Florida Democrats seem to have their best chance in two decades of changing the balance of power in Tallahassee. As they say in the sports world though, potential just means you haven’t done it yet.
So it goes with political fortunes.
For the first time in eight years, Dems won’t be going against an incumbent governor. They are within striking distance of flipping the state Senate.
For the first time in recent memory, the National Rifle Association’s power to sway elections is being questioned. The Parkland tragedy is raw and won’t be going away.
The never-ending swirl of controversies around President Donald Trump continues to overshadow Republican candidates.
We haven’t even seen the report from special counsel Robert Mueller yet on all things Trump, but if it’s bad news for the president the reverberations could be felt by Republicans everywhere — many of whom are already running for cover.
Given all that, how can we put this politely?
Democrats, if your party can’t capitalize on this, and I mean in a big way, you might as well shut it down.
With that in mind, there was an interesting story in Buzzfeedabout how Florida could provide the blueprint in this election year for the way Democrats will run against President Trump.
Do they try to make everything from the governor’s mansion to the local dogcatcher race about Trump?
Or, as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum said in the story, “Frankly, running against Trump is going to be insufficient to win.”
History is on Gillum’s side with that argument. The tone of the Democrats’ campaign in 2016 here and across the land was that no one would be stupid enough to vote for Trump, would they?
(Those are my words, not Gillum’s).
When Democrats choose their nominee for governor in August, it’s a given that person will be anti-Trump. I don’t think anyone can imagine Gillum, Gwen Graham, Philip Levine or Chris King would support Trump in any way.
What matters more is how the candidate will approach public education, given the changes in funding and the growth of charter schools under GOP state leadership the last couple of years?
Where do they stand on health care? How do they balance Second Amendment rights against the images of the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School?
What’s their plan to deal with Florida’s continuing explosive growth and the need for a better transportation system?
What will they do about the voracious appetite of Republican lawmakers to diminish the autonomy of local governments?
Those are the questions Florida voters will ask the field of candidates running for governor and legislative seats.
I thought it was interesting the other day when outgoing state Rep. Janet Cruz of Tampa, in talking about her challenge for the Senate seat held by Republican Dana Young, stuck to her points about gun control and health care.
She didn’t mention Donald Trump.
Republicans took control of the state Senate in 1995. They took charge of the House in 1997, and when Jeb Bush was elected governor in 1999, they had the trifecta of power.
Except for a brief period in 2010 when then-Gov. Charlie Crist became an independent, they have kept Florida under one party’s thumb ever since.
They did that by convincing Floridians in their vision for the state — well, and maybe a little gerrymandering of legislative seats. Even with that though, they won five consecutive governor’s races. No gerrymandering there.
If Democrats hope to capitalize on the opening they appear to have to snap that losing streak, they have to convince Floridians to agree with what they’re for.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine promised closer relationships between state government and nonprofits like Orlando’s Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, saying the state needs to re-evaluate how such programs are run through the Department of Children and Families.
“We need to do all these things to lift the state up,” Levine said. “It requires us to have better education, better health care, a better environmental policy, non-discrimination policies.
“And when you come to an organization like this, and you see the opportunity they present if they could just get cooperation and partnership with the state of Florida, to me it’s a golden opportunity. I look at this and say, this to me is an asset of our state, and how do we utilize this asset?”
Levine faces Graham, Winter Park businessman Chris King, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum in the battle for the August 28 Democratic primary. The leading Republicans are U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis and Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Partly through partnerships with big local corporate players such as Walt Disney World and Darden Restaurants, Second Harvest collects, sorts and distributes food to more than 500 local emergency food assistance programs throughout Central Florida.
After praising the model and vowing his administration would plug into it, Levine pivoted to a discussion of The Florida Department of Children and Families, saying he spoke with a Second Harvest volunteer trainee who had come up through foster care, who said that when he turned 18, he had virtually no support system.
“I think that’s an example of something that needs to change. We saw, unfortunately, that shooter from [Marjory] Stoneman Douglas [High School.] I think he had a similar experience. He [Nikolas Cruz] turned 18 and no one was looking after him, in terms of mental health,” Levine said.
“I think we need to start taking care of our people more, and maybe start modeling ourselves after some of the most admired companies in America who take care of their people very much so, the same organizations we want to attract to our state of Florida, whether it’s Amazon or Boeing, or Disney, whatever it may be, we need to start acting more to take care of our people,” Levine said.
A new survey of Florida Democratic voters found former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine at the top of the four-way Democratic primary to succeed termed-out Gov. Rick Scott in the fall.
The PPP poll found Levine with 29 percent support in the contest between him, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham and Orlando-area businessman Chris King.
Graham took the No. 2 spot, with 23 percent of voters saying she would be their pick in the Aug. 28 primary. Gillum received 8 percent support and King took 4 percent.
Democratic consultant Christian Ulvert of EDGE Communications, who is a senior adviser to Levine’s campaign, commissioned the poll. It was conducted April 10 and 11 and took responses from 491 Democratic voters.
Levine maintained the top spot among voters of both sexes, though his lead shrunk to 2 points among women, who made up 59 percent of those polled. Nearly one in three men said preferred Levine in the primary.
He was also the top pick across all age ranges and races, except “other,” which accounted for 5 percent of those polled. His best showings came from Hispanic voters and those aged 65 and older. His lead grew to 10 points and 8 points, respectively, among those slices of the electorate.
Graham’s support among Democratic women registered at 25 percent, while she was the pick for 21 percent of men. Gillum and King both fared better among women, polling at 9 percent and 5 percent, respectively.
Graham highest support came from white voters (27 percent) and those responding other. She outright won that category with 30 percent support.
Gillum and King both saw their best results among African American voters. Gillum received 13 percent of vote among that group, while King received 5 percent.
The race was closest among voters aged 45 to 65. Levine led that slice by 3 points with 27 percent support, followed by Graham at 24 percent, Gillum at 10 percent and King at 3 percent.
The poll also found Levine and Graham in their own league when it came to voter favorability.
Levine was the most favorable in the poll, scoring a plus-21 on that front with 35 percent of Democrats having a positive view of him, compared to 14 percent who see him unfavorably. The remainder said they were unsure.
The favorability rating was bolstered by Levine’s support among men, where he scored plus-29, with 47 percent unsure. Women were split 31-16 on Levine.
Graham came in at plus-17. About three-fifths of voters said they were unsure how they felt about the former congresswoman. She also fared better with men (33-8) than women (25-12).
Though it was less pronounced, that trend continued with Gillum, who had a plus-3 favorability rating with women and a plus-5 with men. Overall, 16 percent of voters had a favorable view of the capital city mayor, while 12 percent view him unfavorably.
King was upside down in favorability. Just 7 percent of Democrats said they saw the affordable housing developer in a positive light while nearly double that number found him unfavorable. Nearly four fifths of respondents had no opinion.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Philip Levine has staked his presence in the I-4 corridor with the announced hiring Wednesday of Jonathan Santiago as his Central Florida regional coordinator.
Santiago has worked as a Central Florida regional organizer on the last two statewide operations for Hillary For America’s 2016 Florida team and the Crist for Governor campaign in 2014.
“Jonathan is a veteran of Central Florida politics whose organizing and grassroots knowledge will enforce the campaign’s mission to reach voters in every community across the state,” Levine’s Campaign Manager Matthew Van Name stated in a news release. “We’re excited to expand our team with dynamic young talent that will allow the campaign to build momentum and continue its strategy of engaging with voters in all of Florida’s 67 counties.”
The move by Levine, who is based in Miami, comes as Democratic rivals Chris Kingand Gwen Graham established their campaign headquarters in Orlando, the critical Democratic fulcrum in the always-critical I-4 Corridor. Fourth Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum also staked his own presenceTuesday night with a downtown rally featuring a rousing introduction from state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, the Orlando Democrat who chairs the state Legislative Progressive Caucus.
“I am fired up and ready to get to work to elect Mayor Philip Levine as our next Democratic governor of Florida because his record shows someone who will fight for all communities, including mine,” Santiago stated in the release. “We saw firsthand last year how Mayor Levine stepped in to help mobilize relief efforts for Puerto Ricans and took on Donald Trump when his administration failed to act swiftly. There is no doubt that the people are ready for change in the Governor’s mansion in 2018 and I am ready to put in the elbow grease and work hard to elect someone who will govern in a way that truly reflects the values of our diverse communities across our state.”
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris King opened his new campaign headquarters in Orlando Tuesday with a declaration he has only found his stride since the response to the Parkland tragedy
King also vowed the campaign has only just begun.
“I feel like in the last three or four months we’ve found our stride,” King told a gathering of supporters helping him open his new office with a bash Tuesday night, walking distance from his company’s retirement center where he began his campaign a year and a week ago.
The office is within rock-throwing distance of the Orlando headquarters for rival Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham in the Mills 50 District on East Colonial Drive in Orlando.
On Tuesday King wasn’t throwing any rocks, except perhaps at Republican gubernatorial candidates Adam Putnam and Ron DeSantis. But he knows that a year after he announced his candidacyat the Hillcrest Hampton House he remains in solid fourth place among Democratic candidates behind Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum.
“I would argue we’re in the preseason right now,” King said. “Everybody is about to start paying attention … My challenge is to make sure they know me, and they are going to see me in all the major markets very soon.”
King said that the Parkland tragedy, and his and his campaign’s participation in subsequent rallies and marches, have instilled an urgency, and sharpened his messages about being the Democrat who can talk about business success, faith and family values with any Republican candidate. And, he said, it’s beginning to show up in the bank account, as his March fundraising topped those of Graham or Gillum.
“I think I’ve really found my voice. I think what happened in Parkland really helped me clarify how I catch more fire and respond,” King told reporters after greeting supporters. “I think I’ve always been right on the issues and brought a fresh perspective. But I think there’s of a sense of urgency that I feel and greater confidence that we are really in a righteous cause right now.”
King is planning to speak at The Everglades Trust Thursday and used that as an example. Last year he swore off Big Sugar money for his campaign, and on Tuesday he said he intends to push hard for restoration, and for dealing with climate change with urgency.
“I feel like I have been the only one, up until the last few weeks, that has really approached the environment like I have,” he said.
He’s counting on expressing that urgency in the upcoming Democratic gubernatorial debates, starting with one next week in Tampa.
“I talk about the fact that when you’re from Orlando, you talk about what the survivors of Pulse want from the next governor of Florida, and what the students of Parkland want. I would argue that we do a disservice to this moment in Florida if we make it only about guns and gun safety. I believe I am on the right side of all the big gun safety issues. But to me, it’s about so much more. To me, it’s about the students, the survivors saying, ‘We want a higher and better politics in the state of Florida. We want to hold both parties, both parties feet to the fire when it comes to doing big things.
“I think they’re saying they want aspirational politics. They want politics that lift us up, encourages us, gives hope that we can do big things,” King said.
Andrew Gillum threw down the progressive populist gauntlet Tuesday evening in Orlando, reminding an audience that he’s the only non-millionaire Democrat in the Governor’s race and contending he’s the only one who can convince “people in the gap” to turn out to vote.
Appearing at an organization kick-off rally held at The Abbey, a popular Democratic watering hole in downtown Orlando, Gillum discerned himself as the only non-millionaire among major Democratic candidates including former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, and Winter Park businessman Chris King. He then chipped at their commitments to progressive Democratic ideals. He mocked Levineas someone who can “just write checks” to fund a campaign, and Graham for having a “famous family.”
“What is at stake are the people in the gap, the people who lose when we lose elections,” Gillum said.
In the end, Gillum charged, his Democratic rivals are not the kind of candidates who can inspire the large numbers of disillusioned Democratic voters to turn out to vote.
“They are not join got turn out for nothin’. They are not going to turn out if the Democrat is not discernible from the Republican,” Gillum said.
And the only way to do that, he added, is to convince voters that they and their concerns will go to Tallahassee with the candidate.
All the while Gillum painted himself as the fighter from the tough neighborhood who believes it’s important to try to help bring everyone from the neighborhood with him.
He pushed hard on issues beginning with standard Democratic positions on gun law reforms, environmental protection, public education funding and wages, then dove deeper, urging not just rights restorations for felons but abolishing hiring practices that prevent felons from ever getting second-chance jobs, pushing to ban jobs discrimination against gay employees, urging criminal justice reform, and demanding the state “treat health care like the right it is.”
“When you elect me you are going to have a partner but more importantly you are going to have a fighter,” he said.
All four leading Democratic candidates for governor will be appearing in a debate hosted and broadcast by WTVT in Tampa next week, the station confirmed Tuesday.
WTVT, part of the FOX Television Stations network, will host the half-hour forum at 6:30 p.m. on April 18 featuring Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and businessman Chris King, the station’s general Manager Jeff Maloney announced in a news release Tuesday. The candidates themselves revealed their commitments to the debate last month, though details were yet to be worked out.
The four Democrats will be asked to cover topics important to the Tampa community, such as school safety, crime, mental health services, and hurricane preparedness, according to a release from the station.
Maloney stated, “This debate will be an opportunity for voters to see and hear the candidates in an unfiltered environment, on the station that has been a leader in political coverage in Florida.”
Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has become the second Democratic candidate for governor to announce that he has received the “gun sense candidate” distinction from the national gun law reform group Moms Demand Action.
“I’m deeply honored to receive the Moms Demand Action Candidate Distinction. I’ve beaten the gun lobby twice in Tallahassee, and when I’m Governor we’re finally going to pass the common sense gun safety laws that will keep our families and communities safe,” Gillum stated in a news release.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, formed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012, is part of the larger network of gun-violence prevention organizations in the Everytown for Gun Safety network.
The group now has given its seal of approval to Gillum and his Democratic primary opponent Gwen Graham. Also in the Democratic primary field are former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, and Winter Park businessman Chris King. All four been strongly outspoken in their calls for banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and for universal background checks, among other gun law reform pledges.
The quartet of Democrats’ gun reform positions are in sharp contrast with the pro-2nd Amendment positions held by the leading Republicans in the race, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis.
Orlando-area businessman Chris King added nearly $610,000 for his gubernatorial campaign in March.
The total puts King at $4.1 million in total fundraising between his campaign and political committee since he entered the race in March 2017. An announcement said the two accounts combined to more than $2.1 million on hand heading into April.
“Democrats want a real progressive who rejects conventional politics and Chris continues to impress voters across Florida as he introduces himself to the electorate,” said Omar Khan, senior adviser to King’s campaign.
“As other candidates from the political establishment struggle to break through to the voters, Chris is amassing the resources that any candidate will need to compete in this wide-open race.”
Overall, Levine holds the top spot in the primary race with approximately $11 million raised, followed by Graham with $6.4 million, King at $4.1 million and Gillum at $2.6 million.
On the Republican side, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is running against Northeast Florida U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis in the primary. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is likely to join the primary race in the coming weeks.
Putnam leads the overall field by several million dollars, including $1.77 million in committee money raised last month.
Predictions of bad weather are befouling plans for the annual Springtime Tallahassee festivities in the capital.
Organizers on Friday canceled the Jubilee in the Park, which usually features arts and crafts booths from hundreds of vendors, and rescheduled the parade for 10 a.m., the Tallahassee Democrat reported late Friday.
The National Weather Service was forecasting “showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 2 p.m.,” adding that “some of the storms could be severe.”
Before the bad weather reports, city officials had been expecting a crowd of more than 150,000 to celebrate the event’s 50th anniversary.
The celebration will affect traffic, a news release said. Below are the planned road closures for Saturday:
6:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Staging Area
— First Avenue eastbound at Duval Street.
— Thomasville Road between Monroe Street and Seventh Avenue.
— Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Seventh avenues between Adams Street and Thomasville Road.
6:30-10:30 a.m. for Springtime Tallahassee 10K (if it still goes on as planned)
— Monroe Street between Apalachee Parkway and Seventh Avenue.
— Call Street, Franklin Boulevard, Lafayette Street and various roads surrounding the Capital City Country Club and within the Myers Park and Woodland Drive neighborhoods will have staggered closures during the race.
9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. for Parade Route
— Monroe Street between Gaines Street and Seventh Avenue.
— Jefferson Street, College Avenue, Park Avenue, Call Street, Virginia Street, Carolina Street, Georgia Street, Brevard Street and Tennessee Street between Adams Street and Calhoun Street.
— Madison Street between Macomb Street and Monroe Street.
Coming up, the usual assortment of tidbits, leftovers and not-ready-for-prime-time moments by Andrew Wilson, Danny McAuliffe, Jim Rosica, and Peter Schorsch.
But first, the “Takeaway 5” — the Top 5 stories from the week that was:
State appeals ex-felon order — Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are appealing U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling that the state must devise a new system for restoring voting rights to ex-felons. Attorney General Pam Bondi has promised to continue to appeal Walker’s order to the highest court. Walker permanently blocked the state’s clemency system in March calling it “fatally flawed.” He then gave Scott and the Cabinet a monthlong deadline to revamp the system. Scott’s office contends that felon voting rights restoration should be determined by elected officials. Florida is one of few states that disenfranchise felons after they’ve completed their sentences and is home to roughly 1.5 million ex-cons whose voting rights are pending.
CRC ‘style’ committee wraps — The influential Style & Drafting Committee of the Constitution Revision Commission has drafted and approved 12 ballot items for consideration of the full commission. To appear on the ballot in November, each proposed amendment must win the approval of 22 members of the 37-person panel. The 12 items are a consolidation of 24 proposals that met the initial approval of the CRC. Six proposals were not combined with others, including four that did not meet the 22-vote threshold in the preliminary approval phase. Five other amendments already have reached the ballot, meaning Floridians could potentially consider 17 amendments in the general election. Sixty-percent voter approval is required for each to pass.
Leaders pressure feds for farm aid — Gov. Scott, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have recently ramped up efforts to get much-needed funding distributed to Florida farmers affected by Hurricane Irma. Tailing off Scott’s and Putnam’s talks with the federal government, Rubio and Nelson joined other senators in penning a letter this week to encourage timely distribution of a $2.3 billion disaster-relief package signed by President Donald Trump in February. The letter was addressed to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Perdue’s office announced this week that sign-up and eligibility information should be available to affected farmers in the coming weeks. In total, it’s estimated that Hurricane Irma caused a $2.5 billion loss to Florida agriculture.
Gaming special session uncertain — Legislative leaders this week began zeroing in on a possible date for a special session to iron out gambling issues left unresolved during the 2018 Legislative Session — but the overtime might not be necessary. House Speaker Richard Corcoran alerted the possible need to reconvene legislators because of the potential loss of gambling revenue from the Seminole Tribe of Florida. However, the Tribe this week said it will continue paying its share to the state, which totaled a little more than $290 million last year. No Casinos, an anti-gambling organization, is asserting that the Tribe’s commitment should end further talks of a special session.
Scott ramps up exposure — Ahead of his widely expected entrance into the U.S. Senate race, Gov. Scott is appearing across the state for public bill signings. Scott this week visited Ponce Inlet to ceremoniously sign Ponce’s Law. The bill was crafted following the death of a nine-month-old Labrador, Ponce, in Ponce Inlet last year. The dog’s owner, Travis Archer, allegedly beat the animal to death, but under Florida’s current animal cruelty laws, Archer does not face a mandatory prison sentence if convicted. Ponce’s Law bumps animal cruelty to a level 5 offense up from level 3, meaning convicted offenders are more likely to serve prison time. The Governor also signed a bill in Orlando that prohibits the state from doing business with Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro’s regime and a bill at Fort Walton-based software company Bit-Wizards that is expected to benefit military, veterans, and their families.
Scott touts Florida building codes
Florida took the top spot in a recent report ranking the residential building codes of hurricane-prone states, much to the delight of Gov. Scott.
“In Florida, we know how important it is to be prepared for hurricanes while doing everything possible to keep families safe. Florida’s building codes have consistently ranked among the strongest in the nation and I’m proud that we have now been ranked first for building code strength by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety,” Scott said.
Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Jonathan Zachem also praised the ranking, adding that “the importance of effective, well-enforced building codes was demonstrated in our state during the 2017 hurricane season. I’m extremely pleased that the state of Florida was ranked first in this landmark report.”
The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety report gave Florida’s codes a score of 95 out of 100, an improvement of one point over its score in the last iteration of the report, released in 2015. The bump was enough to move Florida past Virginia, which topped the rankings three years ago.
Scott vetoes ‘toilet-to-tap’
Clearing the final batch of bills off his desk this week, Gov. Scottvetoed a measure that would have, in part, encouraged the use of purified reclaimed water to replenish the aquifer — a provision that has led environmental groups to dub the measure the “toilet-to-tap” bill.
Citing potential creation of “confusion in our water quality and aquifer protection regulatory structure,” Scott said the “worthwhile provisions” in the bill do not outweigh his concerns of “protecting Florida’s aquifer.”
“Florida has stringent water quality standards, and we are going to keep it that way,” Scott wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
The bill, HB 1149, was ushered by Palatka Republican Rep. Bobby Payne, who along with WateReuse argued that critics of the legislation overlooked that there is no such thing as “new water.”
Those against the measure, which included the lobbying force of the Sierra Club and other environmentalists, claimed it was tailored to benefit development interests.
The bill cleared the House with an 86-21 vote and the Senate with a 27-10 vote in the final week of the 2018 Legislative Session.
Board of Optometry — Dr. David Rouse, of Cooper City, is an optometrist with Rouse Family Eyecare. He succeeds Dr. Tamara Mule and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2021. Dr. Katie Spear, of Pensacola, is a practicing optometrist. She fills a vacant seat and is appointed for a term ending October 31, 2018. Both appointments are subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Palm Beach State College District Board of Trustees — DarcyDavis, of Palm Beach Gardens, is the chief executive officer of the Health Care District of Palm Beach County. She received her bachelor’s degree from Mercer University and her master’s degree from Troy State University. Davis succeeds Charles Cross Jr. and is appointed for a term ending May 31, 2021. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Florida Senate.
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. Board of Governors — MarcDunbar, of Tallahassee, is a partner at national law firm Jones Walker. He was appointed by CFO Jimmy Patronis. Gov. Scott also appointed Dunbar to the Northwest Florida Water Management District, where he served from 2015 to 2018. He also serves as an adjunct professor at the Florida State University College of Law. Dunbar succeeds Don Glisson and his term begins immediately, expiring on July 31, 2019.
Graham welcomes ‘overdue’ opioid suit
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham offered some tepid praise for Attorney General Bondi’s decision to go after pharmaceutical companies for their role in the opioid epidemic.
“After months of inaction and years of sticking her head in the sand — I am glad that Pam Bondi is finally heeding my call to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable,” the former congresswoman said Friday.
“As governor, I will hold the drug companies accountable and use all the powers of the office to address the opioid epidemic. I will ensure that this case gets the proper support and resources — building a legal dream team like Governor Lawton Chiles and Bob Butterworth did to take down tobacco.”
Bondi announced the decision this week, saying it was important Florida file its own case rather than join another. She did not give a timetable for filing the suit.
League lauds lawmakers
The Florida League of Cities this week gave awards to 20 lawmakers in recognition of their “tireless efforts” to protect home rule.
“On behalf of Florida’s 412 cities and thousands of municipal officials, both elected and appointed, the Florida League of Cities and its advocacy team are proud to recognize these Home Rule advocates for their continued support,” said Florida League of Cities Legislative Director Scott Dudley.
“We believe the government closest to the people should make the decisions that affect the quality of life of the citizens they have been elected to represent. These hardworking legislators continually supported that ideal, and we owe them a great deal of thanks.”
Melbourne Republican Sen. Debbie Mayfield, Fort Lauderdale Democratic Rep. Bobby DuBose and Fort Walton Beach Republican Rep. Mel Ponder were named “defenders of home rule,” while the remaining lawmakers received appreciation awards.
The following lawmakers received Legislative Appreciation Awards: Sens. Daphne Campbell, George Gainer, Bobby Powell, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Darryl Rouson, Wilton Simpson, Linda Stewart, and Perry Thurston as well as Reps. Joe Geller, Kristin Jacobs, Evan Jenne, Sam Killebrew, Larry Lee, Robert “Bobby O” Olszewski, Paul Renner, Richard Stark, and Wengay “Newt” Newton.
Shaw highlights failing grade from Florida Chamber
With an ironic spin and almost certainly in jest, Democratic state House Rep. Sean Shaw via Twitter touted an F grade on his Legislative Report Card from the Florida Chamber.
Over an image of his poor mark, Shaw tweeted, “Incredibly excited to be recognized as the top consumer advocate & fighter for workers this year by the Florida Chamber of Commerce!”
The Chamber released its annual rankings on Thursday. Each year the pro-business group arrives at scores for lawmakers after tabulating their votes on measures expected to make Florida a more competitive marketplace.
Shaw, who’s vying for the Attorney General seat this year, interpreted his grade as meaning he’s on the side of consumers and workers, rather than job creators.
Republican state legislators performed well in the eyes of the Chamber. Of the 15 “Distinguished Advocates,” recognized this Session, just one is a Democrat: St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond. He was honored for championing a lawsuit-limiting amendment — but he earned a C overall.
A panel charged with overseeing pharmacy professionals went a bit off script this week when its chair suggested that there should be more of a “concerted effort” for pharmacist-backed legislative initiatives.
“If we’re really interested in moving things through the Legislature, I honestly think that there has to be a better process to achieve a consensus,” said Jeenu Philip, chair of the Florida Board of Pharmacy. He said it seems like legislators hear one thing from a pharmacist or association, and the opposite from a different pharmacist.
In recapping pharmacy-related bills, Philip spoke a bit about legislation that would’ve provided patients more access to flu remedies. Sponsored this year by St. Petersburg Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes and Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plasencia, the bills (SB 524 and HB 431) would have let some pharmacies, under the guidance of a physician, test for and treat influenza.
Both pieces of legislation died in committee, something Philip questioned given the severity and uptick of recent influenza cases.
“In light of the past flu season, if there was any year that this bill should’ve passed, this was the year,” Philip said.
Volunteers spotlighted during April
The start of April may bring pranks for some, but for the state, it marks the start of Volunteer Month — and this year, it’s no joke.
Volunteer Florida, the lead service agency in the Sunshine State, is highlighting a Floridian volunteer every day this month as part of its newly launched #VF30in30 initiative.
In announcing the outreach campaign, Gov. Scott pointed to the public’s altruistic efforts to help the state bounce back from Hurricane Irma.
“I’m glad to recognize the service of volunteers across Florida who dedicate their time to make a difference in their communities,” Scott said in a statement. “Floridians dedicated millions of hours during last year’s devastating hurricane season, and we are proud to honor them in April.”
Each day a new volunteer is spotlighted by Volunteer Florida. Kicking off the month was Steve O’Brien, a legendary history teacher in Miami who founded Castaways Against Cancer. The organization raises money each month by kayaking 160 miles from Miami to Key West.
Florida Council of 100 releases educational ‘beacons’
In an ongoing education-focused project tailored to “light the way” for America’s future, the Florida Council of 100 unveiled a research-backed set of values for grades 4-8 over the next 25 years.
The nonprofit, nonpartisan group comprised of business, civic, and academic leaders is throwing its weight behind four pivotal topics, or ‘beacons’: nurturing adolescents’ academic growth, personalizing education to meet the unique needs of each adolescent student; minimizing the disruption caused by school transitions; and making the school like a second family.
“Adolescent students are unique — physically, intellectually, morally, psychologically, and especially social-emotionally,” said David Dyer, project leader and former chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee. “It takes a special kind of teacher to successfully reach these kids.”
The value-based approach intended for schools to model is the result of a culmination of studies, which included touring successful schools such as Miami’s inner-city Kingdom Academy, where fourth-grade students are learning how to budget, apply for jobs and maintain a bank account.
John Kirtley, chair of the Council’s PreK-12 Education Committee, noted that student success often declines in middle grades. “To reverse this, it is vital that we tailor instruction to the special needs of each adolescent, providing them with a portfolio of educational options,” Kirtley said.
Desloge tours areas still recovering from Irma, Maria
Leon County Commissioner BryanDesloge was among a small delegation of National Association of Counties (NACo) leaders who recently toured parts of Florida and Puerto Rico ravaged by some of the worst natural disasters in the nation’s history.
The delegation visited communities in Monroe and Miami-Dade Counties, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico that experienced loss of life, property and critical infrastructure as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“It’s important that we learn from one another and strengthen our capacity to prepare for and respond to natural disasters,” said Desloge, also Immediate Past President of NACo. “There is no higher priority than keeping our residents safe, especially in the face of devastating natural disasters.”
As communities across the country continue recovering from the historic 2017 hurricane season, NACo continues to work with local governments to ensure critical funding and assistance to help communities rebuild. As immediate past President, Desloge serves on the NACo Executive Committee and represents more than 3,000 countries across the nation.
NSF re-ups MagLab grant
The National Science Foundation is renewing its support for the FSU-based National High Magnetic Field Laboratory — the world’s most powerful magnet lab — with a $184 million grant.
The funding will head to National MagLab facilities over the next five years, bringing NSF’s total investment in the project to $867 million. In addition to the lab HQ at FSU, satellite facilities at the UF and Los Alamos National Laboratory will also get some support.
“This announcement means that the world’s most prestigious magnet lab will remain headquartered right here at FSU in Tallahassee, anchoring our university’s pre-eminent science and research efforts and facilitating discoveries that could change our world,” said Gary Ostrander, FSU VP of research.
Anne Kinney, an NSF assistant director, added that the foundation “is proud to support a facility that has broken — and holds — many world records in magnet technology.”
MagLab’s unique instruments include the world’s strongest continuous high-field magnet, which produces a magnetic field 2 million times stronger than the Earth’s. More than 1,700 researchers a year use MagLab to advance their research.
FSU Great Give sets records
The Great Give, Florida State University’s 36-hour online giving campaign, recorded its most successful campaign to date, raising $413,147 for academic programs, student activities and scholarships, the school said this week.
The 7th annual event, which took place March 22-23, drew support from 3,376 donors, including 1,791 Florida State alumni.
“We are overwhelmed by the amount of support that was displayed during this year’s Great Give,” said RobynBertram, donor engagement officer for the Florida State University Foundation Office of Annual Giving. “This event has grown consistently since its inception, and the incredible response we received demonstrates a shared dedication toward advancing our university.”
Throughout the campaign, 12 incentive challenges totaling more than $23,000 fostered a friendly competition among FSU’s donors to give back and boost their chosen project’s chances to receive cash prizes. Departments and units could win incentives for meeting specific criteria such as most donors during a certain time period.
The FSU Marching Chiefs took the $7,500 grand prize with the most alumni donors (299) during the 36-hour campaign. The Student Veterans Center, Home Stretch Microgrants and the colleges of Music, Education and Communication & Information also claimed incentive wins.
Donors may still make a gift to Florida State by visiting give.fsu.edu or calling (850) 644-6000.
Tallahassee dubbed ‘Solar Star’
A new national report shows that the Sunshine State’s capital city is making good use of one its most prevalent resources.
Environment Florida released this week a new report, “Shining Cities 2018: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America,” that highlights Tallahassee as a leading “Solar Star” for its commitment to harnessing the sun’s energy.
In terms of megawatts of solar energy per capita, the capital city edged ahead of Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando.
“Tallahassee stands out as an example for other cities to follow in Florida and throughout the South. The city is listening to local customers like me who want solar energy in their homes and their communities, and it’s giving different types of solar room to grow,” said Scott Thomasson, the southeast director with Vote Solar.
The ranking stems in large part from the 28-megawatt solar farm contracted by the city. The Tallahassee Solar program provided 20,000 slots for businesses and residents to purchase solar electricity at a fixed rate for the next 20 years.
“Cities like Tallahassee are leading the way to a future powered by clean, renewable energy,” said Jennifer Rubiello, director of Environment Florida Research & Policy Center.
Tallahassee Earth Day plans
Tallahassee announced a list of planned activities this week to celebrate “Earth Month,” most of which will be held when Earth Day hits on April 22.
“As we observe Earth Month in the City of Tallahassee, I encourage everyone in our community to make the commitment to reduce our negative impacts on the environment,” Mayor Andrew Gillum said. “If we are all more environmentally-conscious, we can ensure that our children and grandchildren will have a clean, healthy community to grow up in.”
Planned events include “Cash for Trash,” where those with bulky items, electronic waste, paint, or batteries can drop it off at the Solid Waste Services facility, located at 2727 Municipal Way for a $5 credit on their utility bill.
The docket also includes the city’s Earth Day celebration to be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Thomas P. Smith Water Reclamation Facility, and the “In-Home Edition of Longest Table,” where at 6 p.m. over 100 dinners, each including six to eight guests, will take place simultaneously in homes, restaurants and public spaces throughout the community.
In recognition of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, April 8-14, Marsy’s Law for Florida will light Florida’s Historic Capitol in purple lights all week “as a reminder that victims should be entitled to equal rights and protections under the law.”
Marsy’s Law for Florida is “an effort to place clear, enforceable rights and protections for victims in Florida’s constitution,” the group said.
The old Capitol is at 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee.
Now for this week’s edition of Capitol Directions: