With slightly more than a month to go before the November election, Florida statewide candidates have topped a matching-funds record from the 2010 election.
Bolstered by small-dollar fundraising in the race for Governor, $6.08 million has been sent by the state to candidates this year, according to figures provided Tuesday by the Florida Division of Elections.
A little more than $400,000 was sent out on Friday to five candidates in the Nov. 6 general election.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum’s latest check from the state was for $246,965, and former Congressman Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, received a check for $140,037.
In 2010, the state doled out $6.065 million to 10 candidates in the controversial matching-funds program, which voters approved in 1998 with the intention of diminishing the importance of special-interest money.
Some lawmakers continue to push for repealing the program. But the Legislature has not put the issue back before voters since a 2010 effort failed when it only gained 52.5 percent of the vote, short of the required 60 percent for adoption.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, called the program a “gross waste of taxpayer money” in 2017 when he called for the state Constitution Revision Commission to propose a measure to remove public financing from the Constitution.
Even before this year’s Aug. 28 primary, candidates seeking the taxpayer money shot past the 2014 matching-funds total of $4.3 million.
The program matches individual contributions of $250 or less to the campaign accounts of candidates for statewide offices. Candidates do not have to take part in the program.
With the latest check, DeSantis has received $1.37 million from the state.
Gillum, the mayor of Tallahassee, has landed $1.1 million from the program.
In all, nine statewide candidates this year decided to dip into the fund, though four of those candidates — including gubernatorial candidates Gwen Graham and Adam Putnam — lost their primaries.
The two remaining candidates in the race for Agriculture Commissioner, Republican Matt Caldwell and Democrat Nikki Fried, have not tapped the program. Caldwell, who won his primary with 34.6 percent of the vote, decried the use of the matching-funds program as “campaign welfare.”
In the race for Attorney General, Democrat Sean Shaw got a check for $12,152 on Friday and has received $251,578 from the program. Republican Ashley Moody received $1,580 in matching funds on Friday and has received $384,026 from the state.
In the race for state chief financial officer, incumbent Republican Jimmy Patronis received a check for $840 on Friday. Patronis has received $310,600 through the program. Democratic CFO candidate Jeremy Ring has not taken part in the program.
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.
A new poll from the Florida Chamber of Commerce brought good news for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillumand U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, but the three other statewide candidates joining them on the November ballot are also in prime position to topple GOP hegemony.
In addition to the U.S. Senate Race and Governor’s, Floridians will be replacing term-limited Attorney General Pam Bondi and term-limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the fall. Also on the ballot is sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis, who is running for a full term after being appointed to the seat by Gov. Rick Scott last year.
In the AG race Tampa Democratic Rep. Sean Shaw, also the state’s former insurance consumer advocate, leads Republican nominee Ashley Moody, a former prosecutor and circuit court judge, by 2 percentage points, 35-33 percent. Another 20 percent of voters said they were undecided, while 9 percent favor unaffiliated candidate Jeffrey Siskind of Wellington.
Though Moody has raked in loads more money than Shaw, her expensive primary battle left her trailing Shaw in cash on hand, with about $600,000 on hand for Moody and $810,000 on hand for Shaw as of Sept. 21.
In the Ag Commissioner race, medical marijuana lobbyist Nikki Fried leads Lehigh Acres state Rep. Matt Caldwell by 5 percentage points, 42-37 percent. Fried easily won the three-way Democratic primary to succeed term-limited Republican Adam Putnam with 59 percent of the vote while Caldwell took a plurality of the vote in the four-way Republican contest.
Fried had about $175,000 on hand between her campaign and committee accounts on Sept. 21, putting her well behind Caldwell’s combined war chest of $920,000.
CFO Jimmy Patronis, the only incumbent Cabinet member on the ballot, fared better than his fellow Republican. The Chamber found him tied with former Margate state Sen. Jeremy Ring at 38 percent each with 20 percent of voters undecided. Write-in candidate Richard Dembinsky is also vying for the seat and could partially account for why the Chamber’s measure does not add up to 100.
The tie game in the CFO race comes despite Patronis having raised being one of the best-funded non-gubernatorial candidates on the ballot. His $5.4 million in overall fundraising and $3.3 million in on-hand cash trounces Ring’s numbers, which stood at $1.33 million raised and $473,000 banked as of Sept. 21.
Ring has been adamant that neither fundraising nor endorsements will decide the contest. The last Democrat to hold a spot on the Cabinet was Alex Sink, who served one term as CFO before vacating the seat for her unsuccessful bid to be Florida’s Governor in 2010.
The Chamber poll is the first measure of the Cabinet race in some time. A Chamber poll from June showed Patronis with a 9-point lead, 40-31 percent, while a slightly more recent measure from Public Policy Polling showed Ring with a 40-39 percent edge.
The Florida Chamber Poll was conducted Sept. 19 through Sept. 24 and received responses from 622 voters, 41.5 percent of whom were registered Democrats, while 40.5 percent were Republicans and 18 percent not belonging to one of the major parties.
The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
While the nation was fixated on the drama surrounding Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, Floridians were reminded this week that they have their own Supreme Court controversy in triplicate.
Gov. Rick Scott reasserted his claim in court that he has the power, before he leaves office in January, to appoint replacements for three Florida Supreme Court justices who have reached a mandatory retirement age. Opponents contend the next governor, who takes office on Jan. 8, has that right.
Meanwhile, former U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, told the Florida Chamber of Commerce this week that he intends to appoint the new justices.
“It’s important that we have a governor who understands that we have to appoint solid constitutionalists to our state courts, including our state Supreme Court,” he told the chamber members, who were meeting in Orlando.
“The next governor probably, and I know there’s a little bit of controversy about when these appointments happen, but I’m presuming that I get elected governor and get sworn in, that I will have three appointments to the state Supreme Court,” DeSantis said.
It’s not the first time DeSantis has asserted his right to make the court appointments. It became an issue in his final debate with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican gubernatorial primary.
“They’re not your appointments. They’re Gov. Scott’s appointments,” Putnam told him, saying DeSantis was aligning himself with groups like the League of Women Voters of Florida, who is challenging Scott on the court appointments.
For his part, Scott, who expects to get a list of potential court appointees by Nov. 8, has said he will work on the appointments with the winner of the Nov. 6 election.
Reaching an accommodation with DeSantis, who shares a similar conservative philosophy with Scott, seems possible. But if Democrat Andrew Gillum prevails, Floridians can expect the appointment controversy to intensify.
WHO’S GOT THE POWER
Scott’s lawyers on Wednesday argued the governor has the authority to appoint the replacements for justices Barbara Pariente, R. Fred Lewis and Peggy Quince, who are all leaving the court in early January because they have reached the mandatory retirement age.
The lawsuit, filed by the League of Women Voters of Florida and Common Cause, has asked the Supreme Court to block Scott’s action, through a procedure known as a “writ of quo warranto,” arguing the new governor who takes office on Jan. 8 should have that appointment power.
But in a 33-page res1ponse, Scott’s lawyers said he is following the precedent of beginning the appointment process before the vacancies actually occur, noting numerous justices have been appointed using this procedure in order to avoid prolonged vacancies on the court.
“The petitioners’ interpretation of the applicable constitutional provision is contrary to its plain language, the long-standing historical practice of the judicial nominating commissions for the Supreme Court and district courts of appeal, and the clearly articulated public policy underlying Article V of the Florida Constitution: avoiding extended vacancies in judicial office,” the lawyers wrote.
Earlier this month, Scott directed the Supreme Court Judicial Nominating Commission to begin accepting and reviewing applications for the court appointments. The commission has set an Oct. 8 deadline for the applications, followed by a Nov. 8 deadline — two days after the general election — for submitting names of potential justices to the governor.
Scott, a Republican who is running against incumbent U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, said he has the “expectation” that he and the incoming governor could reach an agreement on the appointments.
Underscoring the legal challenge is the fact that the new appointments are likely to reshape the seven-member Supreme Court for years, if not decades. Pariente, Lewis and Quince are part of a liberal bloc, which now holds a slim 4-3 majority, that has thwarted Scott and the Republican-dominated Legislature on numerous occasions since the governor took office in 2011.
SEX AND THE SENATE
In another Florida parallel to the Kavanaugh controversy, where the nominee has been accused of sexually harassing women while in high school or college, a sexual discrimination case involving the Florida Senate advanced this week.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi and four high-ranking senators — including President Joe Negron — are among the witnesses being asked to testify in a discrimination case filed by legislative aide Rachel Perrin Rogers, who accuses the Senate of retaliation after she filed a sexual harassment complaint last year against former Sen. Jack Latvala.
Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who held the powerful post of Senate budget chief and was a candidate for governor when Perrin Rogers’ allegations against him first came out, resigned from the Senate shortly before the legislative session began in January. He has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing.
Latvala is among the witnesses Tiffany Cruz, a lawyer who represents Perrin Rogers, is asking to appear at a Jan. 14 federal administrative-court hearing in Tampa, according to court documents first reported Wednesday by Politico Florida.
The list of witnesses gives just a glimpse into the allegations made by Perrin Rogers, who filed the discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in January.
One of the witnesses is Jean Seawright, who was hired by the Senate to conduct an investigation into Perrin Rogers after the aide filed the complaint against Latvala, according to court documents. Senate Special Master Ronald Swanson, who investigated Perrin Rogers’ allegations against Latvala, is also on the witness list.
Negron, a Stuart Republican who is leaving office after the November elections, “has knowledge that complainant suffered retaliation for making a report of sexual harassment,” Cruz wrote in a four-page list of witnesses submitted Tuesday to U.S. Administrative Law Judge Alexander Fernández.
The Senate president denied anyone punished Perrin Rogers, a high-ranking aide who works for Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, after she complained about Latvala.
“The complaint of sexual harassment, in this case, was immediately and fully investigated. At all times the Senate has acted appropriately and there has been no retaliation,” Negron said in a text message Wednesday.
But Cruz told The News Service of Florida on Wednesday that “there has been constant retaliation” against Perrin Rogers since she first complained about Latvala last fall. And the retaliation got worse after Swanson’s report was completed and the Senate aide filed her discrimination complaint, Cruz said.
“Instead, what we’ve seen happen here is the Senate has taken almost no action as the employer to protect Rachel when the retaliation was happening, and then subsequent to the investigation, they’ve actively taken steps to treat her differently as a result of her complaint,” she said.
The investigation into Latvala came amid a national spotlight on revelations of sexual harassment lodged against powerful men in Hollywood, business and politics that led to the demise of entertainment-industry titans such as Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and Les Moonves.
STORY OF THE WEEK
Gov. Scott reasserted his right to appoint three new justices to the Florida Supreme Court before he leaves office in early January.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“The message that women are receiving, to me, is you become a pariah for saying something about any type of misconduct that’s happening to you by a man, especially by a man of power. If you say something too late, you get attacked for that. If you say something right away, you get attacked for that. So essentially the message is, be silent, or these are the consequences.” — Tiffany Cruz, a lawyer who is representing legislative aide Rachel Perrin Rogers, who is suing the Florida Senate in a discrimination case.
Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.
The two major parties are likely “actively recruiting” lawyers for any election-related disputes that arise Nov. 6.
That’s according to Dr. SusanMacManus, a retired University of South Florida political science professor, who moderated an election controversy panel during the 2018 Florida Bar Reporters’ Workshop this week.
Addressing a room of media, MacManus discussed with supervisors of elections and attorney MarkHerron the legal issues that come on Election Day.
Herron, familiar with the elections litigation process, said complications ranging from a polling location losing power to campaign activists violating distance restraints could spark legal action.
“Sometimes polling locations don’t open on time,” Herron added. “Recognize that, for these big elections, there’s an army of lawyers out there.”
The panelists — Polk County Supervisor of Elections LoriEdwards, Leon County Supervisor MarkEarley and Orange County Supervisor of Elections BillCowles — addressed a new report from the ACLU, released last week, suggesting vote-by-mail ballots cast by younger and minority voters are more likely to get rejected.
Edwards said her team takes “extra care” with every mail-in ballot, to ensure fraud doesn’t occur.
“It’s a very labor-intensive process,” Earley added, noting that issues stem from verifying signatures, which he suggests are more apt to change among younger voters.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Danny McAuliffe, Drew Wilson, Jim Rosica and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
Scott talks red tide — Gov. RickScott called into a meeting of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to discuss red tide, a naturally occurring toxic algae outbreak that is responsible for the massive fish and sea mammal kills happening along Florida’s Gulf Coast. “I know we’re not going to stop working until all of our communities recover,” Scott said, according to the News Service of Florida. “We all know that more has to be done.” Scott, reports the News Service, “repeated his call for the commission to create a Florida Center for Red Tide Research, re-establish the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force and request additional funding next year from the Legislature for red tide research.” On Thursday, Scott announced that another $3 million in red tide cleanup money went to Pinellas and Lee counties. That money is part of $13 million in DEP grant funding provided by the agency to communities impacted by red tide.
State responds to NRA anonymity dispute — Attorneys for the state recently filed a brief requesting the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals uphold a prior ruling that all listed parties be named in a National Rifle Association lawsuit challenging a state law. Not doing so would violate a federal court mandate, the state argues. Known now as Jane Doe and John Doe, the NRA seeks to shield the two plaintiffs’ identities, fearing “they would suffer harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence if their true identities and participation in this controversial litigation were made public,” according to an earlier brief filed by lawyers for the NRA. The Second Amendment group is challenging a state law that upped the rifle purchase age from 18 to 21 years old. The unnamed plaintiffs are 19 years old.
Scott responds to appointments lawsuit — In a response filed this week with the Supreme Court, lawyers for Scott contend the term-limited Governor has the authority to convene the Judicial Nominating Commission to float names for three soon-to-be vacancies on the high court. Scott’s power to do just that was challenged last week in a “writ of quo warranto” filed by Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of Florida. The groups argued the nomination process could not start until the vacancies occur. Lawyers for Scott countered by arguing that judges have been appointed similarly in the past and jump-starting the nominating process now is essential to avoid extended judicial vacancies. Justices BarbaraPariente, R.FredLewis and PeggyQuince face mandatory retirement in January.
Chamber convenes on state concerns — The Florida Chamber of Commerce held its 2018 Future of Florida Forum this week, hosting leaders in government, business and technology to discuss the evolving needs of the Sunshine State. “Florida is changing. Our economics, our demographics and our politics are all changing, and these changes bring both opportunities and challenges,” Chamber CEO MarkWilson said. Delivering remarks were Gov. Scott, who was honored for his pro-business tenure, and CFO JimmyPatronis, who shared his anti-insurance fraud agenda. University of West Florida’s Dr. EmanEl–Sheikh was brought in to discuss cybersecurity, on which he is an expert. He suggested all businesses provide at least some form of cybersecurity training to help mitigate risks of data breaches.
State settles with Uber for $8.2M — Attorney General PamBondi announced this week that ride-sharing company Uber will pay the state $8,246,606 as part of a national settlement reached for a data breach. In 2016, hackers accessed data stored by Uber, including driver’s license information, according to Bondi’s office. The company tracked down the hackers and prevented the data from further spreading, but Uber ultimately did not report the breach to the state until a year later, “allegedly failing to comply with the Florida Information Protection Act and other related laws,” according to Bondi’s office. “Data breaches need to be dealt with in a very urgent and responsive manner,” Bondi said in a prepared statement. “Not only are they often serious crimes, but people with compromised information need to be alerted immediately, so they can take steps to guard against identity theft and financial losses. Hopefully, this settlement will send the clear message that faster reporting is essential.” In total, Uber will pay out $148 million to the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Bustamante’s scholarship legacy
Jereima “Jeri” Bustamante’s meaningful career and life will in part be remembered by a scholarship for aspiring high school seniors.
Gov. Scott announced the news this week at Miami Beach Senior High School, Bustamante’s alma mater.
Scott appointed Bustamante press secretary in 2014. She helped the Governor learn Spanish and often accompanied him on trips to South Florida. She was primed to support the Governor’s U.S. Senate campaign but died before its official launch.
According to Miami Dade Schools, the Jeri Bustamante Memorial Scholarship will cover two years of state college and two years of university tuition for a deserving student.
“This 4-year scholarship will help a student to live their American Dream,” Scott wrote on Twitter. “We’ll always remember Jeri & can think of no better way to honor her.”
Scott authorizes $50M opioid grant
The Department of Children and Families can begin using more than $50 million in federal grant money to fight the opioid epidemic, Gov. Scott announced this week.
The money will be used to increase access to treatment to reduce opioid overdoses. The grant funding will also “equip professionals with the necessary tools” to fight the drug scourge, according to the Governor’s Office. That includes more than 40,000 Naloxone kits.
“In Florida, we are standing with families who are fighting opioid addiction and will continue to find ways to help our communities and law enforcement agencies,” Scott said. “This more than $50 million in additional funding will provide important recovery services for many families and aid in our fight against the national opioid epidemic.”
The federal grant is in addition to the $65 million attached to landmark opioid legislation passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Scott this year.
“The department remains committed to helping people who are living with an opioid use disorder, supporting their families, and equipping the treatment industry with the right tools for the most effective treatment,” DCF Interim Secretary RebeccaKapusta said.
Patronis helps Tampa firefighters
First responders in Hillsborough County received cancer-fighting decontamination kits this week, courtesy of the state’s chief fire marshal and CFO Patronis.
When many items catch fire, such as tires, the burning can produce cancer-causing compounds.
The kits, available through a partnership with Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine will help mitigate firefighters’ exposure to such dangers.
In a statement, Patronis noted that cancer caused 70 percent of line-of-duty deaths in firefighters in 2016.
“These numbers are unacceptable and cancer prevalence in firefighters is not up for debate,” Patronis added. “We must continue to ensure these heroes have the tools needed to stay healthy and safe.”
The 70 kits delivered to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue are part of the more than 1,000 already delivered across the state. In all, 4,000 kits will be distributed throughout Florida.
State delivers food to Florence victims
Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner AdamPutnam said the state has delivered “thousands of servings of food” to victims of Hurricane Florence in North Carolina.
The deliveries were made possible via a partnership between Florida and the United States Department of Agriculture.
The running tally: More than 122,000 pounds of fruits, vegetables and juice; nearly 46,000 pounds of meat, poultry, fish and protein-rich foods; and more than 12,000 pounds of whole grains and pasta, according to the state.
During emergencies, FDACS provides the necessary food and water to affected areas. North Carolina officials this week estimated the state took a hit of more than $1.1 billion to its agriculture industry.
“We knew the losses would be significant because it was harvest time for so many of our major crops and the storm hit our top six agricultural counties especially hard,” said North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner SteveTroxler. “These early estimates show just what a devastating and staggering blow this hurricane leveled at our agriculture industry.”
Patronis: Florida families should plan ahead for college
In his capacity as a watchdog over the state’s finances, Chief Financial Officer Patronis is reminding Floridians to prepare ahead for the financial burden associated with higher education.
His advice: Take advantage of the Florida Prepaid College Program.
“Florida’s public universities and state colleges continue to offer the best education for some of the lowest rates in the country,” Patronis said. “With student loan debt climbing each year, I encourage Florida families to take advantage of Florida’s Prepaid College Program to help their children become debt-free adults.”
According to data cited by Patronis, the average graduating student in 2016 owes more than $37,000. The default rate for those students is 10 percent.
“I’m advocating for the Legislature to hold the line on tuition rates so that education can remain an affordable option,” Patronis said.
This week, Gov. Scott announced the following appointments and reappointments:
Commission on Ethics
WillieMeggs, 75, of Tallahassee, is a former State Attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit Court of Florida. Meggs also served as Leon County Deputy with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and has served as President of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending June 30, 2019. GarrettRichter, 68, of Naples is the President and Chief Executive Officer of First Florida Integrity Bank. He is a former State Representative and Senate President Pro Tempore. Richter served both in the U.S. Army and Air Force Reserve and was awarded a Bronze Star and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending June 30, 2020. The appointments are subject to Senate confirmation.
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors
William Kastroll, 47, of Naples, is the owner of Harbour Insurance, LLC. He fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending July 31, 2019.
Department of Elderly Affairs Advisory Council
Kerry Marsalek, of Clearwater, is the manager for the Clearwater Office on Aging. She is reappointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2020. Dr. Mohammad Choudhry, 52, of Leesburg, is a neurophysician. He is reappointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2019.
Santa Fe College District Board of Trustees
Caridad Lee, 67, of Alachua, is the owner and president of Florida Blue Farms. She received her bachelor’s degree and her master’s degree from the University of Florida and a second master’s degree from Loyola University. Lee is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022. Robert Woody, 65, of Gainesville, is director of youth services at the Gainesville Police Department. He received his bachelor’s degree from State University at Oneonta and his master’s degree from Rollins College. Woody is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022. Jeffery Oody, 49, of Starke, is the president and chief executive officer of Community State Bank. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of North Florida, his master’s degree from Liberty University, and his doctoral degree from the University of Pennsylvania. Oody is reappointed for a term ending May 31, 2022. These are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Palm Beach State College District Board of Trustees
Philip Ward, 63, of Jupiter, is the managing partner and attorney at Ward Damon, Attorneys at Law. He received his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and his juris doctorate from the University of Miami Law School. Ward succeeds JohnDowd and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2022. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Highlands County Housing Authority
Tod Schwingel, 56, of Sebring, is the senior minister at Sebring Christian Church. He is reappointed for a term ending June 14, 2022. DeborahWood, 59, of Avon Park, is a resource teacher for the Highlands County School Board. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending June 14, 2021.
District Medical Examiners
Dr. David Stewart, 60, of Tallahassee, is the chief medical examiner of District 2. He is reappointed for a term ending July 1, 2021. Dr. Rebecca Hamilton, 53, of Alva, is the chief medical examiner of District 21. She is reappointed for a term ending July 1, 2020.
Florida Developmental Disabilities Council
Bobbie Lake, 73, of Live Oak, is the former executive director of The Arc North Florida, Inc. He succeeds RonniBianco and is appointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2019. LisaMiller, 41, of Lakeland, is a volunteer and advocate for persons with disabilities. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending Sept. 30, 2019. AllisonFlanagan, 47, of Tallahassee, is the director of vocational rehab for the Florida Department of Education. She succeeds AlesiaMcKinlay and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. CherieHall, 48, of Tallahassee, is the chief financial officer of Disability Rights Florida. She succeeds MaryellenMcDonald and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor. Cassandra G. Pasley, of Tallahassee, is the director of the division or children’s medical services for the Florida Department of Health. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending at the pleasure of the Governor.
Hernando County Housing Authority
Paul H. Sullivan, 73, of Hernando Beach, is a U.S. Air Force veteran and former county commissioner for Hernando County. He is reappointed for a term ending Aug. 1, 2022.
Polk County Board of County Commissioners
RickWilson fills a vacancy created by the resignation of MelonyBell. Wilson, 65, of Bartow, is a small-business owner. He is a member of the Polk County Cattleman’s Association, Florida Cattleman’s Association and Rotary International. He is appointed for a term beginning Oct. 1.
DEO launches Rebuild Florida
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity will provide $616 million to help Floridians rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Irma.
The effort, Rebuild Florida, is part of a partnership between the state and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Federal disaster money will flow through Rebuild Florida centers, the first of which opened this week in the Florida Keys, an area that suffered extensive damage as Irma swept through the state in 2017.
State Rep. HollyRaschein, of the Keys area, said she’s “excited to have these resources available for our residents as we continue our long-term recovery and work to make sure the Florida Keys come back better and stronger than ever.”
Rebuild Florida locations are listed here. More information is available here.
Joyner named to Ruth’s List board
Former state Sen. ArtheniaJoyner was appointed this week to the board of Ruth’s List Florida.
The Tampa Democrat, a former Senate Democratic Leader, is credited with breaking racial and gender barriers throughout her career. According to Ruth’s List, Joyner was the first black woman to serve in the Legislature since Reconstruction and first to practice law in Hillsborough and Polk counties. She is the longest practicing black woman lawyer in the history of Florida.
“I am very happy to join the Board of Directors of Ruth’s List Florida,” Joyner said. “Not only because it represents the chance to continue public service, but because this pioneering organization is dedicated to ensuring that ALL members of the public are truly served.
“I look forward to continuing that mission, and helping women take their rightful position in our democracy, representing the Citizens of Florida.”
“Ruth’s List Florida is honored and thrilled to add the Honorable Arthenia Joyner to our organization’s strong leadership,” PamelaGoodman, president and CEO of Ruth’s List Florida, said.
“She has served Florida citizens throughout her life, but women especially have benefited from her wisdom, courage and determination for equal and civil rights. Her contribution to our team is going to be a priceless addition.”
Ruth’s List supports pro-choice, Democratic women running for office. It has funneled $5 million to candidates since its founding in 2008.
Florida Bar recognizes journalists
The Florida Bar honored journalists this week during an evening reception on the 22nd floor of the Capitol.
The awards, which take the namesake of the late attorney ParkerThompson, recognized state-based reporters for work related to the legal field. Thompson died in 2017 after a meaningful career that included work on behalf of the Miami Herald in critical cases that preserved the First Amendment right of the press.
Taking home prizes in print were the Miami Herald’s CarolMarbinMiller and AudraD.S. Burch for their widely recognized “Fight Club” series that exposed the state’s violent and troubled juvenile justice system.
The second-place print award went DanSullivan of the Tampa Bay Times for his reporting on juvenile sentencing.
In the television category, WESH’s GregFox received the first-place honor for his series, “Veterans, Mental Health & Guns.” WTSP’s NoahPransky was awarded second place for “Florida Texting Laws.”
In radio, WLRN’s WilsonSayre was honored for “Cell: Florida’s Death Penalty in Limbo,” which examined the state’s death penalty laws and effect on prisoners.
Florida manufacturers celebrated
The Manufacturers Association of Florida honored four Sunshine State product makers at a recent awards banquet in St. Petersburg.
The association received a record amount of nominations this year. A statewide panel judged each nominee on leadership, strategic planning, customer and market focus, measurement, analysis and knowledge management, workforce focus and operations.
Securing the award in the Small Manufacturer category was Pelican Wire of Naples. BASF of Quincy topped the Medium Manufacturer category; Sandvik Mining and Construction USA of Alachua took home the award in the Large Manufacturer category; and Mettler Toledo of Lutz, with more than 501 employees, topped the list in the Extra-Large Manufacturer category.
“These winners truly rose above the ranks of their competition and reminded us the industry is at a turning point in history,” said AmandaBowen, executive director of MAF. “Manufacturing is being disrupted by technology changes, economic regulations, gender roles and culture shifts.
“Each of our winners demonstrated an ability to challenge these issues in a respectable way, all while making significant strides in their sector and raising the bar for manufacturing in Florida.”
Nominations for next year’s awards will be accepted beginning Spring 2019. More information is available here.
Publix expands HQ
The Publix headquarters in Lakeland will add 700 more jobs by the end of 2027, the grocery giant announced this week.
Publix President and CEO ToddJones, who was joined by Gov. Scott in announcing the expansion, said the move is the result of a loyal customer base and dedicated associates.
“These additional jobs will help us support our store associates as they continue to provide the premier service our customers expect,” Jones added. “We are proud of the role we continue to play in the great state of Florida.”
The Florida-based company was founded in 1930 by GeorgeJenkins. It currently boasts 1,198 store locations across the southeastern U.S. and employs more than 190,000 people.
“Publix is one of Florida’s greatest success stories, and we’re proud of their growth,” Scott said.
Insurers highlight ‘bad faith’ study
New research shows third-party bad faith lawsuits added an average of $106 in claim costs to every insured vehicle in Florida in 2017.
That has caught the attention of the regional chapter of Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, or PCI.
“Florida continues to be the worst state in the country for bad faith litigation abuse,” said regional PCI manager LoganMcFaddin. “Frivolous lawsuits, often targeting automobile insurers, create unnecessary expenses that place a heavy burden on consumers.”
The study referenced, conducted by the Insurance Research Council, estimates bad faith suits have resulted in $7.6 billion in additional claim costs over the past 12 years.
“It’s clear we need to look for a legislative answer that protects the public and prevents needless lawsuits from being filed by third parties looking to make money off consumers,” added McFaddin.
“Now is the time to start looking for a solution that potentially shields Floridians from higher insurance costs, combats abuse, and prevents lawsuits from clogging up the court system.”
FSU professor to study Native American health
JohnLowe, a decorated nursing professor at Florida State University, has received a $1.275 million federal grant to examine ways to reduce health risk among Native Americans and Alaska Natives.
Lowe’s work will be Florida-centric, focusing on urban areas in the state. He aims to find prevention research for substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis among young adults belonging to the races as mentioned earlier.
“There remain enduring health disparities, substantial service gaps and a large, unmet need for state of the science prevention for substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and viral hepatitis among urban American Indian and Alaska Native young adults in Florida,” Lowe said.
The results of the project, funded the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, should “contribute significantly and meaningfully to closing this gap,” Lowe added.
“Lowe’s work in reducing health risks such as substance abuse, HIV and hepatitis is a vital area of public health research,” FSU Vice President for Research Gary K. Ostrander said.
FSU gets violence prevention grant
A $300,000 grant is on its way to Florida State University to encourage prevention and response to personal violence.
Specifically, the money is tailored to curb “power-based personal violence” on campus, which encompasses sexual assault, dating violence and stalking.
“This grant is a big win for Florida State University,” said AngelaChong, associate vice president for Student Affairs. “It certainly positions Florida State as a leader in the prevention of power-based personal violence.”
The grant comes from the U.S. Department of Justice and in part will fund a project drafted by University Health Services: “Collective Empowerment: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Caring for Tallahassee College Students.”
It seeks to “ensure that information on resources, awareness events and programming,” according to the university.
“Our upcoming initiatives through this grant will demonstrate that these crimes will not be tolerated,” interim UHS director AmyMagnuson said. “They will send a clear message that perpetrators will be held accountable and that holistic services are available for survivors.”
A new poll conducted last week by the Florida Chamber of Commerce shows Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum has increased his lead over Republican opponent Ron DeSantis to 6-points
The poll, conducted Sept. 19 through Sept. 24, found the Tallahassee Mayor and his Lieutenant Governor pick, Orlando-area businessman Chris King, with a 48-42 percent lead over the former Congressman, who is running alongside state Rep. Jeannette Nuñez.
The lead represents a 2-percentage-point increase for Gillum, who led 47-43 percent in the Chamber’s prior measure, which was conducted Sept. 6 through Sept. 9. Unlike the last poll, the new results fall outside the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.
The late-September poll was conducted prior to the Chamber offering DeSantis it’s “firm endorsement” Thursday in Orlando. During the Republican primary for Governor, the Chamber was an unwavering supporter of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, and their 2018 Future of Florida Forum opened with a video celebrating the two-term cabinet member’s career.
Of the remaining 10 percent of respondents, 6 percent said they were still undecided, while 2 percent said they were backing Reform Party gubernatorial nominee Darcy Richardson and Nancy Argenziano.
Thanks to the support of President Donald Trump, DeSantis steamrolled Putnam in last month’s primary election by more than 20 points. On the Democratic side, Gillum defied most polling to defeat former Congressman Gwen Graham and several other contenders by a slim margin.
Gillum has led in most polls since the title card was set, though most of his polling leads have fallen within the margin of error. The RealClearPolitics average of all public polling for the general election matchup shows Gillum with a 4.5 percentage point lead over DeSantis.
Overall, two-thirds of voters approved of the plan and 28 percent were opposed. It was most popular among registered Democrats, who favored it by an 85-11 percent margin, while NPA’s were in favor 71-27 percent and a plurality of Republicans also gave it the green light, 48-44 percent.
The new results were in spite of Floridians believing the state was on headed in the “right direction” by a margin of 47-37 percent. Other measures of note: Trump’s job approval rating was underwater by 5 points, while U.S. Senate contenders Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent, and Gov. Rick Scott were plus-5 and plus-4 respectively.
The poll also found other statewide Democrats in the lead, with Democratic Ag Commissioner nominee Nikki Fried leading Lehigh Acres state Rep. Matt Calwell 42-37 percent; Democratic Attorney General nominee Sean Shaw leading Republican nominee Ashley Moody 35-33 percent; and sitting CFO Jimmy Patronis tied with former Democratic Sen. Jeremy Ring 38-38 percent.
With his gubernatorial hopes dashed, a political committee closely tied to Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam last week sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to a newly formed PAC.
Putnam’s Florida Grown committee contributed $673,581 to the Conquistador PAC, which filed initial paperwork Sept. 18 with the state Division of Elections and listed the same chairman, Justin Hollis, as Florida Grown, according to the state website.
Conquistador had not spent any money as of Sept. 21.
Florida Grown played a key role in backing Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign, which ended in a primary loss Aug. 28 to former Congressman RonDeSantis.
Florida Grown raised about $29.58 million after forming in early 2015. After the contribution to Conquistador PAC, it had about $59,000 in remaining cash on hand, according to the Division of Elections website.
On Thursday, the Florida Chamber of Commerce officially endorsed Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis, saying he would continue the success that the Sunshine State has undergone under exiting Gov. Rick Scott.
“As president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, my top job is to secure the future of this state,” said Chamber head Mark Wilson. “ … Other states want to be like Florida. We have a big choice in the fall.”
Also on-hand for the Orlando news conference was past Florida Chamber chairwoman Glenda Hood and former House Speaker Will Weatherford. Both emphasized that they and the Chamber were “firmly” behind DeSantis’ bid for the Governor’s Mansion.
“I’ve seen what it’s like when this state has good leadership. Florida has had eight years of good leadership under Rick Scott,” Weatherford said. “The Florida Chamber stands firmly behind Ron DeSantis.”
In accepting the endorsement, DeSantis made the case that he’ll continue the tax cuts and job growth that Florida experienced under Scott. He also threw plenty of jabs at his Democratic opponent, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
“I’m the only veteran running for Governor, and apparently I may be the only capitalist running,” the former Congressman said.
DeSantis hit Gillum on his proposed corporate tax hike from 5.5 percent to 7.75 percent to generate $1 billion for the state’s education budget. The Ponte Vedra Republican then touted the tax reform bill passed by Congress and his policy proposals if elected to lead the Sunshine State — from boosting vocational education to improving water quality.
“Our environment is really the foundation of Florida’s economic engine,” he said.
State Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, DeSantis’ pick for Lieutenant Governor, also gave her stump speech for the Republican ticket, saying she and DeSantis were the best option in every metric.
“We firmly believe we’re the ticket that’s going to continue to push Florida forward,” she said. “ … We’re not just the best choice for Florida, we’re the only choice.”
The Chamber’s endorsement comes after their unwavering support for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in the Republican primary. DeSantis defeated Putnam by 20 points last month.
As DeSantis was accepting the Chamber nod, Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith was nearby to protest against DeSantis’ “dangerous record of voting to rip away health care from millions of Floridians in order to give massive tax cuts to corporate special interests.”
Smith was an early backer of Gillum, endorsing him during the early phase of the Democratic primary.
Duval County was the epicenter of some of the most savage attacks against Ron DeSantis in the Republican Gubernatorial primary.
Many prominent Republicans, including U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, state Sen. Aaron Bean, state Rep. Cord Byrd, and Jacksonville City Council President Aaron Bowman, strongly backed Adam Putnam.
However, the candidate who “knew Florida best” didn’t prevail. And Jacksonville area Republicans will have a chance Wednesday to get right with the nominee, via a star-studded funder at the tony Ponte Vedra Country Club.
DeSantis has at least one other campaign stop in the Jacksonville market Wednesday, an afternoon visit to JAXPORT. However, the fundraiser was on the books for weeks before that was slated. Lt. Gov. nominee Jeannette Nunez, meanwhile, will be in Nassau County on Wednesday, suggesting she will end up at the Ponte Vedra event also.
Driving DeSantis’ Northeast Florida finance efforts: Kent Stermon, John Rood, and Jay Demetree. Expectations are that this event could exceed Rick Scott‘s take eight years ago in similar circumstances.
DeSantis, who at least temporarily is behind Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum in fundraising, will seek to close the gap with the help of some of Jacksonville’s deepest pocketed patrons and most prominent local pols.
The host committee (still in formation) includes local powerbrokers: JEA Board member Husein Cumber (a strong fundraiser going back to the George W. Bush administration) is on board, as is lobbyist Marty Fiorentino, and Jamie and Ali Shelton of bestbet fame, the aforementioned Stermon/Rood/Demetree troika.
Also expected to be on board: Peter Rummell and Tom Petway, two more bulwarks of the Northeast Florida donor class.
Co-chairs include former Duval GOP Chair John Falconetti and former Congressional candidate Hans Tanzler III.
But it’s the honorary host category that shows the greatest party unity, as many of its members were on Team Putnam.
Sen. Aaron Bean, Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, and former U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw are all now on DeSantis’ side, joining Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry, Sheriff Mike Williams, and Rep. Travis Cummings (who endorsed DeSantis before the primary).
The decision is pragmatic. Where else are they going to go?
But after a vituperative primary fight, one full of colorful turns of phrase and de rigueur character assassination, it’s worth noting how quickly the healing begins for Duval Republicans.
For those interested in RSVPing, contact Brianna Jordan (Brianna@FrontStreetFlorida.com) or Heather Barker(Heather@RonDeSantis.com).
With reports that his political benefactor President Donald Trump considers him disloyal because of their differences on Puerto Rico death tolls, Ron DeSantis insisted Wednesday that nothing has changed between the two.
“I don’t think anything has changed. I think we’re good,” the Republican nominee for Governor said when asked for comment on reports Trump was upset with him.
DeSantis, in Ocoee Wednesday to discuss his education platform at a private Christian school, said he still expects Trump to campaign for him in Florida, though a POLITICO story Tuesday reported that insiders say the president was furious with the congressman, calling him disloyal for backing Trump’s claims that his political enemies are exaggerating Hurricane Maria death tolls.
Last week, DeSantis tweeted he saw no reason to dismiss estimates that nearly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the massive hurricane one year ago Thursday, as well as during the long recovery for much of the year in which parts of the island were without power, clean running water and health care services.
When asked if he thought Trump would still campaign for him, DeSantis replied with one word:
He did not elaborate. And he was not asked and did not clarify from what point nothing had changed.
Trump’s endorsement of DeSantis, and his campaign event with him in Tampa in July propelled the Ponte Vedra Beach congressman far ahead of his Republican primary rival, Adam Putnam, and the agriculture commissioner never recovered. Throughout the primary campaign, DeSantis made a strong case that he and Trump stood together, touting that relationship as a central part of his campaign advertising.
In recent weeks, however, DeSantis toned down (if not turned off) discussion of his connection with Trump. For example, he selected Jeanette Nunez, once a fervent #NeverTrump Republican, as his running mate. And at the Republican Party’s big fall campaign kickoff rally two weeks ago in Orlando, DeSantis never mentioned Trump in his speech.
On Wednesday DeSantis also declined to say whether he recently spoke with Trump.
Republican gubernatorial nominee Ron DeSantis rolled out a raft of education proposals on Tuesday, fleshing out his platform as the general election season continues.
His timing was no accident. His Democratic opponent Andrew Gillum held a press conference at noon talking about his own proposals.
DeSantis’ plan has considerable overlap in at least one area with that of his dispatched primary opponent, Adam Putnam, who enthused about the need for vocational and trade education.
Vowing to “work with leaders from K-12 schools, postsecondary education, and the business community to better support career and technical education and apprenticeships, and to make sure Florida’s education is meeting the needs of our students and economy,” DeSantis’ words hearken back to the appeals of Putnam on the stump during the summer.
DeSantis also proposes that 80 percent of education spending go into the classroom, with an operational and financial audit of the Department of Education to highlight opportunities for improvement.
School choice is also a priority for much of the Republican’s financial base, and the nominee allays any potential qualms from the donor class. DeSantis “will support school choice options such as public magnet schools, district and non-district managed public charter schools, Florida Virtual School, home education, and the various other choice options.”
He also vows to incentivize teacher retention in high-need areas, such as special needs students, and to tweak performance incentives to have merit pay based on classroom performance.
DeSantis also promises a “complete review” of curriculum standards, including a renewed emphasis on civics education and the United States Constitution in those classes.
Regarding Florida’s higher education system, DeSantis vows to increase performance funding — a model that has been criticized for perceived inefficiencies by universities that have gotten short shrift in the formula.
DeSantis’ proposals got a cool reception from Florida Education Association (FEA) President Joanne McCall.
In a statement, McCall noted that the plan wouldn’t increase education funding, including raising funding levels to assist in recruiting and retaining teachers.
“The bottom line is DeSantis’ education plan will continue to drain more dollars from the system that educates the great majority of our state’s students, and will send that money to unaccountable private schools. It’s a raw deal for Florida’s students, teachers and education staff professionals, and our public schools,” McCall warned.