Annette Taddeo – Florida Politics

Victor Torres leads effort demanding Spanish materials in Florida elections offices

Warning that Florida may be in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act, state Sen. Victor Torres on Tuesday led a group of eight mostly-Hispanic Democratic lawmakers in urging Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to respond to reports that some Florida counties are not providing Spanish-language elections materials.

Torres and the others wrote to Detzner Tuesday, following up on letters sent earlier this month by a coalition of social-justice, civil rights, and progressive-politics groups led by Demos and LatinoJustice/PRLDEF, to 13 Florida county supervisors of elections. Anticipating that the mass migration from Puerto Rico had spread statewide, those groups urged the supervisors to provide bilingual voting materials for their Puerto Rican residents and other Spanish speakers, as required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“Florida is home to over 20 million individuals and more than 4 million of them are of Hispanic or Latino origin. Additionally, with the influx of evacuees from Puerto Rico, there are an additional 300,000 American citizens who are eligible to vote in this upcoming election cycle. Providing election information and ballots in Spanish-language are essential for some qualified electors to participate in the 2018 Florida elections process,” the letter from Torres and the other Florida lawmakers states.

“We are requesting that you respond to the allegations that some Supervisor of Elections offices may be in violation of the Federal Voting Rights Act by failing to provide required Spanish- language elections materials,” the letter continues. “We further request you outline any plans your office has to ensure that no qualified electors are discouraged from exercising their Constitutional rights to participate in the 2018 election due to a failure of the local Supervisor of Elections to provide this information.”

In addition to Torres, of Orlando, the April 17 letter to Detzner was signed by state Sens. Jose Javier Rodriguez of Miami, state Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando, and state Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami. State representatives Robert Asencio of Miami, John Cortes of Kissimmee, Amy Mercado of Orlando, and Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando all joined. Each a Democrat.

Torres cited the April 3 letter, declaring that “it raises concerns that currently 13 of Florida’s 67 Supervisors of Elections offices are failing to provide Spanish-speaking voters with election materials and voter registration information in their native language.”

Late Tuesday Detzner’s office said they were reviewing the letter, and released this statement from Detzner:

“It is of the utmost importance to Secretary Detzner and the Florida Department of State that all registered voters in Florida have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote without any barriers. Supervisors of Elections must comply with state and federal law and they are in the best position to determine the needs of their constituents to ensure compliance.”

The letters from Demos and LatinoJustice went to the supervisors of elections in Alachua, Brevard, Clay, Duval, Hernando, Highlands, Lake, Leon, Manatee, Marion, Pasco, Sarasota and St. Lucie counties.

“The Florida county supervisors of elections addressed should act immediately and comply with the Voting Rights Act before Florida’s August 28, 2018 federal primary election,” those groups stated in a press release.

Those letters also were signed by representatives of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Common Cause Florida, the League of Women Voters of Florida, VAMOS4PR, and nine other groups.

Texts reveal Gary Farmer still lobbying for trial bar

The headline above this story probably comes as no shock to those who follow the annual trial bar versus insurance industry drama and have witnessed Sen. Gary Farmer buzzing around committees. What’s surprising is how casually Farmer has been – messily even – doing the trial bar’s bidding.

Public records requested by Florida Politics legitimize what many have quietly whispered: Farmer should just go ahead register as a lobbyist for the trial bar.

His messages from Jan. 23, 2018, offer a glimpse into the inside baseball of the Florida Senate, and demonstrate that lawmakers so engrained in special interests actively interfere in the fate of Florida law.

For weeks prior to the Banking and Insurance Committee meeting, the trial bar had been trying to pressure the insurance industry into a PIP (Personal Injury Protection) compromise using the threat of killing an industry-promoted “Named Driver Exclusion” bill as a means of forcing the industry “to the table” on PIP repeal.

Trial lawyers are behind the attempt to repeal PIP, Florida’s Motor Vehicle No-Fault Law, replacing it with a lawsuit-based system and mandatory “bodily injury” insurance, which insurers say reduces consumer choices and will increase rates for Floridians.

The bill at issue, SB 518, would have essentially allowed families to keep their auto insurance policy even if one of the family members was a poor driver, because that driver could be excluded from coverage under the policy. While this is a common practice in other states, SB 518 provided an opportunity for the trial bar to interfere with its passage as a tool of coercion over the PIP issue, despite it not having any meaningful effect on the liability of drivers (the family member removed from the policy would get coverage elsewhere).

Farmer’s texts on Jan. 23

On that day, the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee heard Named Driver Exclusion. And if you attended the meeting, Farmer, a former trial bar lobbyist who is not on the Committee, made no secret of texting and doing what appeared to be active lobbying of the committee members.

At 3:41 p.m., Farmer texted Senator Anitere Flores: “Beach [sic] & steube not here…Please TP named driver…Without them we need you as a no”

Named Driver Exclusion was voted down.

At 5:27 p.m., Farmer texts Flores: “You are the master, I bow down in aw & reverence!!…Thank you!! It’s hard for me not knowing the play.”

In this same time window, Farmer texted Senator Annette Taddeo, who had voted no, a quick, “Thank you!”

Bottom line: This is an unsurprising example of how special interest proxies exercise their influence. But maybe next time Farmer will register before he lobbies for the trial bar.

Senate OKs new rules for payday loans

The Florida Senate on Saturday approved revamping regulations for payday loans.

Senators voted 31-5 to pass a measure (SB 920) that would allow payday lenders to make larger loans for longer periods of time.

The industry-backed proposal also has sailed through House committees, though it has drawn opposition from some consumer advocates.

The bill would allow the businesses to make “installment” loans up to $1,000, with repayment over 60 to 90 days. Current law limits the high-interest loans to $500 for periods of seven to 31 days.

Supporters say the proposal was prompted by potential changes in federal regulations that could affect the types of smaller-dollar, shorter-term loans made by payday lenders in Florida.

Also, supporters contend that payday loans play a key role for many low-income people who don’t have access to other types of credit.

During brief comments on the Senate floor Saturday, sponsor Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican, alluded to those issues, saying the bill would ensure the “short-term credit market” would survive amid the potential federal changes.

But some consumer and religious groups have fought the proposal, arguing that payday loans can put borrowers in a “debt trap.”

“We have seen members of our congregations and those in the communities around them fall victim to the debt trap that this type of loan supported by this bill creates,” Rachel Gunter Shapard, of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Florida, said in a statement this week.

The bill was opposed Saturday by Miami-Dade lawmakers: Democrats Daphne Campbell, Jose Javier Rodriguez, and Annette Taddeo; and Republicans Anitere Flores and Rene Garcia.

The issue now goes to the House, with the 60-day legislative session scheduled to end Friday.

Senators met Saturday primarily to take up a school-safety package stemming from the Feb. 14 mass shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. The Senate on Saturday morning began what was expected to be hours of discussion about the package.

Sally Boynton Brown visits Tampa, miffing some Democrats

Former Florida Democratic Party president Sally Boynton Brown is in Tampa Thursday night to lead a “progressive message trailing” session.

Some Hillsborough Democrats aren’t happy about Brown coming to town.

The former executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party was hired in April 2017 by then-FDP chair Stephen Bittel to replace longtime President Scott Arceneaux.

But Boynton Brown’s tenure ended unceremoniously last November, days after Bittel resigned when POLITICO reported he had been accused of inappropriate and demeaning behavior toward women.

Bittel resigned November 16, the same day the story hit the internet.

Boynton Brown initially suggested she would stay with the party, but soon came under criticism during the following weekend for defending Bittel. Two former staffers also accused her of “enabling” Bittel’s misconduct toward women in the workplace, as reported by Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics.

In a letter to party members, Boynton Brown said she had never experienced the behavior ascribed to Bittel in the POLITICO story and said she was treated as a “full-partner.”
“In my experience, Chairman Bittel has been refreshingly open to feedback, given by myself and others, about his conversational style and modified his approached when he learned that others found it off-putting,” Brown wrote to party members.

At the time, two women told Florida Politics they were upset reading Brown’s letter because she put the responsibility on victims to come forward, even though as a top staffer, she knew about the misconduct and did nothing about it.

“She is trying to cover her ass (with the letter),” one woman told Ceballos. “And it is disgusting.”

Immediately after Boynton Brown’s resignation, some Florida Democrats argued that it was wrong that she had to go; the invitation for  Thursday night shows she still has supporters in the party.

While the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee is not an official sponsor of the event, Party Chair Ione Townsend said that Boynton Brown has “tremendous grassroots” support for work during her short tenure at the FDP.

Townsend said election victories of Miami state Sen. Annette Taddeo and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman was indicative of Boynton Brown’s competence within the Party and “people recognize that.”

Others disagree.

“Miss Boynton Brown has her supporters and her detractors, including strong advocates in the ‘Me Too’ movement,” said Hillsborough County Democratic State Committeewoman Alma Gonzalez. “As a result of that division of feelings toward her, I think it’s currently in the best interest of the Florida Democratic Party to move beyond this moment.”

Another longtime Hillsborough County Democrat — who wished to remain anonymous — was incredulous that party members were calling on Boynton Brown for consulting advice.

“She saw all this sexual harassment sh*t that went on day after day after day at the Florida Democratic Party with Stephen Bittel, and to invite her down is mind-boggling,” one man said, adding that this was a gift to the GOP in the wake of Donald Trump.

“Twenty million people in Florida and this is who you have to teach you strategy?”

Sponsoring Thursday night’s event was the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Tampa Bay, the South Tampa Democrats, the Pasco Democratic Executive Committee and Plant City Democrats.

“I know you’ve heard (criticism) from a couple of Democrats, but that’s not a widely held position,” Townsend added.

AFP-FL praises Senators who voted against film incentives

Americans For Prosperity-Florida on Tuesday thanked lawmakers who voted against film industry incentives bills sponsored Miami Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo.

SB 1606 would set up a “Florida Motion Picture Capital Corporation” to “encourage the use of this state as a site for scripted productions by providing financing to such productions,” but does not immediately fund it. SB 1604 provides a public records exemption for certain application information sent to the corporation.

“Floridians know film incentives are a bad deal for the state of Florida and taxpayers. The money we send to Tallahassee should be spent on core government services, and not used as handouts for Hollywood,” the group said in an email.

“We commend the Senators who stood with taxpayers and opposed padding the pockets of Hollywood with our tax dollars. We urge the legislature to vote against this reckless program and end the practice of special carve-outs for Hollywood.”

AFP-FL has consistently derided film incentive programs as corporate handouts that don’t positively impact the state, though proponents say Florida’s lack of film incentives funding forces it to compete on an uneven playing field for movie and TV projects than can bring jobs and significant investment to the state.

AFP-FL pointed to a 2015 analysis that showed a return on investment of between 25 cents and 43 cents for every state dollar spent on entertainment industry incentives programs.

AFP-FL said it’s commendation of senators who stood against SB 1604 will include a bit of advertising by way of a direct mail campaign within their districts.

The mailers say the individual senator “is fighting for taxpayers” and that they “voted NO to creating a taxpayer funded bank for Hollywood executives.”

The reverse side tells voters to call up the senator and thank them for “voting against taxpayer handouts” and to tell them to “keep fighting for Florida taxpayers.”

AFP-FL also said lawmakers votes on SB 1604 would be noted in their annual “Economic Freedom Scorecard.”

A version of the mailer featuring Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young is below.

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Cut, print: Film financing proposal moves in Senate, stalled in House

A bill that would create a financing program to bring TV and film production back to the Sunshine State cleared a Senate panel Tuesday.

But with less than three weeks left in the 2018 Legislative Session, the effort could be for naught: A House companion measure has not yet been heard.

The Commerce and Tourism Committee OK’d the bill (SB 1606) on a 4-2 vote, with Republicans Dana Young and Kelli Stargel opposed.


Advocates of the measure, backed by Democratic Sen. Annette Taddeo of Miami-Dade County, bristle at calling it “incentives.” The current proposal would offer funding up front to producers, rather than past programs, which provided tax credits after a shoot finished.

But the thought of any public money eventually flowing into the program gave pause to Young, a Tampa Republican.

The bill would set up a “Florida Motion Picture Capital Corporation” to “encourage the use of this state as a site for scripted productions by providing financing to such productions,” but does not immediately fund it.

“To me, a motion picture is a very risky undertaking and I’m uncomfortable with using taxpayers dollars … to invest in individual motion pictures,” Young said.

Taddeo countered that her aim was to entice productions—and their jobs—that have gone to other states with strong incentive deals, including Georgia.

“We want to send a strong message to the industry that we welcome jobs back to Florida,” she said.


And Jacksonville Democrat Audrey Gibson said the program could end up taking in more private dollars than public. She also pointed out the “Made in Georgia” logo at the end of many Tyler Perry productions, even singing the slogan.

The history of state help for TV and film in the state has a checkered history. In 2010, lawmakers set aside nearly $300 million for incentives to bring movies and television projects to Florida.

The problem, critics said, was that money was doled out on a “first come, first served” basis and quickly ran out. In fact, funds were sapped dry within the first year of the program.

Those enticements took the form of tax credits granted a production after it wrapped in the state and underwent a thorough audit, including being able to show it provided jobs for Floridians.

Chris Hudson, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Florida, continued to deride the plan.  

“Lawmakers should not support policies that pick Hollywood as the winner and taxpayers as the losers,” he said after the meeting. “Plumbers, electricians, and small business owners aren’t asking the state to be a bank. They just want to keep more of their money.

“Florida taxpayers are not a bank,” he added. “…We commend the House for not supporting a policy that risks taxpayer dollars, and hope the Senate follows suit.”

Hudson had more to say in an AFP-FL email that went out Tuesday afternoon.

“Senator Taddeo may win the Oscar for Corporate Cronyism for this bill, but Florida citizens have already rejected this failed practice. We commend Senator Young and Senator Stargel for standing with taxpayers and we will continue to work with the committee to ensure our hard-earned taxpayer dollars are not jeopardized by Hollywood handouts,” he said.

At St. Pete vigil for Parkland shooting, calls for political action

Charlie Crist hopes things will be different this time around.

Before a public appearance at Williams Park Saturday, the St. Petersburg Democrat said he was still unconvinced the Republican-led Congress will support gun control legislation, even after 17 people were massacred last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Several hundred people gathered in downtown St. Pete for a vigil to remember the victims of the shooting.

“It’s different because those students have been speaking out about it,” Crist said, “very strongly and passionately from the heart.”

Crist, joined by other Pinellas Democrats, wanted to convey the message that the hurt and anger people are feeling over this latest tragedy must be transformed into political action at the polls this November.

St. Petersburg Councilwoman Darden Rice said it was the power of gun control groups like Moms Demand Action that helped defeat former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte in her bid for re-election in 2016.

Ayotte paid a political price for voting against the 2013 bill that would have expanded gun background checks. Ayotte ultimately lost to Democrat Maggie Hassan by just 716 votes.

“Let me tell you, those groups were total ‘badasses’ and they stood up to the gun lobby,” Rice said to cheers. “And that’s what we have to do, again and again. It’s a lot of work. We gotta stick to it. We can’t snap our fingers and have something happen overnight right after a tragedy.”

Pinellas County School Board Chair Rene Flowers explicitly called out Republicans and rallied for more Democrats elected in November.

“Put (Marco) Rubio out of office!” she shouted as the audience continued to cheer. (However, it is something not likely to happen anytime soon — Rubio doesn’t come up for re-election until 2022.)

“Do not shuffle, shake and jive to hide behind the Second Amendment, ” she added. “If you want to protect your home, that’s fine, but there is no place to want to kill a deer, a coon or a possum with that kind of weapon fare. It’s not being used to eat!

Flowers then referenced Tuesday’s special election in Sarasota County, where she knocked on doors and made phone calls to help Democrat Margaret Good, who defeated Republican James Buchanan by seven points in a traditionally GOP-leaning district.

“We can do it!” she shouted.

In his brief remarks to the audience, Crist also referred to Good’s victory, as well as other recent elections in Florida that saw Rick Kriseman get re-elected mayor of St. Pete and his 2014 running mate Annette Taddeo win a special election state Senate seat in Miami-Dade County last year.

“Another red to blue,” he said referring to the Democrat taking over a seat formerly held by a Republican. “You see the trend. It’s coming, but only if we stay engaged.”

Crist told the crowd that he supports “comprehensive and significant ” background checks, a ban on all assault weapons and measures to keep schools safer.

“Now is the time. And I hope and pray that we can get some of these things passed, quickly, like yesterday. I’m an optimist, but I am somewhat pessimistic about the leadership in Congress, and how could you not be?  What have they done? How many does it take? When is enough enough?”

One Florida Republican lawmaker who said Sunday he would support such bills is Miami U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, considered one of the most vulnerable Republican members of Congress in the nation as he fights for re-election in Florida’s 26th Congressional District.

“What we need is congressional leaders, specifically in my party, to allow some of these bills to come to the floor for debate,” Curbelo told Martha Raddatz on ABC’s This Week. “There are a lot of Republicans who are prepared to support reasonable, common-sense gun safety laws, new laws, stronger laws that protect rights for responsible citizens, people who are responsible gun owners, but will prevent those who want to do harm to innocent people from obtaining these weapons.”

Rice said the time for activists who want to see gun control laws change is to get active right now. “Congress is where the work ends, it’s not where it begins. It begins here. It begins now, and we stick to it.”

Flood insurance ‘warning’ clears second committee

Policyholders would see a bold 18-point type warning when their hurricane coverage won’t pay for flood damage under legislation that cleared a Senate panel Tuesday.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee OK’d the bill (SB 1282) 6-0.


The idea is to spare policyholders any nasty shocks following a hurricane or other natural disaster, said the sponsor, Miami Democrat Annette Taddeo.

“What we want to make sure is that homeowners, when they’re buying hurricane insurance, know that that does not include flood insurance,” Taddeo said.

“It will save a lot of trouble for homeowners,” she said. “After Hurricane Irma, a lot of homeowners were calling our office saying, ‘My insurance is not covering this.’ ”

The bill, which has one final stop at the Rules Committee, requires policy documents to contain the following warning:

“Flood insurance: you may also need to consider the purchase of flood insurance. Your homeowner’s insurance policy does not include coverage for damage resulting from flood, even if hurricane winds and rain caused the flood to occur. Without separate flood insurance coverage, you may have uncovered losses caused by flood. Please discuss the need to purchase separate flood insurance coverage with your insurance agent.”

Taddeo said following the vote that she’d taken steps to ensure the bill wouldn’t overly burden insurers.

“It’s a big problem,” she said following the vote. “It happened again with Irma — ‘What do you mean, it doesn’t cover it?’”

She noted that the Florida Wildlife Federation has endorsed the bill in light of rising sea levels caused by global warming.

“With sea level rise, it’s going to get worse. I’m concerned that homeowners need to cover themselves,” Taddeo said.

“My area’s not even on the beach — I’m on the west side. But I’m telling you, the flooding’s going to get worse on the west side, and that’s something people don’t realize.”

Senate advances funding for alternative transit in Tampa, Miami

A Senate committee Tuesday advanced legislation to repurpose $60 million annually for alternative transportation projects in both Miami-Dade County and the Tampa Bay area.

Sponsored by Tampa Republican Dana Young, SB 1200 would use money from an existing $240 million rail fund.

Speaking to members of the Senate Transportation Committee, Young explained that the money comes from Florida Rail Enterprise, a reserve within the Department of Transporation that lawmakers approved in 2009 ahead of a proposed high-speed rail project between Orlando and Tampa.

In early 2010, former President Barack Obama announced setting aside $2.4 billion of stimulus money for Florida to create the project. However, Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the money shortly after taking office in 2011.

Part of that $60 million has previously gone to fund SunRail, the 61-mile commuter-rail system for metro Orlando. That obligation ends in 2021-2022, making it the perfect time to transition those funds to Miami and Tampa.

The new project would be named “Statewide Alternative Transportation Authority.”

“This is beyond building another road,” Young told the committee. “This is using the highest and best technology available, such as autonomous vehicles, autonomous buses, bus rapid transit, and perhaps a ferry that can operate in a solvent manner.”

Kevin Rader was the only member of the Senate committee to express misgivings about the proposal. The Boca Raton Democrat questioned why — with the entire state facing issues with increased transportation — were Tampa and Miami-Dade big winners in the bill.

“Because it’s my bill in the Senate and I’m from Tampa Bay and Rep. (Jose) Oliva’s bill in the House and he’s from Miami-Dade County,” Young responded candidly. “That’s the truth.”

Bill Galvano emphasized that the $25 million annually would not simply go to the city of Tampa, but to other participating counties in TBARTA (the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority).

“This is going to an entire region that has significant growth,” said Galvano, a Manatee County Republican. Jurisdictional boundaries are only on a map, he added.

“We need innovative ways, and it will not just benefit Miami,” Miami-Dade Democrat Annette Taddeo chimed in, referring to bottleneck issues throughout the state in September as Hurricane Irma drew closer to Florida.

George Gainer, the Panama City Republican who chairs the committee, praised Young for her ability to find funds for the nascent agency.

“You showed a lot of courage and a lot of tenacity in putting this bill together,” he said.

Backed by Pam Bondi, Lauren Book’s sexual harassment bill clears Senate panel

On Tuesday, the Florida Senate Ethics and Elections Committee approved a landmark bill on “Creating the Task Force on the Prevention of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct.”

SB 1628, sponsored by Plantation Democrat Lauren Book, mandates that the task force meets every four years. It bars legislators, candidates, agency employees, and lobbyists from sexually harassing anyone, and keeps the identity of accusers confidential and exempt from public records requests.

Additionally, an amendment bars sexual favors between legislators and lobbyists or “closers.”

Violations of guidelines could spawn criminal or civil penalties, including impeachment or removal from office for public officials, a one-third salary cut for up to a year, or a $10,000 civil penalty.

These changes are driven by sex scandals that have dogged the Legislature in recent months, led by the resignation of former budget chief Jack Latvala after two special reports found probable cause for serial sexual harassment.

Book referred to what unchecked lust and abuse of power have wrought, noting that she is “one of what should be 40 Senators, but we stand as only a body of 38.”

“For far too long, bad actions have been able to hide in the shadows of this process,” Book said, abetted by a “good ol’ boys club” that threatened victims who complained of harassment, intimidation, or manipulation.

“It’s especially shameful here, undermining public trust,” Book added. “We know and have clearly seen that where there is power, there is potential for abuse.”

Candidates and lobbyists will have to disclose that they have read and understood the standards, Book said.

Attorney General Pam Bondi lauded Book for carrying the bill, specifically the provisions for confidentiality and victim advocates.

There was no debate on the amendment or the bill; there didn’t need to be. The consensus was that these changes are necessary.

“This is the first step,” Book said through tears,

This was the first committee stop for Book’s bill; the bill moves onto Governmental Oversight and Accountability, then Rules.

As well, there is a House companion, and it is strongly supported by Speaker Richard Corcoran.

“There is no place in our capital city, our state, or the workplace for unacceptable and unwanted behavior. We believe these new rules are the toughest in the nation and they will apply to all state employees, legislators, and visitors. Never again should one’s job title or position of power shield them from accountability for their disgusting behavior. I am proud to lead this House of Reformers and believe these new rules will be a model for the nation,” Corcoran said Tuesday.

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