executive director of the Florida Health Care Association.

In an effort to protect their turf, the health plans behind Florida’s managed care program for Medicaid recipients keep saying they help many older Floridians move from nursing homes to live in community settings. What they fail to tell you is that these elders are just a small fraction of nursing home residents – the reality is that some frail elders simply cannot be properly cared for outside a skilled nursing center.

These health plans, along with the state Agency for Health Care Administration, are basing their assessment on seriously flawed calculations. While they say it would cost taxpayers $200 million to remove skilled nursing centers from managed care, such a carve-out would actually save taxpayers $68.2 million per year.

Florida has a long-standing commitment to helping elders stay in their homes or community settings for as long as possible. But we must also recognize that for more and more of the frailest residents, a nursing home is the best, and perhaps only, realistic option.

The state’s erroneous cost estimate is based on an assumption of what it would cost if certain individuals who received home- and community-based services had instead been cared for in a nursing center. But the proposed carve-out focuses solely on exempting long-stay nursing center residents, not those who could otherwise live in community settings. There are no savings to be realized for these individuals because their health and medical needs can only be addressed in a nursing center – they cannot be safely cared for in a home or community setting.

Official state figures show that managed care companies transition only about 4 percent of nursing center residents into home- and community-based care. That means the other 96 percent continue to receive their care in skilled nursing centers. The huge savings touted by the managed care companies simply cannot be realized.

Florida’s system of managed care doesn’t work effectively for long-stay nursing center residents, who can’t take care of themselves or be safely cared for in the community. With those residents stuck in the managed care system, taxpayers are paying approximately $68.2 million in unnecessary fees each year for management services that are not needed, according to a study for the Florida Health Care Association.

In the final analysis, managed care companies are more like insurance companies than like health care providers – if it doesn’t work for their bottom line, they’re not interested. So when your loved one needs the kind of care that can only be offered in a skilled nursing facility, who would you rather entrust with their care: their insurer or their trained caregivers?

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Emmett Reed is executive director of the Florida Health Care Association.

St. Petersburg officials make the case for Enterprise Florida

With less than a month to go for the Florida Legislature Regular Session, several major issues remain unresolved.

No issue is more entertaining — on a purely political basis — than the debate among Republicans on the viability of Enterprise Florida.

That’s the public-private partnership between Florida’s business and government leaders where recent records show has spent a lot more public than private money. And that’s a major reason Enterprise Florida has spent an entire year in the crosshairs of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, whose intense campaign has resulted in the Florida House voting to defund the organization.

But that’s not the case in the Senate.

The upper chamber’s current budget funds the organization to the tune of $85 million, with Gov. Rick Scott taking weekly road trips up and down the state for the past few months calling out House Republicans who voted against the measure. Much of the road trips include cheerleading sessions with both political and business elite in those communities.

J.P. DuBuque, the president of the Greater St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation, admits that economic growth in the state won’t die out if Enterprise Florida isn’t retained. But he also believes taking away the business community’s biggest (and best) marketing arm and “unilaterally disarming” regarding tax incentives will negatively impact growth trajectory and the success overall of Florida communities.

“We’re competing against other locations. They may have deals where they might be considering locations in Cleveland or Dallas or Nashville or Atlanta. All of those states have lucrative incentive programs, and if we do not have something of our own to help close the deal, the total cost element which every business is going to look at, that pendulum moves away from Florida, and we don’t get the jobs,” he says.

In a conference call with FloridaPolitics.com Friday, DuBuque joined Bram Hechtkopf, CEO of St. Petersburg-based Kobie Marketing, a firm working with some of the biggest companies in the United States to build brand loyalty.

Working through the State’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program last year, Kobie qualified for 255 new hires, with an average salary of $80,000.

Under the QTI program, administered through the Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida, companies can receive a $3,000 tax refund per new job created — if the salary is more than 115 percent of the county’s average annual wage.

After the House Rules and Policy Committee had passed a bill last month to kill Enterprise Florida, the libertarian-based Americans for Prosperity-Florida celebrated.

“Florida is the best state to raise a family and start a business, because of our outstanding recourses and infrastructure, not because of taxpayer handouts,” AFP-Florida representatives said in a statement. “The time to end these unfair handouts is now.”

AFP-Florida has been the most vocal group to call out all forms of what they dub “corporate welfare.” In so, they found an ideological partner in Corcoran, who at one point wanted the same fate for Visit Florida, the state’s tourist development arm.

Corcoran has since backed off that stance while continuing to push for a severe reduction in its budget.

DuBuque, as head of the EDC, bristles at the suggestion that EF simply gives out tax incentives willy-nilly.

“The incentives don’t make the deal,” he maintains. “The decision to consider a location for growth or relocation is driven first in most cases by availability and cost of labor, then you  have real estate considerations, you have quality-of-life considerations, so you have all of these considerations that your business are going to take.”

Hechtkopf emphasizes that Enterprise Florida has been a good corporate partner, helping attract and maintain talent in the Tampa Bay area. Although he was unable to confirm the nature of how the tax incentive program would work for Kobie Marketing, an official working with the firm later contacted FloridaPolitics to say that Kobie “has the potential of $1.7 million dollars in tax refunds from calendar years 2017 through 2023 as long as the 255 net-new employee are retained through the year 2023.”

HD 66 hopeful Berny Jacques starts strong, raises nearly $30K in March

Berny Jacques raised $29,740 in March, the first month of fundraising after launching a 2018 bid for Pinellas County’s House District 66.

Contributors to the former Pinellas County Assistant State Attorney’s campaign include former Jeb Bush staffer Slater Bayliss, GOP fundraiser Brent Sembler, local Republican heavyweight Jim Holton, Tampa Chamber of Commerce Chair Mike Griffin and Fritz Brogan, former Executive Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Rick Scott.

Jacques also picked up an endorsement from another local Pinellas County official, Largo City Commissioner Jamie Robinson.

“I have had the opportunity to speak with Berny over the past couple of weeks regarding his candidacy,” Robinson said. “He has shown great concerns for the residents of the district. His honesty and willingness to listen to the people’s problems [are] commendable. I am looking forward to working together with him to help continue enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of Largo.”

Jacques said he was honored by the endorsement.

“Commissioner Robinson is someone who truly cares about the people of Largo,” he said. “My history with the City of Largo goes back to my time as a state prosecutor where I worked with the Largo Police Department to address crime in the city. To have a city leader like Commissioner Robinson on our team is truly humbling.”

Currently occupying the HD 66 seat is term-limited Republican Larry Ahern of Seminole.

Nick DiCeglie, who serves as chair of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee, is also considering a run for the seat next year. However, he has yet to officially file.

Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor want Congress consulted on military force in Syria

The two Tampa Bay-area Democratic members of Congress — Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist — say they support President Donald Trump‘s military action in Syria Thursday night. both say that the House of Representatives should immediately reconvene so that members can debate the use of military force there.

But both say the House of Representatives should reconvene immediately so members can debate the use of military force there.

That seems doubtful, perhaps, as the House is breaking Thursday for a two-week Easter recess.

“The Tomahawk missile strike on the Syrian air base was an important and targeted response to Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” Castor said. “Russia and Iran should be held accountable as well for their support of Assad and his war on the Syrian people.”

“The continued atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad against innocent men, women, and most horrifyingly, children and infants, are an assault on humanity and must be stopped,” said Crist. “Last night’s targeted airstrikes were a proportional and appropriate response, making clear that these war crimes will not go unanswered.”

Both Democratic lawmakers say that the Constitution puts the responsibility to declare war with the Congress, and that the President should make his case before them if he is prepared to engage further in Syria.

‎”Congressional leaders, the Trump Administration and Obama Administration have been derelict in following the requirements of the Constitution and law for a formal Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF),” said Castor. “The military strike on Syria and ongoing war on ISIS should prod policymakers to return to Washington and adopt a new AUMF.”

“Congress must also do its part and return immediately from recess to debate an Authorization for Use of Military Force to determine a comprehensive strategy for the United States and our allies,” said Crist. “We need clear objectives to end this crisis to protect our troops and the Syrian people.”

Castor has previously criticized Barack Obama for not getting an Authorization for Use of Military Force in engaging in battle with the Islamic State, criticism that some other Democrats made as well, none more loudly than Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

Congressional Democrats as a whole seem to be parroting a consistent line Friday, praising Trump for the cruise missile attacks on a Syrian military base, but insisting he go before the Congress to get authorization before any further action.

James Buchanan hauls $138K in first month of HD 71 campaign

House District 71 candidate James Buchanan brought in a monstrous $138,000 haul in his first month in the race to replace termed-out Republican Rep. Jim Boyd.

Buchanan’s campaign says more than four-fifths of that money came from inside the district, which covers parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties.

“One month into our campaign and the amount of support from every corner of our community has not only been encouraging, but overwhelming and humbling,” Buchanan said in a press release.

“I will work each and every day to take our conservative message to every voter in our district and share our vision for how we improve our state for each and every Floridian,” the Republican candidate said. “We will build on the momentum from this historic fundraising month and continue to grow support for our campaign.”

Buchanan, whose father is U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, is going up against Bradenton attorney Will Robinson in the Republican Primary for the right-leaning seat. Robinson loaned his campaign $100,000 in February and has not yet reported March numbers.

Vern Buchanan calls for V.A. probe of dog abuse

After reading published reports documenting experiments on dogs being conducted by the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Sarasota U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan has contacted the Inspector General for the VA to demand answers about what’s going on there.

Stars and Stripes and Military Times reported last month that an animal rights activist group has accused the VA of conducting medical experiments on dozens of dogs at a Virginia laboratory with insufficient public disclosure on the practice. Those reports experiments reportedly induced heart attacks, invasive brain-damaging surgeries and a variety of stomach ailment simulations which mutilate or kill the animals.

“I urge you to investigate this situation and share your feelings with my office,” Buchanan wrote to VA Inspector General Michael J. Missal last Friday. “Specifically, I am interested in learning why these experiments are not being adequately disclosed to the public, whether animals are being harmed unnecessarily and whether taxpayerd dollars are being misused.”

Working through documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. the group White Group Waste Projects says they have found three instances of violations in the research program at the Hunter Holmes McGuire VA Medical Center in Richmond, Va.

The groups says that lab experiments have induced heart attacks on the dogs and for some resulted in “sudden cardiac death.” Another report details a botched surgery, a doctor mistakenly sliced into a dog’s lung, killing the dog.

The Government Accountability Office says it will be doing an audit of the animal testing at McGuire and at other federal agencies.

“VA animal research is strictly controlled and monitored with accountability mechanisms in place,” the VA said in a statement to Stars and Stripes. “As part of that commitment, VA takes seriously any reports of not adhering to standards and will immediately review and correct processes if and when those issues arise.”

Buchanan is the co-chair of the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, and was named as the U.S. Humane Society’s Legislator of the Year  last year.

“While we should do all we can to ensure that veterans are getting the treatment and care they deserve, I also feel strongly that the public has a right to know how taxpayer dollars are being spent – and the extent of any experimentation on animals – at the VA,” Buchanan writes.

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