Bob Buckhorn Archives - Page 7 of 31 - Florida Politics

Bob Buckhorn, others call Hillsborough PTC to reject rules that Uber, Lyft say could drive them out

Two days before the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission looks to approve new regulations that representatives from ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft say could compel them to leave town, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and others in Hillsborough County’s business community had a simple message for them on Monday: Don’t do it.

Specifically, they warned the agency not to approve new regulations approved by a subcommittee of the PTC last week that include a $7 minimum fare and a seven-minute wait time for passengers — and absolutely do not approve Level II background checks which include having Uber and Lyft drivers fingerprinted.

“We are not going to a city that’s going to be held down hostage by any cabal of any industry,” Buckhorn said, a nod to the fact that the taxicab industry in Hillsborough — as has been the case all over the world — objects to the Transportation Network Companies (TNC’s) operating under different rules of the road.

Since they began operating in Tampa in April 2014, the PTC has been unable to bring the two companies into compliance with their regulations, many of which the companies believe are onerous and out of date. It’s not unique to this community — the ridesharing companies also remain at odds with regulators in Orlando and Jacksonville, for example, while the companies have come into compliance in the past year with local governments in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties.

But Uber and Lyft did pull completely out of Austin, Texas, earlier this year over a similar impasse regarding those Level II background checks.

Buckhorn also used the opportunity at the press conference to once again call for the outright abolition of the PTC, the controversial agency created by the Legislature in the 1970s to craft regulations for vehicles-for-hire in Hillsborough County. It’s the only such agency in the state.

The PTC’s heavy-handed tactics in previous years have led to the belief by some that it is a handmaiden of the taxicab industry. It’s a perception that only gained more currency when former PTC Chair Kevin White was convicted of charges of conspiracy, bribery, wire fraud, and lying to the FBI after he was found guilty of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes and a luxury SUV exchange for helping three prospective wrecker company operators win certificates from the PTC.

“I continue to believe it is a dinosaur,” Buckhorn said about the PTC, a belief shared by Tampa Bay area legislators like Jeff Brandes, Dana Young, and Jamie Grant. “Dinosaurs are extinct. The PTC should be extinct.”

“We are not trying to keep anybody out of the marketplace,” insists Kyle Cockream, the executive director of the PTC. “Instead, the focus is on consensus on regulations that ensure rider safety,” he said in a statement. “We want a solid framework that welcomes TNC’s while making the safety of our riding public a priority.”

Buckhorn was surrounded by more than a dozen people at the news conference, held at the Attic, a downtown coffee shop/bar. Many were representatives of the business community and entrepreneurs who don’t want Uber and Lyft to leave, saying such a loss will hurt with the recruitment of businesses and the retaining and/or luring millennials to stay in the Tampa Bay.

“The whole country took note when Austin passed its draconian legislation,” said Christopher Emmanuel, director of infrastructure and governance policy for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “We ask that the PTC suspend consideration of this extreme rule, and work with the new business and responsible partners that are hoping to bring transportation solutions for Tampa and Florida’s future.”

Tony DiBenedetto is the chair and CEO of a tech company called Tribridge. He said he doesn’t even own a car these days, and instead takes Uber to wherever he has to go.

“I think it’s sending the wrong message to everybody,” he said about the proposed regulations, which could prompt the companies to leave the region. “I think this is a devastating decision on their part. I think it would hurt us from a recruiting perspective; it’s already hard to recruit to Tampa.”

Although the Level II background checks have garnered the most attention, Uber and Lyft have serious issues with other proposed rules going before the PTC board on Wednesday, such as a seven-minute wait time for anyone to hail a vehicle-for-hire car in Hillsborough County.

“You request a ride, said Blayn Shamble, a Tampa Bay area Lyft driver.”It takes two minutes to get there, and now I have to lock my doors and roll my window down and say, ‘I’m sorry, you cannot legally get into my car until five minutes passes.’

“In my opinion, that is just picking your winners and losers in a free market,” Shamble added.

The PTC has said the new rules were promulgated by members of the cab industry and would-be TNC DriveSociety, who are pushing the PTC hard to pass the new rules.

“Are you a believer in public safety?,” shouted out DriveSociety proprietor Marcus Carter after Buckhorn explained how he believed competition was good for business. “You’re not a member of the media,” barked Buckhorn, who later said that he “welcomed” DriveSociety to the industry.

The Tampa mayor also said the cab industry needed to “up their game” to stay competitive with the new technology.

Louis Menardi, the chair of the Florida Taxicab Association and president of Yellow Cab of Tampa, issued a statement shortly before the press conference took place.

“Uber and Lyft’s approach to this issue is not unique to Hillsborough County or Florida,” he said. “All across the U.S., many local communities, including Portland, San Francisco, San Antonio, Austin, and Orlando are raising significant concerns about fundamental public safety issues and background checks, whether TNC drivers have any or adequate insurance, and whether the local communities should require better service from them for passengers in wheelchairs.

“In response, TNCs flout the law, ignore local regulations and resort to threatening local cities and counties with leaving and/or state and federal forced deregulation when they are questioned about their business practices as they relate to public safety and well-being.”

The PTC board meeting on the new rules will take place Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. at the County Center, 601 E. Kennedy, Tampa, 2nd floor.

It’s (virtually) official: Darryl Rouson has won the SD 19 Dem primary over Ed Narain

With machine and manual recounts now finished in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Darryl Rouson is the winner in the Democratic primary for Senate District 19.

He defeated Ed Narain by a mere 66 votes (that’s what the Rouson campaign told us. The Florida Division of Elections website shows the difference to be 77 votes. The Tampa Bay Times reports that Rouson received 73 more votes than Narain).

The results will not be certified until Thursday, September 8, but the vote tally will not change.

Early polling in the Senate District 19 race that encompasses both parts of both Hillsborough and Pinellas County showed that while nearly three-quarters of the district was situated in Hillsborough, the quarter of voters in Pinellas County were more likely to go to the polls. And that’s what happened in Tuesday’s election that for now has given St. Petersburg-based Darryl Rouson an extremely narrow lead over Tampa’s Ed Narain, with a recount scheduled to take place on Friday. The two candidates remain just 75 votes apart on Thursday night, after more than 37,000 ballots were cast in the two counties.

Although only 26.4 percent of the district is in Pinellas, 42 percent of the total vote in the contest came from Pinellas County, says Barry Edwards, Rouson’s campaign manager, who says flatly, “We had the best field operation in the state of Florida in any Senate race, and that’s why he won.”

There were four candidates in the race, two based in Hillsborough (Narain and former state Representative Betty Reed), and two in Pinellas (Rouson and civil justice attorney Augie Ribeiro).  Although Narain went after Ribeiro in some of his advertising materials, the fact is that Ribeiro’s late entry into the race split up some of that Pinellas vote that was clearly destined for Rouson. Of the 15,809 people who voted in the SD 19 race in Pinellas, 12,683 went to either Rouson or Ribeiro, with Rouson getting twice as many votes in Pinellas than Ribeiro did.

The conventional wisdom was that Narain and Betty Reed would share a bulk of the Hillsborough vote, and that’s exactly what happened in the early vote and on Tuesday night. Narain and Reed combined for more than 52 percent of the Hillsborough vote, while Rouson and Ribeiro took 28 percent of it. Ribeiro actually received nearly 1,000 more votes in Hillsborough than did Rouson.

Redistricting expert Matthew Isbell says that, “Narain was hurt by Reed’s entry into the race,” which is accurate, though Reed supporters would take issue that comment, since Reed had in fact declared for the seat months before Narain had entered into it. The Reed camp (and others in the district) were angered when Narain entered the race back in March, considering that Reed’s endorsement of Narain might have been the key factor in his winning his House District 61 seat over Sean Shaw back in 2014. As Florida Politics reported earlier this year, a meeting was held last December with the idea of Reed and Narain “trading seats,” with Narain entering the Senate 19 race and Reed going back to running for HD 61, a seat that she held from 2004-2012. Reed rejected the proposal.

What also shouldn’t be overlooked is the power that still resides with the region’s only major newspaper in town, the Tampa Bay Times, who endorsed Rouson in the race.

And while Narain had major endorsements from Kathy Castor and Bob Buckhorn in Hillsborough County, Rouson won the backing of the entire St. Petersburg City Council (including Republican Ed Montanari), Gulfport officials like Mayor Sam Henderson and Councilwoman Yolanda Roman, and all of the Democrats on the Pinellas County Commission.

An early poll that showed Rouson leading and Narain in third received huge criticism after it’s release, but Edwards says it was prescient. When it was released, St. Pete Polls pollster Matt Florell said that, “The geographical split is interesting in Senate District 19, with 25 percent of the population residing in Pinellas County and 75 percent in Hillsborough County,” Florell said. “But when it comes to the active Democratic primary voting population, Pinellas County jumps to a 41 percent share. Our poll had 43 percent of the respondents from Pinellas County, so it is a fairly accurate representation of who will vote in this primary race.”

Rouson himself said on Thursday that it was too soon to analyze how he (apparently) won the contest, but did share that “we are focused.”

“We had a strategy,” he said. “We did out best not to let other campaign’s take us off our game. The people came out all over the district. Hillsborough to Pinellas, From Riverview to East Tampa, from Midtown to downtown, and they expressed themselves.”

Mitch Perry Report for 8.31.16 — Moving on to November

Good morning, everyone.

Florida’s primary election is history. So, where to begin?

Patrick Murphy will face Marco Rubio in November. Murphy crushed Alan Grayson, 59  to 18 percent, with Pam Keith a close third at 15 percent. Rubio gets credit for honesty, saying that he can’t say for sure that he’ll fulfill all six years of his term if elected, which naturally Murphy is attempting to exploit.

Boy, this race is going to get tawdry.

In what has to be considered a mini-upset, St. Petersburg’s Darryl Rouson holds an ever-so-slight lead over Ed Narain when all the votes were tabulated in last night’s Senate District 19 race. With over 37,000 votes cast on both sides of the Bay, Rouson had 61 more votes, close enough to trigger an automatic machine recount after Thursday. A huge (probable) win for Rouson, and a big loss for not just Narain, but the Florida Democratic Party, who have viewed Narain as an up-and-coming star in the party. He likely will be back, but not in 2017.

Augie Ribeiro did decently in St. Pete in terms of votes, but there was no way he was able to get his name out effectively enough in such a short time. A lot of people are talking today about how big money came up short in this election, but in the case of Ribeiro, he was trying to go from zero to 60 in less than two months.

You don’t have Jim Norman to kick around anymore, Hillsborough Democrats, Republicans and members of the media. That comeback experience ended last night, and now his GOP opponent, Tim Schock, advances to the general election against Pat Kemp. That should be a good battle, and one would think the Hillsborough Dems would get strongly behind Kemp. If not, they’re looking at a board that will have a 6-1 Republican advantage.

Jackie Toledo narrowly edged out Rebecca Smith in the GOP House District 60 race. Congrats to Toledo, who absolutely outworked Smith in the grassroots to get more votes.

The trash talking has already begun in the CD 13 race between David Jolly and Charlie Crist after Jolly cruised to an easy re-election victory in his GOP race for the nomination.

In the end, it wasn’t all that close in South Florida, as former DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz defeated insurgent progressive challenger Tim Canova by 14 points, 57 to 43 percent in the race for Congress in Florida’s 23rd District.

Ben Diamond defeated Eric Lynn in the highly competitive House District 68 race in Pinellas County.

Tampa attorney Sean Shaw won a close contest against East Tampa businesswoman Dianne Hart in the House District 61 seat.

Pat Frank whipped Kevin Beckner in the Hillsborough Clerk of the Courts race.

Daniel Webster wins in CD 11.

It wouldn’t be Election Day in Hillsborough County with some report of shenanigans taking place. As this one went, however, it was pretty small potatoes.

Murphy’s comment to us on Monday that he’d likely pursue adding a public option to the Affordable Care Act continues to ruffle the waters, as this statement from Americans for Prosperity Florida indicates.

Sarasota area Republican Alex Miller says she’ll change her main TV ad now that she’s going to the general election in House District 72, after several members of the public stated that they didn’t appreciate her “one of us” tagline.

With a major storm approaching Tampa, Mayor Bob Buckhorn used the occasion yesterday to lobby City Council members to approve his $250 million stormwater infrastructure improvement plan.

The story from a primary election day in the not-too-distant future

TALLAHASSEE — Two years after Hillary Clinton became the nation’s first female president, former U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham has become the second woman to win a major party’s nomination for Florida governor.

Graham, an attorney and daughter of former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, held off her two Democratic rivals in a spirited primary election.

Graham now faces former state House Speaker Will Weatherford in November. The Wesley Chapel Republican edged out Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, the GOP establishment favorite, in a free-wheeling, wide-open Republican primary.

The man Graham and Weatherford hope to replace, Rick Scott, easily won the Republican nomination in Florida’s U.S. Senate race. He’ll face three-term Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson in the fall.

Spending only $9 million out of his personal fortune, it was the least amount Scott has spent to win an election. Instead, the still-powerful governor raised more than $30 million for his Senate campaign from the political allies who have long supported him. The Florida Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce donated heavily to “Let’s Get to Work America,” the super PAC backing Scott.

It was Scott’s nonstop fundraising after winning re-election in 2014 — especially as it became clear he would be back on the ballot in 2018 — that became one of the launching points for Graham’s gubernatorial bid. Her promise to “clean up the Governor’s Mansion” became a rallying cry for her and supporters on the campaign trail.

Graham captured 38 percent of the Democratic vote, while Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn finished second with 30 percent and Miami Beach Mayor Phil Levine, despite spending more than $50 million of his own money, ended in third place with 28 percent. A handful of also-rans and gadfly candidates rounded out the results.

The clear difference for Graham was her strength with African-American voters, who were reminded in television commercial after television commercial of Tampa’s controversial “biking while black” ticketing scandal.

While Graham rarely brought up the topic, an anti-Buckhorn super PAC never let the issue drop, dogging Buckhorn press conferences with paid protestors who would buzz the events by circling around on bicycles. The video of Buckhorn jumping down from a stage to confront one of the young protestors went viral.

Levine entered the race with considerable fanfare, distributing virtual reality players to donors and reporters so they could watch the short film he had produced about his tenure as mayor.

And while the “Miami Beach Miracle” movie was the first use of VR on a campaign trail, Levine did not deliver at the box office. Polls indicated he never connected with either the conservative north Florida Democrats loyal to Graham or the voters of the I-4 corridor which Buckhorn hoped would be enough of a base to beat Graham.

The Tampa Bay area was ground zero for the GOP primary, with at least five candidates having staked some sort of claim to the state’s largest media market. Weatherford is from Wesley Chapel, Putnam from Bartow, Carlos Beruff from Parrish, Richard Corcoran from Land O’ Lakes, and Jack Latvala from Clearwater.

Beruff never stopped running for statewide office after losing to Marco Rubio in the 2016 U.S. Senate race. Although his consulting team was busy with Scott’s race, the prospect of Beruff writing another eight-figure check for his campaign kept the nucleus of his team together.

The Manatee County homebuilder parted with another $14 million in his bid to become governor, making it nearly $25 million Beruff has spent in the last two years for two losing campaigns.

Corcoran and Latvala, the two legislative powerhouses who brought the Capitol to a standstill earlier this year over Corcoran’s resistance to commit any taxpayer dollars to Latvala’s plan to build a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays, really only flirted with running for governor.

Corcoran was in the race for about a month, Latvala less than that. But after the so-called “Waffle House Summit” at which Corcoran and Latvala agreed to drop their bids for governor and instead run for attorney general and chief financial officer, while backing Weatherford over Putnam, the governor’s race became a two-man affair.

Corcoran will square off against Palm Beach State Attorney Dave Aronberg in the attorney general’s race, while Latvala will face Democrat Jeremy Ring. Former House Speaker Steve Crisafulli faces nominal Democratic opposition in the race for agriculture commissioner.

For much of the race, Putnam held every advantage — in fundraising, endorsements, and name recognition. But Weatherford doggedly traveled the state, damning Putnam with faint praise.

“Adam has been a good politician for more than 20 years,” Weatherford would say, “And he would make a good governor. But what Florida needs now is a transformational governor.”

The charge of Putnam being a career politician began to stick as Weatherford won straw polls at county party meetings and the endorsements of national movement conservatives. To many observers, the Weatherford vs. Putnam race played out like the Marco Rubio vs. Charlie Crist race of 2010.

By the time Goliath noticed David, it was too late.

Weatherford heads into November knowing that Florida Republicans typically outperform Democrats in non-presidential years.

But Graham is anything but a typical politician. With her father campaigning by her side and a legion of volunteers behind her, Graham may be the Democrats’ best chance to take back the Governor’s Mansion since the days of Lawton Chiles.

Patrick Murphy says he’ll push for public option to be added to ACA if elected to the Senate

Patrick Murphy says if he is elected to the U.S. Senate in November, he’ll push to provide a public option to the Affordable Care Act.

“At least in rural areas, where you don’t have much competition,” the Jupiter representative and Senate Democratic hopeful said on while making a campaign stop on Monday morning in West Tampa. He said that would be an added option for people on the ACA, “and beyond that, to make sure that there is competition ultimately.”

Passed six years ago, the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) still divides the country and the Congress. Most Republicans continue to call for repealing the entire measure, though they rarely have provided a viable alternative. Democrats have stood by it for the most part, but even some of the law’s biggest supporters say it needs an overhaul.

Earlier this month, health care giant Aetna announced it had lost more than $400 million on Obamacare policies since the insurance exchanges were set up in 2014, and was going to pull out of most of them, including in Florida. That followed similar announcements made by United Healthcare and Humana.

Which means fewer choices for those on the ACA. Lack of competition means higher premiums and/or lower benefits. A public option would be a federal option open to anyone on the individual market, and Murphy said he’d push for it if elected in November. Hillary Clinton has made similar comments on the campaign trail.

“The key is like any issue — it’s acknowledging that there are some things that are working, and that some things that need to be fixed,” Murphy said. “No legislation that is passed — or rarely I should say — is perfect, and you have to evolve with the times to see what’s actually working. Unfortunately, in Washington you have a group of people that basically want to shut down the government … they say throw the whole thing and start over, without offering solutions to it.”

Murphy was in the Tampa Bay area for the third straight Monday leading into Tuesday’s primary election, where he’s facing Congressman Alan Grayson and retired Navy JAG officer Pam Keith for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. However, Murphy never talks about his fellow Democrats on the campaign trail, instead looking ahead to a November matchup against incumbent GOP Sen. Marco Rubio.

Murphy appeared shortly before 9 a.m. at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop, a traditional stop for Democrats running for office to make an appearance at (Barack Obama was there in September of 2012). He was joined by state Rep. Janet Cruz, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Tampa City Councilman Guido Maniscalco, and Hillsborough County Commission hopeful Pat Kemp, among others. Murphy spent time speaking to other “regular voters” who had assembled at the table, which gave him the opportunity to discuss his plans for immigration, health care and the economy. And diss Rubio.

“Climate change — I believe it’s happening, I believe it’s real, I believe we have to get off this addiction to fossil fuels; Sen. Marco Rubio denies it’s happening,” he said while speaking to reporters after spending more than half an hour sitting at a table and talking about some of the issues he’s running on.

“It’s like infrastructure. I believe we need to make the investments. He doesn’t believe in that. I want to pass comprehensive immigration reform. He does not want to do that. He wants to support Donald Trump, who wants to build a wall, and deport 11 million people the first day. Sen. Rubio has completely lost sight of his values and his morals, because he’s so worried about running for president again.”

“Patrick Murphy promised voters that Obamacare’s state exchanges would bring down costs and create more competition, but Floridians are finding that the exact opposite has happened,” said Rubio spokesman Michael Ahrens. “Obamacare has left them with fewer health care options and skyrocketing premiums they can’t afford, yet Patrick Murphy’s answer is to expand the program and make things worse for Florida’s families. Marco will keep fighting for a patient-centered alternative that improves choices for consumers, costs Floridians less, and helps everyone get the coverage they need.”

Following his West Tampa appearance, Murphy was scheduled to make campaign stops in Orlando and Miami. His campaign announced he will be spending election night in Palm Beach Gardens.

 

Jack Latvala says Michael Bay’s ’13 Hours’ one of two reasons he’s voting for Donald Trump

Nationally and in Florida, there are many, many Republican elected officials who seem to equivocate when asked whether or not they’ll support Donald Trump for president.

Jack Latvala is not one of those Republicans.

The always-irascible Pinellas County lawmaker made it clear Friday morning that while the Manhattan real estate developer is hardly his cup of tea, there are two reasons why he won’t be holding his nose when he pulls the lever for him this fall (or scribbles in a circle next to his name, to be more accurate).

One is the power the next president has to nominate what could be multiple selections to the U.S. Supreme Court — besides the already-open seat left bare as Senate Republicans have refused to give Merrick Garland a hearing.

The other is the visceral disdain Latvala says he feels toward Hillary Clinton, a feeling he says he’s had ever since watching “13 Hours,” the Michael Bay-directed dramatic portrayal account of what happened at the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi on Sept. 11, 2012, when Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

“I will tell you that it had a very profound impact on me,” the Clearwater Republican told an audience in South Tampa Friday morning.

“I do not believe that Donald Trump would leave four American employees of our country — officers of our country — in a situation like that, and never try to help them, and that’s the tie-breaker for me,” he said.

Along with the burgeoning issues with her private email server and perceptions of “pay-to-play” that those emails have shown regarding the Clinton Foundation, Clinton’s role as secretary of state during the Benghazi attack has been an issue that Republicans have attacked her on since she officially became a candidate for president last year. She testified for nearly 11 hours last October before a House committee examining the attack.

“I’ve always been a Republican, and even though I don’t agree with the choice that our party has made, I still think that he’s a whole lot better than the candidate on the other side,” Latvala said, adding that he thinks virtually any other one of the original group of 17 Republican who vied for the nomination a year ago would be leading Clinton decisively at this point of the campaign.

Latvala also questioned the conventional wisdom regarding the potential nominees for governor in Florida in 2018, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam in particular, who appears to be the Republican to beat. Latvala said a party that favors Donald Trump would hardly be the same one to support someone who’s been serving in Tallahassee and Washington for almost two decades.

He mentioned Southwest Florida congressional candidate Frances Rooney, CFO Jeff Atwater and incoming Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran as the ones to watch. “Richard Corcoran is running for governor,” he said definitively.

He also scoffed at the conventional wisdom that has Tallahassee U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham in the driver’s seat for the Democrats, calling it “incredible” that because of her last name (she’s the scion of former Gov. and U.S. Sen. Bob Graham) she’s at the top of the charts.

He gave a shoutout to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine as possible contenders.

Jack Latvala says his GOP colleagues have their ‘heads in the sand when it comes to transportation’

Incoming Florida Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Jack Latvala said Friday a lack of mass transit in the Tampa Bay area has become a bigger problem than ever, and he blasted his fellow Republicans in Tallahassee for failing to lead on the issue.

“We’ve got a lot of folks in my party that just bury their head in the sand when it comes to transportation,” the always outspoken Clearwater Republican said, addressing dozens of people who gathered at 8 a.m. to hear him speak at the weekly “Cafe con Tampa” breakfast in Tampa’s Hyde Park.

Latvala said unless something changes soon, the lack of a capable transit system in the region will ultimately force the Tampa Bay Rays to leave the market.

“It’s not going to be a question of whether the Tampa Bay Rays are in St. Petersburg or in Tampa, it’ll be a question of whether they’re in Hartford (Connecticut), or Montreal. We WILL lose our baseball team,” he said with obvious disdain. “What a blow to the image of our area. All because of people who keep their head in the sand.”

Latvala said the lack of transit options was exposed nationally when the Republican National Convention was held in Tampa exactly four years ago. “Trust me, we will NEVER have another one because of the transportation embarrassments of the delegates getting back at to their hotel at three o’clock in the morning because of our lack of a transit and transportation system in the Tampa Bay area,” which happened on one notorious night of the 2012 RNC.

As has been widely reported, two transit referendums have gone down to defeat in the Tampa Bay area over the past six years. Resistance amongst the current Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners and elements on the left and right in Tampa ended any plans to put another type of sales tax on the ballot this fall. Several Democrats running for state office on the campaign trail this summer have talked about pushing for the Legislature allow large cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg to have the ability to place their own referendums on the ballot.

“I never had a problem allowing people to vote on whether they wanted to tax themselves,” Latvala said when asked about that proposal. “If people are tired of sitting still on the interstate and they want to do something, then why as government leaders should we tell them they don’t have the option of voting for that? Because we’ve got our head in the sand.”

He later added he didn’t think the measure had any chance of passing in the Legislature, though he did praise Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman for continuing to push that and other transit measures forward.

Four years ago, Latvala said it was time to examine consolidating HART and PSTA, the transit agencies in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, respectively. Two separate studies were taken on looking at a merger. The first showed a savings of $2.4 million, but a second KPMG study in 2014 showed those savings to be more modest at $330,000.

When anti-tax activist Tom Rask mentioned to Latvala that HART was opposed to the measure, Latvala simmered. “Of course both agencies are opposed to it, because people are going to lose their jobs!” He said both agencies had CEOs who made six-figure salaries, had lobbyists who came close to costing nearly $100,000, as well as various administrative staffs that could be reduced. “I cannot imagine you would not support something to reduce bureaucracy!,” he barked at Rask.

Rebecca Smith, a Republican running on Tuesday in the House District 60 race, challenged Latvala about his emphasis on mass transit, instead waxing rhapsodically on a future of autonomous vehicles. Latvala was unmoved, saying, it sounded like she was from the “Jeff Brandes school of mass transit” (the St. Petersburg Republican is an enthusiastic champion of such technology).

“You’re still talking about a vehicle on the road,” he countered. “The only difference is that they don’t have a driver.”

Latvala said he’s taken it relatively easy regarding contemplating state issues this summer, but now will begin digging in as he becomes Senate Appropriations Chair after the November elections. He said transit and the Rays’ fate will two of his biggest priorities moving forward.

Joe Henderson: Jackie Toledo would be better off talking kitchen counter issues than immigration

Jackie Toledo has made the repeal of some immigration reforms a centerpiece of her campaign against Rebecca Smith for the House District 60 seat in next week’s Republican primary.

In a recent mailer to voters, she vowed to seek the repeal of a Republican-passed law that grant in-state college tuition to what she called “illegal immigrants.” She also wants to repeal a measure that makes it possible for undocumented immigrants to obtain a law license.

It’s an interesting gambit for Toledo, who first made her political name by losing a close and controversial 2015 race for the Tampa City Council.

She likely faces a tough fight this time, too. Smith, who founded the A.D. Morgan Corp., has high-powered endorsements from Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Hillsborough Sheriff David Gee, and former Gov. Bob Martinez.

The winner of this primary faces Democrat David Singer in November.

The district they all want to represent covers a large part of south Tampa and extends to parts of Ruskin in southern Hillsborough County and, I believe, comes with a lot of misconceptions about its makeup.

The district includes Plant High School, generally considered one of the best and more upscale public high schools in the county. Less known, though, is that 22 percent of its students receive free or reduced lunches.

It is one of six schools in south Tampa where a volunteer group known as “End 68 Hours of Hunger” is working to provide meals for hungry families over the weekend, when schools are closed.

Also, south Tampa is notorious for bad flooding and traffic. While some of that is a city problem, Toledo has an extensive background in traffic engineering and management that could be useful in solving a long-term problem in the district.

Think people in south Tampa would welcome some help from Tallahassee with that?

Being a state representative is mostly about seeking solutions for the pressing needs of your district. A lot of it is what Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn calls “infrastructure work” and it can be tedious.

It also often flies below the headline-writers’ radar, but it’s vital and it is why voters send candidates to the Legislature. They know who is in there getting things done for them. That’s why an argument about everyday concerns like jobs and transportation might sell better to voters than more pointed fingers with a jag on immigration.

In her unsuccessful race for city hall, Toledo outspent opponent Guido Maniscalco by about 3-to-1 and ran an unusually negative campaign for a council seat. Despite wide criticism for her tactics, she lost by just 151 votes in a runoff after Maniscalco went door-to-door around his Seminole Heights neighborhood in the closing days.

The lesson is that while sweeping issues like immigration might grab headlines, voters tend to pick candidates who can get basics accomplished for them and their neighbors.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.24.16 — Pressure builds for Clinton Foundation to fade away

Last week it was The Boston Globe. On Tuesday, it was Michael Tomasky at the Daily Beast, and now it’s USA Today. All three media entities say it’s now time for Bill and Hillary Clinton to shut down the Clinton Foundation, as it has become a major liability to the former first lady as she seeks the presidency.

Earlier this week, Bill Clinton (finally) announced details to tighten the ethical safeguards of the foundation, to eliminate “legitimate concerns about potential conflicts of interest.”

But it appears too late for that.

“Ending foreign and corporate contributions is a good step, but allowing them to continue at least through the first week of November looks more like an influence-peddling fire sale (Give while you still can!) than a newfound commitment to clean government,” USA Today’s lead editorial reads today.

“But the only way to eliminate the odor surrounding the foundation is to wind it down and put it in mothballs, starting today, and transfer its important charitable work to another large American charity such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” the editorial continues. “If Hillary Clinton doesn’t support these steps, she boosts Trump’s farcical presidential campaign and, if she’s elected, opens herself up to the same kind of pay-to-play charges that she was subject to as secretary of state.”

On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported more than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. The AP says no clear quid pro quo ever happened while she was at State, which is important to note.

In other news …

Bob Buckhorn says loyalty and friendship are why he’s supporting Thomas Scott in the Hillsborough County District 6 Democratic primary next week.

Pat Frank is changing an ad that features some folks who say they’re not supporting her in her bid for re-election to the clerk of the courts race in Hillsborough County.

Alex Sink has chipped in $5,000 to Ben Diamond’s super PAC just before next week’s House District 68 primary versus Eric Lynn next week.

Amendment 4 supporters held a discussion on the University of South Florida-St. Pete campus yesterday extolling the virtues of Amendment 4 on next week’s primary ballot (the only measure statewide that independents can vote on).

Vern Buchanan is staying with the tried and true as he prepares to enter a general election contest. The Longboat Key Republican issued out a statement yesterday calling for Congress to back his bipartisan bill that would crack down on those who try to scam seniors.

Mitch Perry Report for 8.23.16 — Terry McAuliffe fulfills his promise

Donald Trump calls himself “the law and order candidate,” so one shouldn’t be surprised about his reaction to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe‘s announcement yesterday that he had signed papers restoring the voting rights of nearly 13,000 ex-felons.

Tump accused McAuliffe of “getting thousands of violent felons to the voting booth in an effort to cancel out the votes of both law enforcement and crime victims.”

Nevermind the fact that Virginia was just one of less than a handful of states that does not automatically restore the voting rights to ex-felons. McAuliffe’s announcement was a fulfillment of a promise he made when addressing the Florida delegation of Democrats at the DNC last month in Philadelphia.

In April, the Virginia Governor issued a sweeping order restoring rights to all ex-offenders who are no longer incarcerated or on probation or parole. That move was nixed by the Virginia Supreme Court however, which ruled last month that he had overstepped his clemency powers, agreeing with state Republicans who challenged his order, arguing the governor can only restore voting rights on a case-by-case basis and not en masse. So McAuliffe told Florida Democrats  that’s exactly what would do, and the first batch of 13,000 were given those rights yesterday.

His move comes as a couple of Florida Republicans in the Cabinet (some who still have aspirations in politics) told the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas that they’re willing to revisit the Sunshine State’s hardcore rules on this subject. Yes, Florida is one of only 4 states (including Virginia)  that permanently strip felons of voting rights unless the governor lifts the prohibition.

“If someone does an analysis, we have been granting civil rights to those who were waiting who would have automatically had their rights restored (under the previous system) and it’s probably time for us to revisit,” CFO Jeff Atwater told the Herald.

“Having had some time and experience on the Clemency Board, I’ve come to believe that there are opportunities for improvement,” added Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

More than 10,000 men and women who have served their time remain on a waiting list to go before Putnam, Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Governor Rick Scott to have their cases reviewed individually, with the possibility of them granting them their voting rights. But hundreds of thousands have given up that hope.

In other news…

David Jolly has one of the best scores of anybody on the US Chamber of Commerce congressional scorecards. Yet the organization that spent more than $35 million in helping Republicans in 2014, hasn’t kicked out a dime for him this year.

It’s just not college students bummed at the absurdly high levels of debt they incur after graduating. The realtors want some legislative action as well, since it means that younger people have fewer dollars available to buy new homes.

Bob Buckhorn is being proactive in having his city prepared to deal with the Zika virus.

The Mayor also had some kind words to say of comedian/actress and now author Amy Schumer, after she offered some not so kind words about his city in her new memoir.

Tim Canova says Debbie Wasserman Schultz has too close of a relationship with Big Sugar interests.

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