Tampa Bay Archives - Page 7 of 71 - Florida Politics

Kathy Castor says GOP health care bill getting worse as it gets closer to vote in the House

Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor says that the House Republican health care bill “is actually getting worse” as it gets amended to try to win over more conservative votes in Congress.

“TrumpCare will be devastating to Florida families and Speaker Ryan is desperately trying to ram this bill through the U.S. House before the American people understand the impact,” Castor said in a statement issued Tuesday. “TrumpCare rips insurance coverage away from millions of Americans, including at least 1.7 million in Florida who have gained coverage, and increases costs on everyone. It includes larger cuts to Alzheimer’s patients, the disabled, children and families who rely on Medicaid and larger tax breaks for the wealthy. Rather than improve health care for my older neighbors and listen to our concerns, Republicans made no change to help people age 50-64 keep their coverage.  In fact, premiums for our older neighbors are poised to increase by thousands of dollars so that coverage is simply out of reach.”

Castor made those comments after House Republicans made changes to the legislation late Monday night to win over more conservative voices in the GOP House caucus. Among the key changes she says is making the legislation worse include prohibiting states like Florida from expanding Medicaid at the enhanced federal matching rate; allowing states the option of imposing work requirements for Medicaid (even though the majority of adults on Medicaid are already working); allowing states a block grant option for Medicaid, which health care experts warn poses the same dangerous risks for states and beneficiaries as the previous bad provision; and, accelerating getting millions in tax breaks into the hands of those wealthy few.

“TrumpCare would already be the largest transfer of wealth from working families to the rich in our nation’s history. After stealing health coverage from millions of families, and billions of dollars from Medicaid and Medicare, the Republicans hand $600 billion in tax giveaways to the rich and big corporations. In fact, the Republican bill gives $2.8 billion to the 400 richest families in America each year,” Castor added.

The vote on the American Health Care Act will take place on Thursday. There is still considerable doubt about whether the Republicans will get the votes they need to pass the legislation through the House. There also appears to be too many Republican Senators currently who would not vote for the bill in its current form.

St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation names David Punzak as Vice Chair

David Punzak

David Punzak has been named vice chair of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC) board of directors.

Punzak is a shareholder with the national Carlton Fields law firm, based out of its Tampa location. He will become chairman in 2018 following his term as vice chair.

“David brings a great depth and breadth of experience and leadership to the organization, and we look forward to his impact over the coming years,” said EDC chairman Michael Vivio.

Punzak brings more than three decades’ experience as an attorney specializing in transactions for banks, real estate developers and insurance companies. He regularly stands for clients in real estate and finance, mergers, acquisitions and general business matters.

With an extensive history of community service, Punzac has served on the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce board since 2012, as well as two terms as chair and as a leader of the Economic Development Committee. He also had leadership roles at Baseball Forever St. Pete, Suncoasters, Heroes of the St. Petersburg Police and The Dali Museum.

“Being named vice chair of the EDC is a great privilege, and I am proud to continue service to my hometown,” said Punzak. He added, “The EDC is poised to make a significant impact on the economic prosperity of St. Pete’s citizens, and I am excited to be a part of it.”

EDC was launched in 2016 as a part of the “Grow Smarter” strategic plan of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of St. Petersburg and community partners over two years ago.

The organization’s major focus is to ensure the city develops and maintains a sustainable and inclusive economic strategy. The Grow Smarter plan targets business sectors and partnership opportunities. The program names the EDC a “Storyteller in Chief” for St. Petersburg, promoting it as a premier business destination.

Funding for the EDC comes through investments from over 40 local, private entities as well as significant funding from the Greater St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg EDC President J. P. DuBuque said in a statement: “Punzak brings a host of experiences in the economic development space and institutional knowledge of the City that will only add to our ability to be an organization of high impact.”

Jamie Grant picks up challenger in HD 64

Jamie Grant

A Hillsborough County school teacher announced this week that she will challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Jamie Grant for the District 64 seat in the Florida House.

Jessica Harrington originally planned to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis in 2018, but said she decided to change course after a trip to Tallahassee.

“I realized that no one really knows me… nationally, but a lot of people know me locally,” she said.

Harrington believes public schools are underfunded and overcrowded, which she blames on funding cuts early in Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure.

“If you fund (schools) properly, they’ll be amazing,” Harrington said. “I’m the one working a second job… spending money out of my small paycheck to fund my classroom.”

The teacher also supports Medicaid expansion in Florida and believes transgender students should have the right to use the bathroom of their choosing, regardless of birth gender.

 

Here’s where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay politics — the ‘this place is the best’ edition

Besides, maybe, New York City or Washington, D.C., there really is no better place from which to write about politics than Tampa Bay.

One reason is that there are so many competitive congressional and legislative seats in the region. And what’s spent to win those seats is oftentimes as much as the amount spent to win other state’s U.S. Senate seats. These seats are competitive because Hillsborough and Pinellas remain “purple” seats in an era when more and more counties throughout the country move to becoming single-party geographic enclaves.

According to a must-read article from FiveThirtyEight.com which was highlighted by the Tampa Bay Times John Romano, “of the 50 counties that had the most voters at the polls in November, Pinellas had the closest election results in America. It was 48.6 percent for Trump and 47.5 for Clinton. That’s a 1.1 percent swing. Hillsborough County was 51.5 for Clinton and 44.7 for Trump, a 6.8 percent swing.”

It’s razor-thin margins like this that have made and will make Tampa Bay the center of the universe during the 2018 election cycle.

It’s also why a Democrat like Bob Buesing is considering a rematch against Dana Young, even though Republicans traditionally turn out at a better clip than they do during presidential election cycles.

It’s why there’s no battleground more interesting to write about than Tampa Bay. Here’s where sh*t stands.

Hillsborough County teacher Jessica Harrington, a self-described progressive Democrat, is exploring a run in 2018 against Tampa Republican James “Jamie” Grant in House District 64.

In an announcement Tuesday on WFLA News Radio 970, Harrington said she is turning her attention toward Tallahassee. As a member of the Florida Democratic Progressive Caucus, Harrington initially considered running for Congress against U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis in Florida’s 12th Congressional District.

Harrington changed her mind after a trip to Tallahassee to drop off letters to lawmakers on education funding.

“I realized that no one really knows me … nationally,” Harrington told WFLA’s AM Tampa Bay. “But a lot of people know me locally.”

Harrington’s primary focus will be public schools, which he says are inadequately funded and overcrowded, something she blames on budget cuts in the early years of Gov. Scott. She is also “greatly offended” by the selection of Betsy DeVos as President Donald Trump’s secretary of education.

Something you rarely see in Pinellas politics is a genuinely competitive Republican primary for a state legislative seat. Even when there is a primary, it’s typically a David-and-Goliath situation, i.e. Jim Frishe vs. Jeff Brandes, where the eventual winner was never in doubt.

However, the scrum shaping up in House District 66, where Rep. Larry Ahern is term-limited from running again, is already developing into an elbows-out contest.

Former state prosecutor Berny Jacques jumped into the race first and has already earned an the endorsement of the young Republicans organization he recently led. Not soon afterwards Pinellas GOP chairman Nick DiCeglie made it clear he intends to run for the seat.

Now this internecine battle threatens to split the local party.

On one side, backing Jacques, is former U.S. Rep. David Jolly. On the other is, well, pretty much the rest of the establishment.

Well, except for the host of young lawyers who agreed to be on the host committee for Jacques’ kickoff party this Thursday.

Of particular note are the names of Jim Holton and Paul Jallo on the host committee. Those are two of the heaviest hitters in local fundraising circles.

Patrick Manteiga notes that Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White raised $55,750 from his re-election kickoff campaign event held last week at the Columbia Restaurant.

Rick Kriseman‘s re-election campaign will be managed by Jacob Smith, a South Florida native who began his political career as a volunteer for Barack Obama‘s first campaign in 2008. In 2012, he joined Obama’s re-election campaign in Southwest Florida.

Smith was the field director for Kriseman’s 2013 campaign.

Look for an announcement from the Kriseman camp soon.

Madeira Beach City Manager Shane Crawford and Treasure Island City Manager Reid Silverboard could be looking at pink slips after voters elected five new commissioners in their towns last week.

Crawford, whose city elected three new commissioners, said he believes he will be terminated, while Silverboard said he is ready to offer his resignation.

Candidates running against major redevelopment projects won big last week, leaving both men wondering if they will have a job in the near future.

“From what I’ve learned is they’re going to terminate my employment when they’re sworn in on April 11,” Crawford said. “I’m a little miffed. I gave a lot to the city.”

Silverboard said he was going to offer his resignation when commissioners take the oath Tuesday.

“I believe that the City Commission is ready for a change in the Administration of the City to lead the organization,” Silverboard said. “It will be in both of our best interest to reach a mutually agreeable severance agreement.”

Anthony Weiss, a backer of the “Stop Tall Buildings” group, said he thinks “it’s an appropriate time for to find other opportunities. I don’t think that if he voluntarily resigns that he’s entitled to a severance package.“

Despite her incumbency, interim Mayor Deborah Schechner didn’t fare too well in the St. Pete Beach municipal elections.

Just 35 percent of the 2,941 voters in St. Pete Beach’s municipal elections chose Scherer, while challenger Alan Johnson is the mayor-elect with 61 percent of the vote.

An additional 4 percent picked John-Michael Fleig.

Schechner was appointed interim mayor after the job became available June 30 when former Mayor Maria Lowe stepped down to accompany her husband to France after he was named deputy director of cemetery operations for the American Battle Monuments Commission.

Bill creating Tampa Bay area transit authority gets first hearing in Legislature

Legislation that would refigure the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) had its first hearing in the Florida Legislature, where it became clear changes may be needed if its to pass.

The bill was introduced by Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala earlier this month, and is being sponsored in the House by Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson. The bill (HB 1243) creates a regional transit agency that would alter TBARTA by giving it direction to plan, implement and operate multimodal transit options throughout the region. It would coordinate plans among member counties and prioritize regionally-significant projects. And it designates TBARTA as the recipient of federal funds for any intercounty or major one-county project.

The fact that there would be one more board member coming from the private sector bothered some officials on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, which discussed the bill on Tuesday. The board would consist of 13 members, three of whom would be selected by the Governor. The Senate President and Speaker of the House would get two selections. The four counties would select one representative; there would be one representative from the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA).

“I think part of the issue is we want to have some private expertise on the board,” Raulerson said. “Currently we have a vast majority of elected officials on TBARTA. What we’re attempting to do is say, ‘Look, let’s have a balance.'”

St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton and Tampa Republican Jackie Toledo both expressed reservations about there being more members from the private sector than elected officials on the agency. Raulerson said he was open to discussing that, but felt that there was a chance that the representatives from HART and PSTA would likely be an elected official anyway.

Toledo also questioned why there would be no member from the Florida Dept. of Transportation on the proposed board. Raulerson said the purpose of the legislation was to “unclutter the process and make sure that going forward we have an effective governance policy,” adding however that he would be open to adding an FDOT representative to the board.

Unlike TBARTA, however, it would only encompass four counties –  Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee.

Hudson Republican Amber Mariano asked Raulerson why it had been reduced from seven. Raulerson said it was to  “narrow the focus,” because the existing structure of TBARTA “hasn’t resulted in what we want.” He later said that there is a possibility of adding Hernando County to the agency.

“This bill gives me pause,” Newton said, referring to the fact that Tampa Bay voters have rejected recent tax referendums on transit. “I don’t see how changing a board is going to do that.”

The bill is considered the number one priority of the Tampa Bay Partnership.

“Transportation is the greatest economic challenge facing our region today,” said Rhea Law, Chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership and Chair, Florida Offices at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. “Our limited transit options and lack of regional connectivity inhibit our residents’ access to jobs, our businesses’ access to workers, and the efficient movement of goods and commerce that drive economic growth. This legislation is a critical first step to creating a seamless regional transit system that successfully addresses these issues. We thank the sponsor, Rep. Dan Raulerson, and the members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, which includes Bay Area Legislative Delegation members Rep. Amber Mariano, Rep. Ralph Massullo, Rep. Wengay Newton and Rep. Jackie Toledo, for recognizing the importance of this bill and allowing it to move forward through the legislative process. Their actions today encouraged continued discussion and allow for future efforts to improve the bill.”

The bill will get its first hearing in the Senate on Wednesday in the Transportation Committee.

Rick Kriseman taps Jacob Smith to lead re-election campaign

Jacob Smith will serve as campaign manager for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s re-election campaign.

Smith worked in Democratic politics going back to his freshman year at the University of Florida in 2008 when he volunteered for Barack Obama‘s effort in Florida. He also worked on Obama’s 2012 campaign in Southwest Florida.

His most recent job was working as the Michigan organizing director for the Hillary Clinton campaign last year. He began working for the Clinton campaign in April of 2015 as a regional organizing director in New Hampshire, then moved on to Maine and Illinois. He later was selected as organizing director in Indiana and Northern California.

This isn’t Smith’s time working with Kriseman. He served as the field director for Kriseman’s successful 2013 campaign for mayor in St. Pete and then moved on to serve as the field director for Alex Sink’s bid for Florida’s 13th Congressional District seat against David Jolly in early 2014. He then went on to work as field director for Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign in 2014.

“Being a part of the team that elected Mayor Kriseman was an incredible experience,” Smith said. “I’m honored that the mayor asked me to be a part of it again. The mayor has accomplished a lot over the last 3 years. We’re excited to talk about how far St. Petersburg has come under Mayor Kriseman’s leadership.”

Gus Bilirakis all in on GOP health care proposal

Gus Bilirakis is sticking to his guns.

After holding three town hall meetings earlier this year, the Tarpon Springs Republican congressman heard strong (and on occasion, impassioned) comments by some constituents urging him not support a repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.

But Bilirakis stayed consistently clear that he supported killing Obamacare.

So, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that he intends to support the House Republican health care plan when it comes up for a vote later this week.

“The American Health Care Act is the best answer to replace the unsustainable Affordable Care Act and put our nation’s health care system on a viable path,” he said in a statement released Monday. “It will lower premiums, save taxpayers billions of dollars, and give patients more options for care. I do believe more must be done within the bill to help Americans in their 50s and 60s with health care costs, and I recently brought these concerns to House leadership and committee members.”

In his heated town hall meetings held in New Port Richey, Oldsmar and Wesley Chapel, Bilirakis faced strong opposition for his support to repeal the ACA. He won media plaudits by standing the rhetorical line of fire from impassioned advocates for maintaining the current health care law.

But Bilirakis was steadfast in saying he would support a Republican health care alternative, once offered up. And he says he will fight for lower costs.

“Throughout this legislative process, which began in January, I’ve held three in-person town halls, a telephone town hall, a roundtable discussion and numerous one-on-one constituent meetings in my district,” he said.

“I consistently fought to make sure my constituents’ views are represented in the American Health Care Act, namely the need to lower costs, increase choices, protect those with pre-existing conditions, keep children on their parent’s insurance, and more,” Bilirakis added. “As the bill comes up for a vote in the House this week, I will continue these efforts to ensure we better assist the millions of Americans who are not yet eligible for Medicare.”

The bill is on the schedule of the House of Representatives for a vote Thursday.

Kathy Castor fears how NIH budget cuts will affect USF, Moffitt Cancer Center

President Donald Trump’s proposed federal budget cuts funding calls for a sharp increase in defense spending while making significant cuts to a variety of domestic programs.

When asked Monday what might be the worst part of the plan in her eyes, Congresswoman Kathy Castor said it might just be the proposed $5.8 billion reductions in funding to the National Institutes of Health (18 percent of its total budget). Most of the NIH’s budget goes to funding research in health care in universities across the country.

“It’s hard to pick out the worst part,” the Tampa Democrat replied when asked what concerns her most about the preliminary budget, which is expected to be revised when after the Congress gets involved.

“For this community, I would hate to see us take a step backward at Moffitt Cancer Center and USF on medical research, because they’re finding the treatments and cures for the future,” she said.

A trickle-down effect of reduced NIH funding, Castor added, would mean the exodus of “a lot of brilliant young people” who work at those institutions.

The proposed Trump budget would also cut the Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent.

“Add in the devastating cuts to the EPA at the time where we’re trying to protect the health of Tampa Bay after St. Petersburg had some very serious issues with service overflow,” she said.

“This is a community that relies on clean water and clean beaches as the backbone of our economy,” Castor said, “and you begin to eliminate the commitment of the government to keep our air and water clean, that will only hurt jobs and the economy around here.”

During the transition period, Democrats in Florida and around the nation said that they could work with the new president on an infrastructure spending bill.

“If there ever were an opportunity for us to potentially find common ground with the new president, it would be over infrastructure,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said a few days before Trump was inaugurated in January. “Because for us, infrastructure is the lifeblood of what we do. We can’t grow this country’s economy, I can’t grow this city’s economy without adequate roads, bridges water and sewage systems.”

However, the Trump budget proposal unveiled last week includes a plan to eliminate a $500-million-a-year program that helps rural communities build and improve water, sewer, trash and street drainage systems. It also cuts a $500-million-a-year program that was created in the federal stimulus package of 2009 to finance a broad range of projects, from replacing bridges to building car lanes. And it would also cut funding for new rail or bus lines.

“I’m very disappointed,” Castor said about the lack of infrastructure spending in the proposed plan. “We have huge needs here in the Tampa Bay area.”

“Here’s a president who talks one thing — ‘oh, we’re going to have a huge rebuilding plan in America,’ and then the first budget comes out, and there’s nothing there. So his rhetoric is not matching what he promised,” she said.

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney admitted last week that the preliminary budget might appear to contradict Trump’s statements as a candidate and as president

Mulvaney said the White House is targeting “inefficient programs” and will shift funds into “more efficient infrastructure programs later on.”

 

Pirate invasion to mark Hillsborough Day at Capitol

Members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation will celebrate Hillsborough Day at the State Capitol in Tallahassee March 22.

The daylong event will bring many of the county’s most beloved attractions and traditions to the capitol for Florida lawmakers to enjoy, while showcasing all that the community has to offer.

Visitors to the State Capitol will include local city and county officials, prominent area business people and representatives from the Hillsborough County Public Schools. Several nonprofit organizations, Visit Tampa Bay, as well as leaders from popular tourist destinations are also expected.

During the morning hours, attendees will have the opportunity to sit in on committee meetings, visit with their local representatives, and if the Legislature is in session, watch the proceedings from the gallery of the House or Senate.

A special lunchtime meet and greet is scheduled for the Capitol Courtyard complex with exhibits from the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Busch Gardens, Florida Aquarium, the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and Lowry Park Zoo. Members of the nonprofit Big Cat Rescue and the Early Learning Coalition will also be in Tallahassee to discuss their missions.  Tampa native and “The Voice” contestant, Shalyah Fearing, will perform as guests enjoy 1,500 authentic Cuban sandwiches, delivered straight from Tampa.

The highlight of the afternoon is expected to be a Gasparilla-style Pirate Invasion at the State Capitol. Pirate-costumed members of Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla will arrive in on a parade float search of even greater bounty.

“Hillsborough County has such great resources and a lot to offer visitors statewide,” said organizer Louis Betz of Louis Betz and Associates. “This day allows us to share with the rest of Florida all the wonderful places, organizations and people that make our community so unique. It also gives local leaders and community members the chance to meet their state representatives. When lawmakers to see people from back home, it often puts a face to an issue.”

True to the city’s Latin roots, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa will host a coffee and guava pastry reception for Hillsborough Day attendees beginning at 3 p.m. followed by a public reception at the Governor’s Club from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

After a 10 year absence, Hillsborough Day was revived in 2014 and has taken place annually. The local legislative delegation has been unified in their involvement and support of the event to highlight the rich heritage of Hillsborough County.

Hillsborough Day is open to the public and all are invited to attend.

Bob Buesing contemplates 2018 rematch versus Dana Young

Bob Buesing may be looking for a rematch.

One of the most bitter races in all of Florida politics last year took place in Hillsborough County’s Senate District 18, where Democrat Buesing faced Republican state Rep. Dana Young and independent Joe Redner.

Although Democrats believed Young was vulnerable to a serious opponent she ultimately defeated Buesing 48 to 41 percent. Redner finished a distant third with 9.5 percent.

With redistricting, half the state’s 40 Senate seats are up for re-election again next year, and Buesing said Friday he is considering another run against Young in 2018.

“It’s not about me, it’s about what’s best for the community,” said the 63-year-old Buesing, a longtime attorney with the law firm of Trenam Kemker who before last year had never run for public office. “I’ll make a very reasoned decision, and once I talk to a lot of people, try to do what’s best for the community and if nobody else on the team is going to do this, and somebody needs to do [it], then I’ll think about it.”

Buesing figures to improve his performance in 2018, especially if Redner is not part of the equation.

The adult entrepreneur and progressive activist ran a serious campaign, spending more than $330,000 of his own money and producing several television ads attacking Young. Although Buesing and Hillsborough Democrats insisted Redner’s support would come equally from both Democrats and Republicans, Buesing unquestionably would prefer he not be a factor in 2018.

“I met with Joe Redner and he looked me in the eye and said he’d be proud to endorse me,” Buesing said. “And said he’s not going to run.”

“If she is her opposition, I will back him,” Redner confirmed in a separate conversation. But Redner questions whether Buesing is the right Democrat to run against Young.

“I don’t think he’s the person for the job,” he said. “I don’t think he’s aggressive enough. But anybody but her. At least his heart is in the right goddamned place.”

Between her own campaign contributions and her political committee, Young raised more than $2 million, while Buesing took in more than $500,000 on his own. His PAC, Floridians for Early Education, raised another $133,000.

“It is interesting that she only got 48 percent of the vote after spending millions and millions of dollars on a false attack smear campaign,” Buesing charges. “With spending that kind of money, she only got 48 percent?

“Sounds to me like it’s an opportunity.”

One of the biggest issues in 2016 were attacks made by Buesing, Redner and third-party environmental groups accusing Young of a pro-fracking vote she made during the 2016 Legislative Session.

Throughout the campaign, Young defended her vote by saying it was actually against fracking. That House bill, which was opposed by environmental groups, sought a one-year moratorium on fracking while the state performed a yearlong study on the practice and its effects on drinking water in advance further regulation.

“I do not support fracking in Florida,” she had told the Tampa Bay Times in September 2016. “I will never support fracking in Florida.”

On the campaign trail, Young promised that, if elected, she would propose unambiguous legislation in the Legislature to ban the practice.

This year, she did just that. In January, Young introduced SB 442, which prohibits “advanced well stimulation treatments; clarifying that permits for drilling or operating a well do not authorize the performance of advanced well stimulation treatments,” among other things. The bill is currently in the Appropriations Subcommittee on the Environment and Natural Resources. A companion bill has been filed in the House by Orlando Republican Mike Miller and Tampa Democrat Janet Cruz (HB 451).

“She had six years to do that bill,” Buesing said. “I’m glad she did. It’s good for the community that she did, but what about the 99 other issues?

“I view this district as much more moderate and sensible that where she’s been on these issues, so now we get to see what her record looks like.”

When contacted later, Young stayed above the fray.

“I’m focused on doing the job the voters in my district elected me to do,” she told FloridaPolitics.com. “I am not focusing on the next election cycle. If I continue to do my job, the rest will sort itself out.”

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons